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[I’ve made some updates to this post following a bit of further research that I probably should have done first. My apologies….]

Some months ago P&O (and Cunard) announced details of their new Price Promise. It was presented as a means by which the position of those who booked early would be protected: if, after making their booking, the price of the cabin grade they had booked was reduced then the people making the early booking would either get additional on-board credit, or a cabin upgrade, to compensate them for the difference between the price at which they had booked and the now-reduced price. However, both lines also announced two fare types: Vantage fares, to which the price promise would apply, and Getaway fares, to which it wouldn’t. A Vantage fare is the standard current price – the brochure price, if you like. A Getaway fare however was presented as a specially reduced last-minute fare, and the price promise wouldn’t apply if your cabin on your cruise was made the subject of a Getaway fare.

Here’s what was said about Getaway fares in the summer 2012 issue of ‘Our World’, the Peninsular Club magazine:
First, they were defined as ‘last-minute offers’, together with a fuller explanation of: ‘Getaway fares are restricted fares offered on selected cruises closer to the date of departure…’
Secondly, the following was also said: ‘These bargain fares …… require 100% of the cost of your holiday to be paid upfront’.

The reason why these statements are significant is because I have seen cruises starting late July advertised as Getaway fare cruises. This was last week (late February), which means that these cruises had been defined as Getaway fare cruises no less than five months in advance. That doesn’t meet my definition of ‘last-minute’, and I’m pretty sure that anyone booking one of them now wouldn’t be required to pay 100% up front.

When the new fare policy was announced there were a number of people who made comments (on Cruise Critic and other forums) to the effect that they thought it was all a con, and that the aim was simply to put in place a policy which looked as if it offered something but would not in fact do so. There was a lot of comment and suggestion to the effect that all the lines had to do was to define any reduced fare as a Getaway fare and they would not have to offer any Price Promise compensation. I decided to take more positive line, and I welcomed the new policy. When I saw these very earlt Getaway fare offerings, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed – were the cynics right after all?

It turns out that while P&O are doing things that weren’t suggested in the initial documentation about the price promise, they aren’t actually breaking the letter of the deal. In fact, those cruises in July are available under both price structures. For example, on cruise N319 (27 July, 13 nights to the Canary Islands, Ventura) you can book a ‘balcony cabin higher fwd/aft’ (i.e. a balcony cabin a deck above the Promenade deck, either forward or aft but not amidships) for either £1699 or £1249, as of this morning. The differences are these:-

For the Vantage fare:

    • you get a choice of cabin;
    • you’ll get either some on-board credit, or free parking at Southampton, or a free return coach rise to/from Southampton;
    • Normal cancellation rules and time periods apply;
    • Should the Vantage fare be reduced, you’ll get extra credit.

Whereas for the Getaway fare:

    • You get none of the benefits listed above;
    • Full payment is required immediately;
    • If you have to cancel, even just the day after making the booking, you’ll get none of your money back.

The extras for Vantage fares seem to be worth about £120 per person. Annoyingly, however, if you choose to take it as an on-board credit it’s wiped out by an equivalent extra charge for  ‘Sea Fuel Supplement’ (the dreaded oil surcharge); e.g. the per person cruise price is £1699 + £60 fuel surcharge, plus £60 on-board credit. Confusingly, however, if you select Free Parking then the cruise price is £1639 + £60 fuel surcharge, making £1699 including surcharge.

All-in-all not as bad as I’d thought, but still not exactly transparent.

9 Responses to “P&O Price Promise – some questions need answering”

  1. Brian says:

    I agree I think the vantage fare issue is a con, the only time I would book a vantage price with P&O is if I wanted a specific cabin on a specific cruise which I may for whatever reason fear would be oversubscribed otherwise. A few weeks ago I booked a cruise with Cunard for the end of May who offer the same sort of thing, yes I had to pay 100% up front but was happy to do so saving £700 each on the vantage fare (though the getaway fare has since dropped another £200). We also did a cruise on Oriana last autumn this was last minute but we saved thousands of pounds and had a very nice outside cabin on deck 6. One other thing which everyone may not be aware of, P&O offer while on board a future down payment option where you pay £50 and then get your money back and up to £150 OBC in addition depending on the length of the cruise, what you won’t discover (it’s not on the paper which you complete) until you get your confirmation is that you can’t use this on a getaway fare only on a vantage fare which in effect makes it worthless as you’ll save much more paying the getaway price.

  2. Tony says:

    I have been reading several comments on various sites with regards to the Vantage / Getaway con, and yes I am one who has been conned. In hindsight I should have realised that even Cunard can operate with pre meditated, dishonest intentions, and be no different than any other scam operators around.

    I accept fully that we all need to have our wits about us when buying anything these days, but I am sure most of us have no concerns about purchases from Marks and Spencer, Sainsburys not to mention the epitome of honest trading and service, John Lewis. Has anyone ever needed to read their Terms of Trading or Conditions….even during Sale events????

    What is this pre amble leading to, well on our Cunard cruise over Christmas 2012, we booked a cruise in July 2013, and a Christmas / New Year cruise 2013, all on the VANTAGE fare. At last no shopping around, keeping tabs on the internet, our cruises were sorted.

    We were categorically told that if the fares were reduced, we would get upgrade/ OBC increase etc if fares were reduced.
    I still have the brochure received on board at the time of booking, and when you read the copy, now knowing the intended scam, Cunard have been very clever, sorry, deceitful,cunning….. in the way Vantage fares have been presented.
    The July cruise is now £1099, I paid £2219 ( OK , £400 OBC and £160 parking was included) that effectively represents a penalty of around £850 EACH…….for trusting Cunard, and their iimplied , empty promises.

    We wouldnt have a problem with an obstructed balcony, we dont need to go Forward Midships or Aft, Dining times are never a problem on Board with the choice, ………….but £1700 would certainly be useful for our next cruise.

    So, now I am going to seriously consider other cruise lines ( except of course fellow conspirators P&O), after being a faithful Cunard and P&O customer for 11years.

    I am sure that both of the Companies must have considered this situation arising, after knowingly engineering this deceit. No doubt they will have covered their tails legally beforehand, giving little opportunity for us customers to challenge the unfair trading legally.

    I will certainly be writing to Cunard MD PETER SHANKS, expressing my disappointment in the ethics, or lack of, within his Company.

    I would also be very interested if anyone would like to pursue this matter, either legally ( not much chance I would guess), or as a campaign, involving Trading Standards, Press.

    • John Edwards says:

      We too were, “ripped off,” by Cunard, voyage V308 June,2013, £403/person/day and we were served half meals in the Queens Grill! This was our 30th voyage with Cunard and we feel we were well and truly conned into paying Vantage Fare. We have written to them listing our disappointments and they have offered £500 off the next cruise we book!! We would like to support you in pursuing this matter and have a lot more information which could be useful.

      • Diane chadwick says:

        As a party of 10 boarding the Ventura on November 8th 2013 we have all been stung by the Vantage Fare con and are currently in the process of complaining (£1200 per cabin with 5 cabins). I will be very disappointed if P&O don’t take our complaint seriously and will be willing to be vocal in all aspects of the media to ensure no one is in the dark to this.
        Diane Chadwick

  3. Linda Cox says:

    We sailed on April 13th on the Oceana on Vantage Fare we never recieved extra onboard spend or an upgrade (we had a outside cabin.} We booked last August, we have sailed with PO for a few years but we will not be fooled again with PO dishonest way they treat loyal passengers (We take two cruises a year). We have letters from PO and proof that Vantage fares came down, we contested with them before we sailed and in the last letter they gave us the telephone and address of ABTA also when we were on board we demanded to speak to the office in Southampton they refused to come to the phone they gave the job to an office junior. We are trying to fight back we have written to BBC Watchdog we want to expose them as ‘ROB DOGS’ I want to expose them for what they have done to us it was a cruise to celebrate a special birthday. We know other people on board the Oceana had been short changed Let this be a warning to other Cruiser do not believe PO with there so called Price Promise.

  4. Mark says:

    We also booked a Vantage (con) fare with Cunard only to find the price promise was a scam. However, I feel that if enough people are interested in complaining, a group action may be possible against P&O and Cunard.

    Whilst Cunard have been very careful in their terms and conditions to cover themselves, they cannot get around the fact that we were induced to enter a contract with them on the promise of price protection. Part of this promise was that Getaway fares were “last minute”.

    Therefore we can argue that there is a collateral contract that induced us to enter into the main agreement with Cunard and/or P&O. Such a collateral contrat is not restricted by Cunard’s very limited terms and conditions.

    The principle of collateral contracts was specifically introduced into contract law to deal with companies that made misleading advertising claims to get people to buy a product. So even though there was no term in the contract that specified Getaway fares would not be only “last minute”, I think that there is at least a fair chance that such a term could be construed into a collateral contract and as such it is a breach of contract for Cunard and P&O to offer such getaways fares 5 months in advance.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks for the comment, Mark.

      I think I’ve made clear in the post above and in others that it’s not the existence of lower fares per se that upsets me – the cruise lines have always done this and I can understand their reasons for it – it’s the way that Getaway fares have become a permanent feature, and are offered a long time in advance of the cruise. I don’t think that’s how they were presented at the time, and I do feel a little misled.

    • Linda Cox says:

      We have been conned by PO and at the present time we are having talks with Rip Of Britain and if you feel strongly as we do why don’t you communicate with them as well we understand others have contacted them as well just go into their website.

    • John Edwards says:

      We are very willing to support you and have ourselves already complained to Cunard as we were, “conned,” and paid Vantage fare, £403/person/day and were served HALF meals in the Queens Grill on the Queen Victoria, June 2013. This was our 30th voyage with Cunard, a memorable DISAPPOINTMENT.

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