Cruising may be the fastest growing sector of the travel industry – with more than 1.7 million Britons taking a cruise each year – but that doesn’t mean the big cruise companies are happy just floating along; they are working hard to keep customers keen.
National Cruise Week, from September 21-29, is the prime example of this, with most companies slashing prices and promoting great special offers for trips in 2014.
One operator, Hurtigruten, reckons passengers could save over £3,000 with an early discount of 30 per cent on Antarctica voyages in 2014. Another, Holland America, has savings of up to £1,500 on both European and Far East cruises.
Andrew Davies, of Telford-based agency GoCruise, urges people to make the most of these fantastic early bookings – particularly families who are confined to certain dates of school holidays, or those who want to be away for Christmas and New Year. He points out that in 2013, many cruise companies offered some big discounts to fill ships up ahead of their departure; “But my hunch is that supply and demand in cruising is gradually finding a balance. So while some discounts were massive this year, the margin will come down in 2014.”
It may be strange thinking ahead like this, when the popular belief for many holidaymakers is now that “late deals” always mean better value.
But with cruises, it clearly isn’t the case.
Director of Cruise Nation Stephen Boardman agrees: “If you see an offer in Cruise Week where the price looks good, I’d advise you to book now. The major cruise lines, notably Carnival and RCCL, have said the growth in capacity is slowing, and prices are likely to be firmer in 2014 than in 2013.”
A popular Cruise Nation package for May-September 2014 has four days in Hawaii, seven nights on an Alaska cruise, an Amtrak train journey from Seattle to Los Angeles and the return flight from LA, starting at £1,599, based on an inside cabin.
North London-based Jetline Cruises also specialises in building general holiday packages around a cruise. In Cruise Week, it is promoting a 13-night package from £1,339, with three nights in Las Vegas, a two-night Grand Canyon ranch holiday, three nights in Beverly Hills and a four night mini-cruise to the Mexican Riviera. The trip is available from November until April 2014.
Matt Walker of Jetline says: “While the number of cruise passengers has grown rapidly, many people have not yet tried a “cruise holiday”. Packages like ours are a way of finding out: with the cruise forming only part of your holiday, it doesn’t matter if the cruise itself doesn’t live up to advance billings, when they are so many things to enjoy in the entire trip.”
Cruise Nation (0800 408 0758 and www.cruisenation.com); Jetline Cruises (0808 115 2264 and www.jetlinecruise.com); Holland America: 0843 374 2300 andwww.hollandamerica.com); GoCruise (01952 402301).