Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What if your cruise fare drops?

A reader asked what she should do to recoup several hundred dollars that she's apparently overpaid her cruise line for an upcoming voyage. After putting down her deposit a few months ago for a Caribbean cruise, she spotted a considerably cheaper fare on the Internet for the same category cabin on the same cruise.

The good news for this reader: she hasn't made her final payment yet. Since she booked her cruise through a traditional travel agent, she needs to call the agent to request the lower fare before final payment is due. Assuming all other conditions are met, the agent should be able to secure the lower fare for her. Once the final payment is made, however, the cruise line would probably tell her that the new, lower fare applies to "new bookings only" and reject the refund.

That said, there are no guarantees that she'll get her rebate even before final payment is made. Part of it depends on the travel agent's clout; if it's a major agency the cruise line values, her chances of getting the rebate are much higher.

But she still has options. As long as she acts before the final payment deadline, she can most likely cancel the cruise and rebook it at the lower fare, assuming it's still available. In this case, she might also want to switch travel agents since her first agent was unable to help her.

A final note: you really can't depend on your travel agent to keep on top of every new fare that comes along after you book your cruise. It's best to monitor fares yourself if you want to be sure you get the best deal. But if you do get a call from your travel agent out of the blue saying he or she has secured a lower fare for you after you've already booked, you know you've got a savvy, honest agent who will work with your interests in mind.

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