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Mailbag: Will a Royal Caribbean sale actually save me any money?

In:
20Apr2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

If you are any of Royal Caribbean's email lists, then you will very likely get plenty of emails advertising new discounts and sales on cruise fares, shore excursions, wifi and more.  But will any of these promotions actually save you money?

I'm back with an answer to another commonly asked Royal Caribbean question that one of our readers have sent in, which I hope helps a lot more people as well.

I got an email from Royal Caribbean for a new sale, but I've seen comments on Facebook that the prices don't actually change.  Someone even said they raise the price before the sale and then discount it after. Are these sales "fact or fiction"? - Erin A.

Social media is a terrific resource for learning and sharing, and you will definitely see a wide assortment of opinions when it comes to cruises.

I have seen some people write about saving hundred or thousands of dollars, thanks to a new sale, but I have also seen others complaining their prices only go up.

So will these cruise sales and pre-cruise discounts save you any money?

Like so many things in life, the answer is it depends.

Cruise fare sales

Royal Caribbean has sales quite often on cruise fares, and every few weeks has a new sale on things you can pre-purchase for your booked sailing.

Yes, every sale offered by Royal Caribbean could potentially save money compared to the price the day before, but not every sale means there are lower prices across the board.

In my experience, Royal Caribbean tends to have different targets or goals with its sales. But it is extremely rare that any one promotion has a flat discount across every sailing and date.  

However, that does not mean because one or more people report no discount that there are no savings.

When it comes to sales on cruises, a lot of the time savings depend on the type of booking. Kids Sail Free deals always see the best discounts if you have a third or fourth passenger in the same room.  30% off sales will net a completely different kind of savings.

Moreover, you may have already the lowest price for a sailing because you booked early enough to get that best deal.

Traditionally, Royal Caribbean cruise prices are generally set the lowest when a new sailing becomes available, and then prices increase over time.  Royal Caribbean calls this pricing model "low to high".

The idea behind the low to high model is it provides consumers with the confidence that they are getting the best deal.

Obviously there can be exceptions, because pricing is not linear, but there is no doubt the best prices tend to be early on.

Read moreHow far in advance should I book a cruise to get the best price?

Does Royal Caribbean play games with their prices?

Erin also mentions the often repeated theory that Royal Caribbean raises prices before a sale in order to make the discount seem noteworthy.

In my experience, prices for cruises will fluctuate daily, or even hourly, depending on a variety of factors.

The best parallel I can provide to give an example of how cruise fare prices tend to go are jeans at the mall.  The ticket price is the baseline price for jeans, and cruise fares have similar list fares.  Later, the store puts those jeans on sale and the price goes down for a bit.  But once that promotion ends, the price for the jeans may go back up to its ticket price again.  And then a week or two later, a new sale on jeans brings the price down again.  And so forth.

Cruise fare prices are not exactly like merchandise in a store, but you will see an ebb and flow to their prices in a similar way.

The major difference with cruise fare is the price of a cruise is also dependent on supply and demand.  The more cabins booked, the higher prices tend to go.

So the reason why the price of a cabin may go up before a sale is not a nefarious Royal Caribbean conspiracy to suck up all your money, but the fact cabins on that sailing have recently sold and now there is less supply, and prices adjust accordingly.

Airfare is priced similarly, and ultimately how many seats/cabins are left combined with booking trends dictate discounts (or lack thereof).

So the bottom line is, yes, sales can save you money on your cruise fare, but don't expect a discount on every sailing.

Read more45 ways to save money on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Do pre-cruise sales save money?

What about the sales on wifi, shore excursions, or drink packages? Will those sales save you money?

The answer is a bit clearer here, because it is easier to compare and track prices since everyone is getting the same offering (as opposed to cabins).

Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner sales definitely save money on most purchases compared to the price if you wait to book it onboard.

Drink packages, wifi, and even shore excursions will definitely cost more if you wait to book it once you get on the ship.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Drink Package Information and Planning Tips

Spa treatments are a bit of a wash, as the price is basically the same onboard or online.  The spa offers special deals onboard, but they are almost always on combo packages that are not offered online, so you cannot compare the two.

Specialty dining packages are sometimes discounted online compared to waiting to book onboard. Individual restaurant reservations are more or less the same as onboard.

The really nice thing about the pre-cruise sales is you can easily track prices, and cancel and rebook if there is a better price. 

Cruise pros know to book something they want early, and then look for new price drops if they happen. Unlike cruise fares, there is no penalty for cancelling and rebooking, even within just a few weeks of the sailing.

Read moreHow to cancel and rebook pre-cruise purchases on Royal Caribbean's Cruise Planner

Cruise planner sales can absolutely save you money, and almost certainly will not cost you more than booking onboard.

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