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During our recent cruise discussion round the dinner table turned several times to the topic of the prices that fellow passengers had paid. I believe that all of us had paid full whack – I think most of us had booked the cruise over a year in advance, which would be before Vantage Fares, Getaway Fares, and the Price Promise were announced. Val and I have discussed this between ourselves as well.

It’s definitely the case that there were a lot of passengers who had paid a much lower price than we had. I know that a number of passengers were able to book inside cabins for £699 per person, or a balcony cabin for £200 more – call it £900 in round numbers, or £1800 for a couple. For that they got the same cabin as us; a balcony, though probably not one of the bigger balconies on C deck – my understanding is that these do go quickly – and dining arrangements that they must at least have been content with, and possibly were pleased with – we heard of at least one couple who got the dining arrangements that they wanted on a Getaway fare. They wouldn’t have received any on-board credit or other benefits such as free coach transport or free parking at Southampton. On the cruise itself there were no differences in facilities between different groups of passengers – for example, free shuttles are available to all passengers. We’re told that this will change next year, though – but see below for a discussion as to how important this is. So how does that compare?

We paid the brochure price when bookings opened in April 2012 – just under £4,200 for the two of us. Against that we should set the benefits we received, which were some OBC (£100 each initially, later increased to £190 thanks to the Price Promise) and free parking at Southampton. CPS would charge £152 for 14 nights parking, so the two sets of benefits total £532. That leaves our net cost at just over £3500. So we paid almost twice what a Getaway fare passenger would have paid: £3500+ as against £1800. That’s a difference of just over £1700, or £850 each.

So what did we get for paying almost twice the fare? Well, I suppose it all boils down to ‘peace of mind’: our holiday dates were decided a long time in advance, which given that we are both working was helpful in terms of booking leave from work. We also got the cabin we wanted and with which we were familiar – we chose a cabin we’ve stayed in before – and we got the dining arrangements that we wanted. Those are all real benefits. However, I’m not sure they’re worth £1700, or almost double the holiday cost; and as regards the dining arrangements, it occurs to me that if we had been placed on a dining regime that we really didn’t like, we could have eaten in The White Room, East, the Glasshouse and do the occasional foray to the buffet evening meals, and still have change out of our £1700 saving.

That’s this year – what about next year? Well, on reflection paying for shuttle buses turns out to be a non-issue, really. On this cruise it would only have affected us once, at Barcelona. At Valencia we did an excursion so therefore didn’t use the shuttle buses that were provided, at Monte Carlo we tendered, at Civitavecchia the shuttles are provided by the port authority, and at Ajaccio, Gibraltar and Vigo the ships dock close enough to the town that P&O don’t lay on shuttle buses anyway. So if this cruise had been next year, and we’d gone on a Getaway fare, we’d only have had to pay for shuttles at one port. Hardly a deal-breaker.

For next year we’ve decided that we will do a fly-cruise, and that we will wait until the new year before booking – we want to see what deals are available then. For the year after that it will be back to P&O, probably the Baltic, and definitely on a Vantage fare – the Deposit contribution we’ve made is only valid on Vantage fares. (Among my reasons for thinking of cruising on the new ship that year is that there will probably be high demand for it in its first year in service so on that ship Vantage Fares may well be the only way to go.)

It’s time to try to bring this somewhat wandering brain-dump to a conclusion of sorts. I think I’ve always accepted the traditional practice of offering savings after final payment date: I recognise that the cruise lines need to fill the ships and that when they know the position for each sailing they will take appropriate action. I also recognise that this cruise may not have been very popular – it was a bog-standard 14 night Western Mediterranean cruise so they may have had a lot of capacity to fill. What really irritates is that the cheap fares are available so far in advance: there are Getaway Fares available on cruises out to the end of December, which is almost six months in advance. Admittedly, they’re not yet at the 45% reduction level, but who know where they will end up? The lesson that everyone seems to be learning is that it’s better to delay booking, otherwise you’ll pay a lot of money. As Val said to me when we were discussing this, “I’m beginning to feel like a sucker”.

4 Responses to “Some thoughts on Vantage vs. Getaway fares”

  1. Stuart says:

    If you are a sucker, then so are we! We (my wife and I) paid full fare for a balcony on Lido deck, there were plenty of people who were very happy to tell us that they had booked a last minute deal and oh by the way what did you pay? Suffice it so say I was keeping quiet.

    My problem is that I have to book my leave in the October preceding the next leave year. So for example I have to book my leave in October 13 for April 14 through to March 15. This means that I either pay the Vantage fare or risk having to do a different holiday if the cruise fills up. We like P&O and would rather not cruise with other lines. It also gives me something to look forward to in my stressful existence. Also the idea of having to cancel a cruise holiday and maybe fly somewhere would be tough.

    So what price peace of mind? I wouldn’t knowingly pay double for anything else and in this case it means I could have another cruise. The trouble is we are looking at the smallest ship, Adonia, next year which I understand is very popular so there may be no choice but to book early.

    Not wishing to sound like a snob but there were a couple of strange characters on board which I’m guessing was as a result of the low fares. They were very drunk sitting on the floor outside Havana and laughing and pointing at passengers in their tuxes/evening gowns heading to the first black tie night. They were dressed in jeans ect. Not the usual P&O passenger! Ok I sound like a snob, sorry.

    P&O need to be careful they don’t lose money and passengers by cutting fares too far, rather than attracting them.


    • Tom says:

      Thanks for the comment, Stuart.

      Like you we both need to book our holidays quite a long way in advance, although there’s no rigid policy about it. I suppose in my case I actually only need to give a few months notice, but Val is working as a technical specialist on big (9 month) software implementation projects and when she moves to a new one the project manager needs to know when the project staff will be available. So she’s a little more constrained than I am.

      I have to say I didn’t see any strange characters, but there again there were 3000 people on board and it’s very easy to walk straight past people and not see them.

  2. Christine Richards says:

    We were on the same cruise and also paid full price for a suite and it was very upsetting to hear that people only paid £599 for the same trip ? We did at least think we might have had water in the room ???? Makes you think what you paid the extra for ?As our first cruise found that there was lack of communication regarding certain things getting off we could not find our luggage ? In A not R but no one told us 1 case missing delivered to us on Tuesday ???? Would we go again ???????? Time will tell ? Did enjoy all the paid resturants

  3. I am beginning to feel that we have made a mistake booking a cruise for next August on a vantage fare. We too have to book well in advance because of my husbands job & because I work in a school, there is only one cruise we wish to go on. Looking at this years fares there is about £900 disparity (each) between what we have paid & what the getaway fare will be. Some people have suggested cancelling & rebooking as it will be worth losing the £700 deposit (for us both) . What do you think?

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