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Ever wondered how cruise lines change the cruise holiday pricing strategy? Curious as to how cruise ship pricing is managed and how prices compare when the cruise first goes on sale, in the one to two years until the cruise and just before the cruise? You might this case study of interest!

Cruise holiday pricing methods and strategies

Case Study: cruise X521 from Southampton, leaving on the 20th October 2015.
prices

  • Booking via Iglu cruises the cruise broker, rather than P&O directly, seems to mean the chance to get more freebies. Iglu often, for example, include free car parking (using their own reserved parking area to entice you) in addition to any freebies which P&O are offering.
  • With 5 months to go until the cruise, expect further price changes.

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Arcadia

The P&O ship Arcadia

Trying to understand when the best time to book a cruise is, depends on many factors. You might, for example, prefer to book early so that you can plan everything around the trip, including travelling with friends and family. You might, on the other hand, be at the opposite extreme and prefer to book at the last minute, in the hope of getting a cut price cruise.

What makes booking a cruise even more complicated and confusing though, is that most of the cruise companies seem to change the cruise prices every few months, all the way up until the cruise departs. So, a little experiment. I am going to follow the pricing for one cruise and let you know how it goes by pasting the information below so you can also compare. The cruise I am following is cruise X521 from Southampton, leaving on the 20th October 2015. What I want to do is to follow the cheapest price for the trip. This post will be a slow burner in that I will add the latest price change every month, as we follow the price of one cruise so bear with me as this post develops!

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Prices on 5th September 2014

  • Inside cabin: Cheapest price is £1,159 (same from Iglu cruises and P&O directly)

Price from P&O Direct

Inside cabin price

Price from Iglu Cruises

Iglu cruises pricing strategy

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Prices on 5th October 2014

  • Conclusion: No change in prices yet. Best price remains at £1,159. Nothing to get excited about yet, but watch this space in the coming months leading up to October 2015!

Price from P&O Direct

October cruise prices

Price from Iglu Cruises

Iglu cruises October cost

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Prices on 5th November 2014

  • Conclusion: And finally the purpose of this post is beginning to make sense because we now have our first price change! The minimum price has jumped from £1159 to £1199. The price game has started and it will be interesting to see what happens next!

Price from P&O Direct

P&O updated price

Price from Iglu Cruises

iglunov14

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5th December 2014

  • Prices remain the same as November 5th so nothing exciting to report in the lead up to Christmas. Hopefully some big price changes in 2015 as otherwise this price test experiment will go badly wrong! I expect some big fluctuations for this fare in the coming months though.

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Prices on 5th January 2015

  • The first big price change with both the agency Iglu Cruises and the cruise line itself, both lowering the cheapest cabin to £999, the lowest price to date.

Price from P&O Direct

  • P&O seem to have changed their site design and little but here goes. Here is the new lowest price:

P&O sale fare

Price from Iglu Cruises

  • Iglu have included a clear offer with the following included: Complimentary parking (they own their own parking area),  or free onboard credit.

Iglu cruises January fare

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Prices on 11th February 2015

  • BIG CHANGES! The big discounts have arrived and the offers are now on the table!!!

Price from P&O Direct

New prices

Price from Iglu Cruises

cruise discounts

With Christmas over and with 8 months until the cruise departs, the big discounts we have been waiting for are now here. I knew it would happen and it was just a matter of when. On offer is:

  • A drop from £1159 now down to £899 (for the cheapest cabin)
  • The offer of free car parking or some onboard spending (this is not a new addition but combined with the new price this is the best deal on the cruise so far).

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Prices on 5th March 2015

  • After a nice drop in the cruise costs in the last couple of months, the price jumps again back up to £979 per person (with free car parking or free spending on the boat). So for two people travelling, the total is £160 more for the most basic cabin.

Price from Iglu CruisesMarch cruise prices

Price Direct from P&O
pomarch

10th April 2015

  • Prices have remained the same as last month but expect some changes in the coming months. The waters seem choppy these days with price fluctuations now becoming more often as the cruise gets closer and closer.

Price from Iglu Cruises
10aprril15

P&O Cruises price booked direct
prices

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9th May 2015

  • Prices are falling and it looks like booking 5 months before departure is the best time so far, to book this cruise! By far the best price to date, down to £799 per person and with free car parking (worth around £80). £400 cheaper than available for in some previous months. As two people travelling together this is quite a significant difference.

Price from Iglu Cruises

may14iglu

Price direct from P&O Cruises

inside

12th June 2015

  • Prices for 12th June are the same as on 9th May on the Iglu Cruises and P&O sites, with identical offers. Iglu again this month are throwing in the offer of free car parking of free onboard spend

15th July 2015

  • Quite a STUNNING COST SAVING this month with a huge drop in the cost of an inside cabin against previous months. P&O have now introduced adn ‘Early Saver’ fare and that combined with a sale, means that the cost has dropped to a stunning £699. On

Following the booking process through all the way to the choice of cabin, the price would have indeed been £699 per person.

P&O Direct

Earl save sale fare

Iglu Cruises

699

16th July 2015

  • Prices jump back upwards after a few months of price drops. Prices are back up to £949.

P&O Price

949po

Igli August price

iglu

17th September 2015

  • Quite a big price rise as the cruise gets closer. The old idea of getting cheap late deals seems to be happening less with many cruises I am observing. As always. Iglu are offering the exact same prices as P&O direct, but Iglu are throwing in some extras which this month is free car parking or free spend onboard.
Free parking from Iglu with cruise

Free parking from Iglu with cruise

Inside cabin prices

15th October 2015

  • Last minute prices seem largely to be a thing of the past from cruise lines now. The problem of those booking late and travelling for half the price irritated too many regular cruise travellers and the cruise lines seem to have responded. The best time to book now from a few cruises I have analysed is always somewhere in the middle of the availability of the cruise.
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Dr Paul Symonds has a PhD in Wayfinding from Cardiff Metropolitan University in the UK. Paul works with the signage industry, airports and other locations providing wayfinding audits, consultancy and training.