Unless you bought a stash of US dollars a few weeks back, you’re going to get a shock when you visit your local currency exchange.

The battered Aussie is at its lowest level in two years today at around US72 cents.
And while most cruise operators buy way in advance and can absorb blips in the market, experts warn cruisers the only way to beat the falling Aussie dollar is to book your cruise early.

Steve O'Dell, Norwegian
Norwegian Cruise Line’s Steve Odell has advised Australians to make their bookings now

With cruise fares set to increase next month, Australians wishing to go on a sea holiday next year should make their bookings now, says Steve Odell, boss of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Passengers who book directly with US agents or cruise lines in the USA will now be hit by higher prices.

Most analysts expect the Australian dollar to fall further. In January this year, one Australian dollar was buying about US80 cents and is expected to slide to US70 cents by the end of the year.

This means that passengers sailing on Royal Caribbean cruises, which trade in US dollars, will have to pay more for their onboard expenses and shore excursions.
Passengers sailing with Carnival Cruises which use Australian dollars onboard, will be insulated from the falling dollar – unless the line decides to increase its prices because of the fluctuating exchange rate.

“At Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings we review our cruise fares periodically to ascertain whether any pricing should be adjusted. We operate and sell in local currencies in Australia and New Zealand, so any fare reviews take into account the exchange rate at the time,” says Mr Odell, senior vice president and managing director Asia Pacific NCL Holdings.

“The other major consideration when it comes to fare pricing is the capacity of our ships. With Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises we operate on a ‘market-to-fill strategy’ – essentially offering our lowest fares first, with a strict booking threshold where fares increase towards departure. With fares next set to increase on 1 October, I recommend anyone interested in sailing in 2019 to make their bookings now to not only take advantage of competitive fares, but to ensure they secure their preferred suite and sailing.”

Silversea Cruises’ newly appointed managing director Adam Armstrong also advises cruisers to book as early as possible.

“At Silversea, we monitor exchange rates regularly. Our cruises are available up to three years in advance, therefore our advice to guests is to always book early in order to secure their fare and preferred suite,” says Mr Armstrong.

“As is common practice with airlines, hotels and other cruise lines, our price promotions are reviewed and can be changed on a daily basis. We recommend booking early to get the best deal.

“Booking early also allows guests to access the best deals available. For example, on select cruises, Silversea’s Early Booking Bonus offers a saving of 10% when booking in advance. It is also worth noting that whilst travelling with Silversea, guests enjoy the ease, convenience and value of all-inclusive fares which include almost all discretionary on-board expenses,” says Mr Armstrong.

Kathy Pavlidis, manager of Travel Associates in Melbourne says: “Clients are usually aware of the effect of the US dollar vs Australian dollar and set themselves a price point and may in fact choose to pay off their cruise earlier than is required to, if they suspect that the Australian dollar will fall.”

Bicton’s sales and marketing manager, Barry Downs says that almost all cruise suppliers are now selling in Australian dollar to the local market “so we are protected.”
“I guess the cruisers who may be affected are those who try and book in the USA with US agents or the cruise lines directly. We have no plans to adjust our pricing of current packages and holidays,” says Mr Downs.