I bought a dress and a week later encountered someone with the same dress, which she bought on sale for half the price I paid.  My response?  “Oh well….”

* * *

Bought a new car and paid $23,974.   A month later I open the newspaper to find the same dealer is now selling my car for $20,798.   My response?  “Wish I’d know prices would drop and I’d get a better deal …. oh well.  Win some, lose some”

* * *

In January cruise lines said they were raising Mediterranean  cruise fares because of increased demand.  Cruise writers said the big discounts we saw last year were a thing of the past and many advised booking early to lock in the cabin I want   So I booked my August Greek Island cruise in January.   Now I find the same cabin selling for half the price.

My response?  #0!?@$!#!!!    I was screwed by the cruise line and the travel agent into paying twice as much as everyone else.  Now I find I can’t even cancel without losing thousands of dollars!!  Boy, am I gonna get them for it.

* * *

What is it about cruises that makes people see red when fares drop after we booked?  Not only that, we take it personally: “they screwed me”!   After all, the price of any item we purchase may — and frequently does — drop.  The difference is we don’t go ballistic about it.    We don’t scream that the store, website, car company or dealership tried to screw us.

Why Did Fares Fall So Much?

Cruise line raised their fares last year in anticipation of what they believed would be a big increase in passengers.    What no one factored in was the rise in the price of fuel which resulted in airline prices skyrocketing.  And no on predicted that the citizens of Tunisia and Egypt were fed up with totalitarian regimes to the point that thousands of people took to the streets demanding that leaders step down.

Americans rethought their vacation plans, deciding airfare make the vacation prohibitively expensive; besides, do I want to go if there’s all this unrest?   Many Americans are geographically-challenged — they  backed out of Greek Island cruises because they were just too close to Egypt.  Actually, until a few days ago, when riots broke out in Greece as well, I planned to suggest grabbing some of the incredible deals available now, which, in some cases, offset the high airfare.

So the cruise industry, which had steeply increased capacity (Royal Caribbean moved half its fleet of 22 ships to Europe), was stuck with a huge number of ships no one was booking.    Of course they had to slash fares.

According to the New York Times,  Royal Caribbean offers “the cheapest rates.  Hotwire.com recently listed a seven-night Mediterranean cruise departing from Venice on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas in late June for as low as $499 a person for an inside cabin, roughly 30 percent off the normal price in late June.”   However,RCI isn’t alone:   Norwegian Cruise Line announced a fare of $349 per person, double occupancy on a one-week Europe cruise which was snapped up quickly by bargain hunters.

A few weeks after the fall of Lehman Brothers I went into Saks Fifth Avenue because I’d heard there were incredible sales.  What astonished me was seeing large bins overflowing with stacks of cashmere scares and gloves,  $200 sweaters reduced to $70.  But after a few months New Yorkers got a grip and things went back to a “new normal” … none of us were blowing money recklessly on needless things but we still shopped.  Before Lehman Brothers fell, however, I’m sure people paid full price for many of the same items now slashed by up to 70% yet nowhere did I read that angry Saks’ customers were storming the gates because they paid more.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose. Isn’t that the attitude most of us take when it happens to us?   The exception is a cruise.

What You Can Do About It

First of all, watch the price of the cabin you booked.  If you start seeing big drops in fares, call your travel agent.

According to Jean Mallory, Manager of White Travel (which has sold cruises exclusively for 36 years),  “As long as the client has not made their final payment,  MOST cruise lines reduce the prices MOST of the time.   Some cruise lines will  adjust the rate even after final payment.”   But she pointed out that the cruise lines know that up until final payment , the client can cancel with no penalties.  They don’t want to lose passengers.

Remember, it’s YOUR responsibility to keep a tab on cruise fares.  That’s why you shouldn’t blame anyone but yourself  if, after final payment is made, you wind up with a much higher rate than others

What’s Ahead

Historically the lowest cruise prices are found in the fourth quarter (Sept. to December) and it looks like this year won’t be different.   Between hurricane season, the kids returning to school and the approaching holiday, most people prefer to head to the Caribbean after the new year.

An added bonus is that cruise lines are repositioning ships out of the Caribbean to east, west and gulf ports because over-capacity leads to price wars.   And, with the expense and hassle of flying, most of us prefer to drive to a local port, if possible.

This winter:  While Caribbean cruise fares are usually lower than ships sail from New York, Baltimore, Charleston, where there is less competition, you may want to pay a bit more to avoid the high costs of flying and the hassle.

But whatever happens, please don’t blast the cruise line and travel agents if you must spend a bit more.  Remember, when you booked the cruise the price you agreed to was reasonable; you booked it because you could afford it.