Can you cash-in when cruise fares fall?

A US-based company that claims to help travellers save thousands on their cruise fares is looking to break into the Australian market.

Cruise Fare Monitor uses a little-known US industry policy to cut the cost of fares – sometimes, according to the company, even by half.

Cruise Fare Monitor maintains that many American ocean cruise lines accept that if the price of a cabin drops after a deposit is made, travellers are entitled to contact the cruise line and have their fare adjusted to the lower price.

It means that those who book early are not disadvantaged when cruise lines use special offers to fill empty cabins as the sail date approaches.

However, the policy is rarely used because monitoring fares can be a time consuming task. Changes are unpredictable and passengers would generally be lucky if they found out the price of their cabin had dropped.

Cruise Fare Monitor offers an alerts service, allowing passengers to receive SMS and email messages when prices fall.

Cruise Lines Industry Association (CLIA) Australasia managing director Brett Jardine said he hadn’t heard of the American based outfit promoting this policy

“Every cruise line would have their own policy,” he said.

“Generally cruise lines will reward those that book early. If you see a price, are able to secure a specific cabin and feel the price is good value then go ahead and book it.

“Sure, you may occasionally find a situation where there is a cheaper fare in the marketplace after you have booked but then again you may not! You have already booked what you believe to be good value.

“If this situation does occur then cruise lines should not be treated any differently to airlines, hotels or even shoe shops who all want to sell the full amount of their stock (seats, beds or shoes) to maximize yields.”

Cruise Passenger has instigated inquiries with Australian based lines concerning the rebate policy, but is still waiting for responses.

“Cruise lines can lower their prices dozens of times before the ship sails, but this varies considerably from one cruise line to another, and from one sailing to another,” Cruise Fare Monitor’s administrator Jay Olshansky told Cruise Passenger.

“One of our clients received 15 fare reduction alerts between the time they signed up with us and the sail data.”

Cruisers log onto their website to enter their cruise and personal details.

If the company is monitoring that cruise, it will send the traveller emails and phone messages about fare changes until their final payment date. It doesn’t monitor all cabins, as the price for some makes a change too small to bother with.

Mr Olshansky said around 80 percent of clients that sign up will receive a fare reduction alert, however, cruisers need to be quick because fare reductions can last for an hour or remain into effect until cabins fill up.

And how much can a cruiser expect to save?

Mr Olshansky said anything from hundreds to thousands. There have even been instances where travellers have had the cost of their holiday reduced by half.

Sound too good to be true? We contacted the PR for the majority of cruise lines in Australia, who told us they had not heard of this policy. They promised they would get back to us once they had checked.

In the meantime, Mr Olshansky said the company hopes to make its services available globally soon, which means Australians could soon be able to take advantage of any savings.

“We intend to make our service available globally as soon as we are able to obtain reliable data from other countries,” he said.

“Our service is driven by data, and we will only monitor a cruise line whether we know with certainty we can rely on the data.”