Cruiselines are introducing increasingly aggressive tactical offers and in some cases slashing prices in half to shift sales for winter and next summer.
With a later booking season predicted in the economic downturn, many cruiselines are lowering prices on specific dates to boost early bookings.
Fred Olsen Cruise Lines general sales manager Lol Nichols said some of the company’s Caribbean cruises were on sale at half their usual £1,400 price this winter.
He said: “We are having to work very hard to get the business in for 2009. For late business this winter we are having to discount quite heavily; people are buying when the price hits a certain level. Some cruises are selling at half the price they should be.”
He maintained current sales for 2009 were on a par with this time last year, with healthy regional departure sales.
Carnival UK’s sales arm Complete Cruise Solution, representing P&O Cruises, Ocean Village, Cunard and Princess Cruises, is using money-off deals or bonus commission payments to boost trade bookings.
Sales director Giles Hawke said bookings were “adequate” but admitted the lower end of the market, including Ocean Village, was a harder sell. “At the lower price end you have to do more to attract customers who have never cruised before. There are some cruises where you have to go to a certain price point, but a lot are selling at the normal tariff.”
He insisted Ocean Village prices were “no lower than normal”.
Meanwhile, sister brand Costa Cruises is using tactical deals and investing more in marketing. Managing director Marco Rosa said volumes were holding up but at lower yields. “The last three weeks have been amazing in terms of volumes but with lower yields, although they are at reasonable levels.”
Budget brand easyCruise hopes to attract customers looking for cheaper deals. Sales and marketing director Paul Ellerby said: “Overall our pricing should be 30% lower than competitors in the Greek islands.”
But he admitted the lates market could be tough because of competitive flycruise offers from larger cruiselines.
SeaDream Yacht Club has introduced a last-minute Cancel for any Reason policy allowing customers to cancel up to 48 hours in writing prior to departure and delay trips for up to 18 months. It operated a similar policy after the September 11 attacks.
Head of UK business Ian Buckeridge said: “We have introduced this to stimulate the market.”
The company is also using more aggressive tactical offers on less popular dates, such as Caribbean sailings next spring, and special ‘take a mate’ deals until December 15 worth up to 25% off.