Is it better to book early or late? - my findings...


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#1
Scotland
57 Posts
Joined Aug 2012
Previously done six consecutive cruises with the company, and I normally always book around August for the following summer as I like to choose our cabin due to its position on the ship etc.

However due to the rising cost of recent years cruises (and all-inclusive now being standard on most of the ships), I decided this year to leave it a bit nearer the time before booking as I now have more flexibility with dates. I also wasn't sure if I was going to go on a cruise this year.

With this in mind I recently started tracking prices on Discovery 2, with a possible June or July sailing.

The one I had in mind was Iconic Islands for a week. I don't know what the price was last year, but when I first started monitoring the cruise, it was around £1350 for mid-June. At that time mid-July was cheaper at £1296, so July was the one I focused on.

As July was still some time away, I was confident the price may come down…

However last week I noticed the June price had dropped to £1107, while the July price had increased to £1341. I normally book a standard outside cabin, but they were all sold out when I enquired about availability. Therefore I mulled things over for a day or two (as you do!), before making a decision.

After a bit of further research, I eventually decided to pre-book an inside cabin for the June cruise, as I reckoned July would prove harder to get a better deal.

I am glad I did as the following day the June price increased to £1179. It doesn't often happen like that...

While recognising that July is a peak month, I was particularly surprised that all the outside cabins (of any type), were booked for both the June and July cruises.

In future when choosing a cruise, I personally intend to book as early as possible to ensure a wider choice of cabin.
#2
Dronfield. NE Derbyshire
637 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
It's really about supply and demand. If the cruise isn't selling, it will be reduced. Also you may take your flights into account if you want a certain airport it may be wise to book early. The med always seems to book well, whereas the Baltic cruises seem to be slower and are being discounted quite heavily.
#3
Teignmouth
435 Posts
Joined Aug 2011
It's certainly about supply and demand, and Marella use fluid pricing based on that.
We have a cruise and stay on Explorer in Sept which is virtually sold out but is up around £1000.
Our friends Asia cruise in Feb is currently down £300, so sales are probably slow, and there is availability in most cabin grades.
#5
North east England
373 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
Really unhappy about the pricing this time. On the advice of a Thomson travel agent we booked our cruise ages ago as they said the cabins were selling quickly however there have been numerous price drops since and the cruise is considerably cheaper now for Discovery on August 11th. We have priced upgrades and have been quoted higher prices than anyone making new bookings. We do understand that prices can go down but when a Thomson travel agent misleads you when there are still loads of cabins left it is really frustrating. At least when we book with P&O our loyalty is usually rewarded with an upgrade and discount on our on board account.
#6
Huddersfield
1,112 Posts
Joined Jan 2011
If you haven't paid the balance and the difference is more than your deposit which you would lose I have read on here that someone cancelled and rebooked to get the lower price
#7
Dronfield. NE Derbyshire
637 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
We booked Fire & Ice early as we wanted the same cabin we’d had before. No problems until we noticed substantial price drops after Christmas. I rang Marella and asked as we had done many cruises with them would they offer us a free upgrade in lieu of the price drop, the answer was a definite NO. Then for one weekend late January there was a price drop, free cabin upgrade from inside to outside and also £100 discount for Discovery. We did a dummy online booking and there was loads of availability so at that point we cancelled our booking and rebooked the same cabin – taking into account the loss of deposit which was cancelled out by the free cabin upgrade, we still saved £500. This is not the end of the story, we kept an eye on the prices and the cabin supplements have dropped significantly since the final balance was paid so we rang Marella to ask for an upgrade to a balcony cabin. They advised lots of availability and we chose a mid-ship cabin. However, when they put this into the computer a flag came up saying that we had booked when the discounts were on and that we would lose this discount, effectively we would have to pay the cabin supplement plus the cost of all the discounts we originally had! I politely declined of course. Another week and I decided to ring again, this time we were offered a balcony cabin of our choice with only the small balcony supplement to pay as they had now decided to honour the extra discounts we originally had! The lesson to be learned is that the sailings from Newcastle don’t seem to be filling up very quickly so next year we will leave it very late to book.
As you don’t go until August – I would keep an eye on the cabin prices and try to upgrade later on if that’s what you want to do. Our balcony upgrade was originally £700 more than we paid so we are now quite happy with what we have paid in total and will now stop looking at the prices. Good luck
#8
156 Posts
Joined Feb 2015
No easy answer to this. I have two cruises booked and my Celebrity cruise has increased in price by nearly £1,000 and the “free” drinks package which I received is no longer available. My Marella cruise has decreased in price by a couple of hundred. Overall I’m still well in credit but I think it is a question of some you win some you lose.


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#9
Glasgow
77 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
It's a few years ago now, but I booked a cruise for Thomson Dream in December 2011. The cruise was 2 weeks for June 2012. Around 3 months before cruising I checked and it was a grand cheaper a person. Several factors could play into this. Eg Concordia happening in-between, the company trying to ensure the ship was full. In any case a bit of a sore one.

A couple of months before booking this cruise I went to a cruise exhibition at the SECC in Glasgow. I found it bad form that the prices Thomson offered were higher than what was available online via their website, and the staff laid it on thick that there was only one outside cabin left circa 9 months before the cruise, when there was evidently more available once checked (but kinda knew without having to verify).

I've said on here before. Cruise prices are like the stock market. Take a punt if you're happy with the price, and be happy to take it on the chin if the price falls, or pat yourself on the back if the price rises.
#10
Nottingham
252 Posts
Joined Jun 2011
We usually book early and normally get the best price, currently over £500 each to the good on a P&O cruise + £450 OB, We're up £125 each on Explorer in September, but we did drop a couple of hundred on our last P&O in March swings and roundabouts you take your chances when you book. The main advantage of booking early is choice the rest is down to luck.

Kev
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#11
Scotland
212 Posts
Joined Mar 2014
Originally posted by grush240
We usually book early and normally get the best price, currently over £500 each to the good on a P&O cruise + £450 OB, We're up £125 each on Explorer in September, but we did drop a couple of hundred on our last P&O in March swings and roundabouts you take your chances when you book. The main advantage of booking early is choice the rest is down to luck.

Kev

We book when we feel the prices is right for us. Tui Marella seem very expensive for next year.

Have been on about 40 Thomson / Marella cruises. No on board credit......just a bar of Hotel chocolate and a silly token thingy
#12
Lee-on-the-Solent, England
12,452 Posts
Joined Mar 2009
We almost-always book late, about 4 to 6 weeks out, at a cost waaaay below brochure.
We are retired & have total flexibility on date - November and especially pre-Christmas December, Jan & Feb are usually cheapest.
Even tho we book late, there are often further price- drops mjust a week or two out. But there's also the risk of a price hike, or of the cruise selling out.
The one time we booked several months out was for an itinerary which included Panama Canal, Cuba & other places we wanted. There were several dates, so we watched & waited til one sold out. Got an excellent deal, but those who held their nerve a little longer did marginally better.
We usually pay the little extra to select a cabin - most don't, so even when almost sold-out there's still plenty of choice.

Regional flights do sell out - we're lucky that Gatwick flights are the last to sell out.

BTW, for late bookings, freebie AI is often offered, but reflected in the cruise ticket price.

J B
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Anyone who looks like their passport photo is too ill to travel (Will Kommen)
#13
8 Posts
Joined Jan 2018
Booked on the May 20th Baltic Discovery tour from Newcastle in December last year and paid £3000 for 2 in a inside berth. A week after the full account was due Marella reduced the price down to £950 each over a £1000 cheaper. Not a happy bunny. Got nothing out of TUI / Marella regarding compo or upgrade, it was just tough luck but they would not have asked for more money if the price had gone up. Definately pays to book late with Marella and will do so next year, have noticed that other companies are discounting now so will look around at other providers for our next cruise.
#14
Yorkshire
148 Posts
Joined Aug 2015
If you look at last minute cruises and put marella in you get a good price but as John Bull says it's always gatwick on offer .
#15
Glasgow
77 Posts
Joined Jan 2012
Originally posted by erymania51
Booked on the May 20th Baltic Discovery tour from Newcastle in December last year and paid £3000 for 2 in a inside berth. A week after the full account was due Marella reduced the price down to £950 each over a £1000 cheaper. Not a happy bunny. Got nothing out of TUI / Marella regarding compo or upgrade, it was just tough luck but they would not have asked for more money if the price had gone up. Definately pays to book late with Marella and will do so next year, have noticed that other companies are discounting now so will look around at other providers for our next cruise.
We were going to do this cruise but due to family issues we couldn't. So I know what you mean about the cruise literally being around half price.

I think if there's an equivalent cruise next year I'll hold off. You don't need to worry about flights, and surely a cruise pre-Summer is unlikely to sell out until there's a heavy price cut.

Really sorry to hear you got stung though. I think what makes it worse is the short timescale between booking and the price cut. I'd guess you don't have a legal leg to stand on, and I'm not even sure Thomson will do something out the goodness of their heart as a little 'make good' gesture.

The main thing is you were happy to pay the price you did for the cruise at the time, now go and enjoy it, it's a cracking itinerary and I know from last year it's a brilliant ship
#16
Derbyshire
36 Posts
Joined Oct 2017
We booked early for this summers cruise for a few reasons. 1. The price was what we were willing to pay
2. New to cruising and didnt know if the price fluctuated and 3. There are four of us and for the cabin type we wanted (inside plus) there were limited 4 berth cabins.
The price stayed pretty constant apart from the odd time when a balcony cabin came up only slightly higher than we paid . Also had we booked now we would have had to have 2 cabins.
We are sailing from Newcastle so maybe not factoring the price of flights helped.
Having said all this i will be keeping an eye on price variations throughout summer for future reference and maybe a time when there maybe just 2 of us and we are not as restricted on dates
#17
8 Posts
Joined Jan 2018
Originally posted by Dark Defender
We were going to do this cruise but due to family issues we couldn't. So I know what you mean about the cruise literally being around half price.

I think if there's an equivalent cruise next year I'll hold off. You don't need to worry about flights, and surely a cruise pre-Summer is unlikely to sell out until there's a heavy price cut.

Really sorry to hear you got stung though. I think what makes it worse is the short timescale between booking and the price cut. I'd guess you don't have a legal leg to stand on, and I'm not even sure Thomson will do something out the goodness of their heart as a little 'make good' gesture.

The main thing is you were happy to pay the price you did for the cruise at the time, now go and enjoy it, it's a cracking itinerary and I know from last year it's a brilliant ship

Yes was happy with the original price factoring All Inclusive, Gratuities included and departure from Newcastle (2 1/2 hours drive). Just feel like I have been scammed. Disappointed that TUI couldn't make a gesture.
However, 48 hours to Sail Off, looking forward to a great itinery, hopefully the ship will be the same standard as the Celebration was 2 years ago in Dubrovnik and visiting many new destinations for us, which is what cruising is all about in my humble opinion.
#18
Dronfield. NE Derbyshire
637 Posts
Joined Apr 2009
Originally posted by erymania51
Yes was happy with the original price factoring All Inclusive, Gratuities included and departure from Newcastle (2 1/2 hours drive). Just feel like I have been scammed. Disappointed that TUI couldn't make a gesture.
However, 48 hours to Sail Off, looking forward to a great itinery, hopefully the ship will be the same standard as the Celebration was 2 years ago in Dubrovnik and visiting many new destinations for us, which is what cruising is all about in my humble opinion.
Hope you have a wonderful cruise. Discovery is a lovely ship and the forecast is looking good. Let us know how you go on.
#19
North east England
373 Posts
Joined Sep 2006
Paid final balance yesterday and enquired about price for upgrade from inside to outside and quoted £150. For new bookings yesterday the cruise was £88 each cheaper with upgrade for £128. Customer services was a total waste of time. As I said before I understand price drops and normally wouldn’t complain but to be misled by the Thomson travel agent saying cruise selling well so need to book early when this is not the case is disgusting. This is not our first cruise with the company but obviously no loyalty at all.
#20
northwest uk
7 Posts
Joined Jul 2017
Originally posted by erymania51
Booked on the May 20th Baltic Discovery tour from Newcastle in December last year and paid £3000 for 2 in a inside berth. A week after the full account was due Marella reduced the price down to £950 each over a £1000 cheaper. Not a happy bunny. Got nothing out of TUI / Marella regarding compo or upgrade, it was just tough luck but they would not have asked for more money if the price had gone up. Definately pays to book late with Marella and will do so next year, have noticed that other companies are discounting now so will look around at other providers for our next cruise.
Almost identical to what happened to us on our Caribbean cruise TUI not interested in offering anything when we rang, they had our money and just didn't care.
We won't book with them again (early or late) on principal and we didn't enjoy the experience much.
The cruise on the whole was definitely not worth the £3000+ that we paid and would have still struggled to see value at the £1990 we could have paid had we booked last minute.
Unless we were prepared to drink to oblivion and not fussy about what the food quality was then we might have got 'value'
We have by comparison paid more for a Holland and America cruise (not all inclusive) and eaten like kings with onboard activities that were well run and civilised.
Just my opinion but get yourself a last minute bargain by all means, just don't expect much and then you won't be disappointed.