I recently wrote about using Ultimate Rewards points to pay for cruises. It is an option, but in most cases, I continue to recommend you use your Ultimate Rewards to pay for flights, and just pay for your cruise with cash. No matter what currency you use to pay for your cruise, if you are like me, you want to get the best possible deal. Opinions vary on how to do that. Some swear by booking with one of the various online travel agencies that specialize in cruising, while others prefer to do it on their own. Still others book with professional brick and mortar travel agents they like. You can put me in the later camp, with a twist.

As long as you are booking outside the final payment window (60 to 90 days in advance of your cruise – check with your cruise line to confirm yours), you can have your price adjusted to the new lower price if the price you reserved drops. The exception to this, sometimes cruise lines will offer special deals good for “new reservations only.” There are ways to go about monitoring the price of your cruise. You can watch cruise line websites yourself and monitor the price for the cruise you’ve booked. You can also join the Cruisecritic.com Roll Call for your particular sailing and oftentimes, your fellow cruisers will chime in if they’ve noticed a price drop.

Still, there’s another option, a website called Cruisefish.net I had heard about this site on the various cruising boards, but I have to admit I never really thought about using it until a chance conversation at the Freddies with MrPerryP. I recently registered an account on Cruisefish.net, and am now using it to track three of my upcoming itineraries. Fortunately, I booked early, because the prices have done nothing but climb, especially for my upcoming Southern Caribbean back to back (B2B) voyage on Adventure of the Seas.

Setting up an account is easy enough, you just need to register a username.

Once you are registered you can look at current pricing, and if applicable, a history of price changes is listed as well.

In my mind, the real value of the website is the ability to establish pricing alerts. However, this is not free. The charge to monitor and establish alerts is $.99 cents per cruise, and the minimum package of alerts you can buy is $4.95 for 5 cruises. They even offer a one year and lifetime package for those of us known as frequent floaters. 🙂

Once you purchase credits, you can set up alerts. Click on “Finder” then choose your cruise line, ship, and sail date.

Once that’s done, you can click on your stateroom category, and set up an alert. In the case of this example, a “Superior Oceanview Stateroom” D1. You can create email alerts to notify of you price changes, up or down, and even qualify your alerts to include resident and other discounts. Multiple currency options are available as well.

Click “Create” and hope for the best. If the price goes down, great! If the price only goes up, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you got the best deal you could at the time you booked your cruise vacation.

Getting Your Price Drop

Let’s say you hit the jackpot, and have identified a price drop you would like to take advantage of. As long as you are outside of your final payment window, you should be able to have the price of your cruise adjusted to your new lower price. If you booked directly with the cruise line, simply give them a call. If you booked through a travel agent, contact your them and let them know you’ve identified a price drop. It may be helpful to take a screen shot of the new price, and let your travel agent know where you found the price. If you’ve only made a down payment for your cruise, it is not likely that the new price is below the amount you’ve already paid. In that case, your bill on final payment day will just be less than it originally was. If you’ve already paid for your cruise, or made significant progress towards paying for it in full, then one of two things will happen. The cruise line will refund the difference to your original form of payment or they will credit the difference to your onboard spending account. Policies vary across cruise lines so check with them.

Unfortunately, if the price of your cruise drops after the final payment date, you are probably out of luck. I say “probably” because there may be a cruise line or two out there that will honor a price drop after final payment day. Even I can remember a time when cruise lines would refund the difference if you bothered to call them very close to sailing date. Not unlike the airlines, the cruise lines have learned to tighten their revenue management practices. Usually, the best you can hope for in the event of a price drop after your final payment date is an upgrade to a higher class of stateroom of equal or more value. In fact, this is how I arranged for MrsMJ and I to enjoy a suite on our European cruise last fall.

In summary, as long as you are outside the final payment window for your cruise, you can take advantage of lower pricing if it becomes available. Monitor pricing by whatever means you prefer, and contact the cruise line or your travel agent if you identify more advantageous pricing. I hope this information is useful to you as you plan your next cruise vacation.

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-MJ, May 22, 2013