Our latest research on cruise holiday prices suggests that it’s worth shopping around between travel agents to save money. But how can prices between agents be so different?
When you’re on a package holiday, do you look around at the other tourists from the UK and wonder whether you’ve paid more for the same trip, or whether you’ve scooped a cheaper deal?
We all like to know we’ve got a bargain, and it’s particularly gratifying if we find out that others have paid more! As a Which? researcher, shopping around for the cheapest deal is in my veins. So in our latest look at cruise holiday prices, it was interesting to find that comparing quotes between various companies can pay dividends.
Cruise prices cheaper if you shop around
We compared prices for the same trips with different cruise agents as well as going direct to the cruise lines, and found price differences of up to £400 per person between the agents’ best quotes. This might seem a bit strange given recent changes in the cruise industry, as some have suggested that agents who undercut other agents to attract bargain-hunting consumers are devaluing cruises in general.
As a result, since 2011, some cruise lines such as Cunard and P&O have cut back on their levels of commission to travel agents. And Fred Olsen has recently ordered agents not to use their commission to give discounts to consumers. This means there are smaller discounts available and fewer differences between retailers’ prices.
So how did we find such price differences? In some cases, agents kept to the cruise line’s set price but offered to throw in extras, such as £600 per person worth of on-board credit for a round-the-world cruise. Another agent gave a small but winning £19 discount when we asked if they could make the deal any cheaper. But the main reason was down to how agents interpreted what we wanted.
The travel agent bonus
We asked for the cheapest outside cabin with an unobstructed view, but some agents automatically offered a pricey (and unnecessary) cabin with a balcony. The cheapest deals we were offered were for outside cabins to be allocated on arrival – fine by us.
As I’ve mentioned previously, when it comes to booking a complex holiday, I think a good travel agent is invaluable in finding the most suitable (although not necessarily the cheapest) deal.
Choosing a cruise falls into the ‘complex’ category as there are so many options: which destinations, the type and size of ship, the type of cabin you want and so on. Even if every agent starts offering identical cruise prices, I would still want to phone two or three in case one top-notch agent finds me the ideal cruise that others may have missed.
Do you find you have a habit of shopping around for the best holiday deals? Or do you prefer to stay loyal to a particular travel agent?