/ Shopping, Travel & Leisure

It could be cheaper if you cruise between travel agents

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?

Carol Hall says:
2 July 2012

I love cruising and have just booked one for over the Christmas period. I found going to one of the travel agents (The Cruise Specialist) gave me a much better deal and they were able to organise with NCL us coiming back on a different flight so lenghtening the holiday into a cruise and stay, therefore taylormaking our holiday. My going to NCL and asking the question gave me the answer that they can’t do that, so using the agent, saving money and getting everything you want is very much the better way to travel.

halki says:
16 August 2012

No One will ever beat 118.com Six Star Cruises For Price. Try them and you soon will see how professional and Good they are.

P Snowshall says:
20 August 2013

i have been a cruising convert since taking early retirement.My inititial few cruises were booked through a travel agent.Obviously with retirement i had more time on my hands and so started
searching online for deals.Never regretted it.
I have even searched for several cruises and then checked the prices,for the same cruises,with the cruise company.Two or three agents and also so called email deals.None could match the price i found by just spending time online.
My latest deal is for a six star 9 day cruise.All inclusive with flights and transfer, single supplement along with $300 OBC.Total price£1250.Best quoted price i was offered £2350.A real steal.Time,effort timing,timing and timing are the key.
Other cruise i have found have also been ‘good’ deals.
Always check to see what is included when onboard the ship.Sometimes,good prices are not so good especially when it comes to settling up the final onboard bill.
Coffees,soft drinks,alcoholic drinks,gratuities etc soon mount up and come as a shock when you see that bill.
Good hunting.

Cruising from the UK can be incredibly cheap particularly if like the previous poster you have the time to shop around. We were very pleased with a 40+ day cruise from Tilbury up the Amazon to Manaus at under £3000. So noce to sail away from the UK in January to warmth and exciting ports.

I have to own to a total dislike of floating hotels that make up so much of the cruising fleet. A small older ship may not have all the glitz but they do tend to be real ships. Cheap price does not give you Las Vegas cabarets and multiple restaurants etc but a decent cabin, good food and good company can make cruising a most relaxing holiday.

Being as it was so much fun we also did a cruise to Canada in the Autumn with a different small cruise line. Also excellent value and great fun.