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Oeana in the early-morning light

I’ve been exploring options for cruises in the Arabian Gulf on Oceana, principally for February/March next year. One thing I was tempted by was the thought of mixing the cruise (10 nights) with another holiday destination – perhaps in south-east Asia (Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore) or southern Asia (India, Sri Lanka). Doing this would require making amendments to the cruise flights, ideally just booking the cruise on a ‘cruise only’ basis and making my own flight bookings.

So I worked my way through the on-line P&O booking procedure to find out how much this would save, and to my astonishment discovered that the answer was: nothing. You can certainly book the cruise ‘cruise only’, but if you choose that option a warning message appears on screen saying that this will not change the price…. Which seemed a bit harsh.

But then another though occurred to me. I’d been looking solely at Early Saver fares. I’d be taking this holiday on my own so I’d been looking to price it as low as possible. Suppose I looked at the Select fare? Well, it turns out that if you choose the Select fare and then ‘Cruise Only’, you do get a refund – £300 per person. Together with a tiny amount of OBC that the Select fare entitles you to means that booking a Select fare on a cruise only basis is a bit cheaper than booking an Early Saver fare on the same basis – because with the Early Saver you don’t get any reduction for the flights you’re not taking. And of course with the Select fare you get some other benefits: choice of cabin, choice of dining arrangements, and that tiny amount of OBC.

Just to complicate things, there is another factor to throw into the mix. I spoke to Trailfinders about this very option a few weeks ago, and I was told that booking the Early Saver fare, cruise only, would attract a reduction of £150 if booked through them. That would bring the Early Saver fare back under the Cruise Only Select fare, but of course you’d be losing those Select fare benefits I mentioned above. Trailfinders was the only TA I spoke to about this – I’d probably use them for the non-cruise elements of the holiday – but it’s perfectly possible that any TA could provide the same Early Saver cruise-only pricing as they did.

Of course, all of this is only relevant if you want to include the cruise as part of a longer holiday in places other than the Gulf. If all you want is to do the cruise, perhaps with a night or two in the uAE before or after, then the standard P&O pricing including flights would be the best way to go.

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