One Controversial Way To Get A Free Or Discount Cruise
If you're after a free cruise or a discount on a
future cruise, you could do worse than to sign up for the inaugural
sailing of a new or refurbished ship. In the past several years, Carnival, Princess, Holland
Cruise Line (NCL), Cunard, and Disney have seen their
ships come in either late or unfinished. When this happens, the
cruise lines must offer affected passengers some sort of
In the past decade, the number of people cruising has
increased by 50%. According to Cruise Lines International
Association (CLIA) , approximately 6.5 million passengers will
take a cruise by the end of this year; that's up from 3.7 million in
the early 1990s. This explosive growth in cruising has cruise lines
ordering new ships at an unprecedented rate. Currently there are 47
ships on order, which are expected to be added to the North American
fleet over the next four years. This full-steam-ahead pace has the
world's shipbuilders frantically trying to get ship orders out on
time. Often they are unable to do so.
Recently, the P&O line's
new flagship, Aurora, broke
down on her maiden voyage. The Aurora hobbled back to
Southampton, England, just 18 hours after she set sail. Granted,
while most passengers onboard were disappointed by the sudden end to
their cruise, they will at least receive a full refund. In addition,
each passenger will also get a free cruise. Ships breaking down on
their inaugural sailings are extremely rare. However, such
unprecedented circumstances often mean exceptional
"Not all cruise lines give free cruises," says
cruise expert Linda Coffman. "Each cruise line approaches these
situations differently depending on the circumstances," she adds.
Coffman goes on to state, "If they are aware of a delay early
enough, they don't offer a lot in compensation….It's become so
commonplace to see an inaugural sail late that a lot of people joke
they want to book on it to get a free cruise."
Whether or not
to offer a free cruise when an inaugural is cancelled or delayed is
clearly a PR decision. In the small print of most cruise lines
brochures can often be found a clause intended to protect the cruise
lines from excessive liability. For example, the P&O lines
brochure states, "After departure P&O cannot guarantee that the
cruise ship will call at every advertised port or follow every part
of the advertised schedule. P&O reserves the absolute right to
decide whether to omit any such ports. P&O shall thereby have no
liability to the passenger." Other cruise lines have similar
conditions; Carnival's brochure says that it "shall not be liable
for any loss to guests by reason of such cancellation or
substitution". More often than not, these clauses are originally
intended for weather and other problems the cruise line has no
Nevertheless, the goal for the cruise line is
to make customers happy. The majority of cruise lines will give a
full refund for the cancelled cruise plus a discount offer of 10-25%
off a future cruise. On a $3,000 cruise, a 25% discount adds up to
significant savings. Often times they will offer onboard credits or
a cabin upgrade. Again, it all depends on the circumstances and how
far in advance of the inaugural sailing the cancellation takes
While most people scramble to book an inaugural
cruise because of the romance associated with inaugural festivities,
some are doing just the opposite. Lucy Hirleman, President of
Berkshire Travel in Newfoundland, NJ, has clients who book
inaugurals in the hopes that they are indeed cancelled. She says, "I
tell my clients who ask to do this it's a 'sleazy' thing to do."
"There are a lot of considerations playing these discount games,"
she adds. "Cruise lines are becoming more savvy about announcing
their inaugurals because it's an expensive proposition to change an
inaugural, and it's a PR nightmare because the press plays it up,"
she says. Hirleman goes on to say, "If clients insist on booking on
that premise my agency has a stiff cancellation fee to discourage
this because I consider it a moral issue."
recommends that anyone who wants to cruise on an inaugural to book
his or her air travel with the cruise line instead of on their own.
By booking an air/sea package with the cruise line, your risk is
minimized because you are protected if the cruise is canceled.
People using frequent flier miles or booking the flight separate
from the cruise line often end up eating up the cost of the ticket
as well as the fees associated with changing it.
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