Posted April 12th, 2007, 12:20 PM
I think the expression is that most ships are "priced to fill," meaning that if sales are "off plan" or the ship simply isn't filling up, the price drops - this is when you start to see the sailing show up as a hot deal or in the Happy hour and Promowave, and you may see a lot of "guarantee" rooms available. I've heard in the past that one strategy is to advertise and sell a lot of "guarantee" rooms knowing full well that there aren't enough cabins in that category and some will be upgraded - this allows them to advertise the sharp price point without diluting the "value" of the higher priced cabins by advertising them for less (and they also don't have to give refunds for a price drop). I was reading an interview with a cruiseline executive that was refuting the assertion that just because ships were sailing full from New Orleans that the cruises were popular - he basically said that they had to lower the price so much to fill the ship, that it wasn't really profitable, and that the ships sail full because they're priced that way.
I've heard a lot of stories that involve the availability of an "emergency room" - I think it's probably fairly common to hold one or two for those occasions when a toilet overflows and floods a room or something like that. I suppose it's also possible that people who have booked and paid simply do not show up (for whatever reason).
The other posters are correct that there are also region-specific promotions (residency rates) - this could be tied to where they've already bought advertising space, where they know they have a base of customers, or even where they may be sitting on a pile of unused air tickets. I too have heard the "home port fire sale" rumors, but since no ships homeport in Arizona I've never witnessed it firsthand