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If you’ve been thinking of booking a cruise deal, hurry! The days of rock bottom cruise fares could be coming to an end.

Major lines are shifting their focus away from last minute deals and instead are looking to hold or even raise their prices.

Norwegian Cruise Line president and CEO Frank Del Rio revealed this week that the company will be focusing on higher ticket prices as a way to raise revenue.

He said that bookings for 2016 are already ahead of 2015 levels – and at higher prices. “The emphasis will be to continue to push prices up,” he said.

Five of Norwegian’s ships will go into dry dock for refurbishment work over the next two years, which Del Rio believes will justify the higher prices.

“At the end of the day, the customer is not stupid,” he said. “You have to maintain ships at these higher levels if you want to receive higher yields.”

The statement comes after similar announcement from Royal Caribbean in March this year. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain introduced a new policy that would do away with drastic, last minute discounts on fares sold in North America.

“Depending on the type of cruise, that last minute may be 10, 20 or 30 days out, but from that point on we will hold our price at the prior level,” he said. Royal Caribbean in Australia has not introduced the same policy.

The policy means that ships could depart at less than full capacity, but Fain believes that the focus on price integrity would boost the brand and lead to higher revenues overall. It is also designed to change the whole booking process, encouraging people to book early rather than hold out for a late price drop.

In late 2013 Carnival Cruise Line introduced its own policy of holding firm on pricing, even if it means ships depart at slightly lower occupancies.

Lines are also focusing on increasing onboard spending, encouraging passengers to spend up big on specialty restaurants, alcohol, casino gambling and shore excursions. Many of the major lines have raised their onboard gratuities this year, which contribute at least $10-15 per passenger per day to the bottom line

Brett Jardine, commercial director of the Cruise Line International Association Australasia, says it’s not time to panic just yet. “Whichever way you look at it, a cruise holiday is great value – whether you book early to take advantage of a promotion or if you wait until the last minute. My view is, if you are keen on a particular itinerary, want to secure a specific cabin and feel the price offered to satisfy your needs is right – then go ahead and book it without any regrets”.

 

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