American and European cruisers were recently presented with a very different kind of marketing message from Royal Caribbean.

Instead of the usual slashed prices, free Wi Fi and onboard credit, they got a “price integrity” policy. It stated that there would be no new discounts 30 days before their cruise sailed.

For some, it was an enormous relief. After all, there is nothing more infuriating than booking early, then finding the same cabin on the same itinerary is now available at a whole lot less.

But for others, it seemed strange in a market where, all too often, a family’s prized holiday is treated like a can of beans in a supermarket dumpster.

American and European cruisers can still get a discount within a month of departures on shorter cruises of, say, three or four nights. These cheap deals are often booked by those available at the drop of a hat.

But Royal Caribbean is promising not to discount longer cruises, where families are spending up big on their annual trip. They are staging the no-discount period at 10, 20 and 30 days, depending on the length of the trip.

It’s not a new idea. Scenic’s Glen Moroney, for instance, has long been an advocate of rewarding his most loyal customers with early-bird discounts and then refusing to budge as the cruise date nears so, in his words, they are not made to look stupid by huge price drops.

So is this new policy good for consumers – and why isn’t it happening here?

So while last-minute discounts are extremely popular among Australian cruisers, he still advises to book early if you have specific needs.

Cruise1st’s Gareth Evison maintains the jury is still out.

“Price stability can work in favour and against passengers. In my opinion, it depends on the passenger and their needs.

“If you have a limited amount of time, or if you have a family or if you have particular needs, it’s vital that you book early. We find that some of our customers want particular itineraries and cabins in specific areas of the ship. “Also during peak seasons like New Year and Christmas, it’s vital to book early to ensure your cabin onboard.

“It is also dependent on the ship. We find lines like Carnival and Princess sell out extremely quickly and there is limited stock so those lines don’t offer many last minute deals.”

He says if you are willing to be flexible, last minute cruises are still the most economical and popular for passengers. And Australian cruisers love them.

“These deals are unbeatable, and with so many ships now in Australia, cruisers are spoilt for choice. There are lots of deals for less than $1,000. From a consumer point of view, it is lucky that Australian cruisers won’t be affected by this change.”

“We are starting to see more and more cruisers pinching their pennies because of the economy, and when they do they tend to book these last-minute deals.”

He also revealed some lines would price match.

“Some lines, in certain cases, will price match if you have booked a cruise and later find it has been reduced. But these are in exceptional cases so it has to be exactly the same cruise – itinerary, cabin, inclusions, etc.

“It is essential that guests check the terms and conditions and if in doubt, check with the cruise line.”

A spokesperson from Royal Caribbean said, “This isn’t something that will be implemented locally, just in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland. However we always recommend people take advantage of our early bird sales to secure the stateroom category and sailing early, before they sell out.”

Tell us what you think about Royal Caribbean’s ‘price integrity’ policy.

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