Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Carnival's New Cruise Fare Structure: Will You Be Happy With More Choices or Find Yourself More Confused ?

Way over a year ago, Carnival came out with a new rate option, called Early Saver Rates.  Have heard, that many folks, have bought online, later to discover that their deposit is non-refundable, and they can not only make any changes, they can not correct the spelling of their name, if they typed it in incorrectly or used their “nickname” instead.
Personally, I have received a many a call, from folks, who were not my customer, to ask what all this means, “after” they already purchased.  Unfortunately, the time to ask questions is BEFORE not after; and the time to reach to an agent is also BEFORE and not after.

So many folks believe, due to TV advertisement, that you can be your “own travel agent” and no answers are needed to just buy online from these “internet companies “.  Though folks need to NOT allow themselves to believe that it’s as simple as that, that is a subject for another day.  Just with Carnival’s past rate options and now these new options, alone, is reason to NOT buy your cruise vacation on your own.  

Sadly, some folks believe they know it all.  And even "if they did", WHY would they put themselves in such a position of possible ERRORS ! 
Cruise Specialist, and even your Travel Agent is here for YOU and the cruise lines for a reason;  and I promise you, as low as cruise prices are today, it’s not about money (commission) … Folks who have opted to be in this business or line of work, truly really want to help and protect  you !

Anyway, back to these new Carnival Farecodes.  Someone asked  me, “What  is farecodes” ?  All these different promotions and rates come under special codes.  Such as, if there’s a senior rate, you have to “buy that code” to have the rate.  That’s why folks, buying on their  own, can often “think they are buying one thing”, where in essence, they flat  end up with something else !

Example, this past week, through TODAY, Carnival has a “Holiday Sale, with up to $200 onboard credit”.  Well, if you, as an individual, do NOT know how to buy this correctly, you will either buy the rate you want and end up with NO onboard credit, or  you will get the onboard credit offer, but at a higher rate.  Long story, but this is why you want to turn to a Cruise Specialist, or your Travel Agent, so that you buy what you  think you are !

As of last week, Carnival Cruise Lines' added NEW FARECODES.  Now, a little more complicated, due to more choices.  Now, if buying on your own, you will have more reading to do; or if buying through a specialist, they will have more explaining to do.  Only two things are certain:

(1)   You may find yourself more confused at some point

(2)   And Carnival’s "Early Saver" fares, may no longer guaranteed to be the cheapest option.

As of December 3, Carnival's fare categories are comprised of seven options (four more than before): Fun Select, Fun Select Plus, Past Guest, Early Saver, Easy Saver, Super Saver and Instant Saver.

Here's a quick rundown, made as simple as possible:

Fun Select: Fun Select is Carnival's standard rate with which passengers can select a cabin number. But within the new system, Fun Select fares also come with free cabin upgrades that allow passengers to be upgraded up to two categories within the same cabin type (ie inside, outside, balcony, etc). Upgrades are based on availability.

New Fun Select Plus: Similar to Fun Select fares, the upgrades included in Fun Select Plus rates allow passengers to be upgraded up to seven categories within the same cabin type. As with Fun Select, upgrades are based on availability.   (NOTE from Vivian:  It’s at a “higher cost”, but it gets you to a higher deck (category) at a lower cost than normal).

NOTE from Vivian.  Cruise Specialist “nor” agents can talk to a “live person” about any of the BELOW FARECODES, “nor” can we buy these rates from a “live person” at Carnival; we can ONLY buy these rates on Carnival’s Travel Agent website.  Personally, I think this is not only “really bad” FBO our customers, ,but WRONG  !  ALSO NOTE, when doing a group on Carnival, we can also NOT talk to a live person unless that customer is reserving to buy 50 cabins !.

Early Saver: Early Saver fares are the lowest available rates that come with a cabin assignment and are only available for bookings made more than three (short cruises) to five months (longer cruises) from sailing. (NOTE from Vivian:  These rates are pulled EXACTLY at the 3 and 5 month mark; so if you are not watching the time, they will be here one day and gone the next). They include price protection, meaning that if the going rate of the cabin category you've booked goes down (NOTE from Vivian: Up to 2 days from sailing), you qualify for a refund in the form of onboard credit.  New – passengers can now  make  a “change”, prior to the final payment date, for a $50 per person fee (Per my Carnival DSM, changes include, cancelling with new sail date in mind or opportunity to choose a new date within a year.  Also with fee, now able to upgrade to higher category (can not downgrade).  Note, name changes still not allowed; and if name spelling is wrong or customer gave their wrong name, this is to be determined at time of trying to fix).  This rate option is 100%  non-refundable. (NOTE from Vivian:  No agent, or anyone, can hold this rate at Carnival without a deposit or full payment in hand !)

New Easy Saver: Easy Saver fares are slightly less than standard Fun Select fares and are available for bookings made within three to five months of a sailing; passengers can choose a cabin number and make changes before the final payment date for a $50 per person fee. There is no price protection.  (NOTE from Vivian:  Easy Saver Rates come out after Early Saver Rates have been pulled).  (NOTE from Vivian:  No agent, or anyone, can hold this rate at Carnival without a deposit or full payment in hand !)

Super Saver: New, Super Savers are the lowest fares Carnival now offers. New, they require a non-refundable deposit and are available for bookings made more than three to five months from sailing and you can NOT have a cabin number; it will be TBA – to be announced.. (NOTE   from Vivian:  Folks who want a cabin #, such as midship, or traveling with families who need or want cabins together or need a cabin #, can NOT buy this rate option !  (NOTE from Vivian:  No agent, or anyone, can hold this rate at Carnival without a deposit or full payment in hand !)

Instant Saver: Also "heavily discounted" (according to Carnival), Instant Saver fares are not available until closer to sail date (Per my Carnival DSM, after Super Saver Rates are pulled), require full non-refundable full payment and do not include a cabin assignment. (NOTE from Vivian:  Same holds true as my note for Super Saver Rate; folks who want cabins or families who need cabin #’s or cabins together, can not have this rate. (NOTE from Vivian:  No agent, or anyone, can hold this rate at Carnival without a deposit or full payment in hand !)

Past Guest:Past Guest fares include a free two category upgrade. Passengers must have a past guest # with Carnival to qualify.


(1)    When you look online, you need to realize, you may no longer qualify, nor want the type cabin, or may need a cabin number, therefore, no longer qualifying for their lowest rates available.

(2)   Lowest rates available will now be for NO CABIN NUMBER (assignment) and they too are 100% non-refundable !

(3)   Early Saver Rates are no longer the lowest rates available; Super and Instant Saver are, but you get no cabin number with these 2 type rates.

(4)   Many of the new farecodes require money in hand, for deposit or full payment, to reserve that rate or your space; can no longer hold the cabins at Carnival with a 24 hour option.


NOTE from Vivian:

There are at least a couple of reason, that I can  imagine that Carnival has chosen this route with farecodes and options, that I can guess of …

(1)   Carnival has told us, one reason they are doing this, is FBO agents;  By getting folks to make a commitment, rather than simply being able to back out at final payment, by making available, their non-refundable deposit and full payment fare options. 

(2)   And WHY keep giving folks an option to hold cabins for 2 days or a week …  With the “money in hand” aspect, now, you can simply wait and call when you are ready to commit; and move on with your other responsibilities in life !  It’s time consuming and non-profitable to talk and not take action … For Carnival, and even for you !

Do us agents like the options ?  Personally, I like the Super Saver & Instant Saver Option.  To me, this is for those folks who are just looking for cheap; they are not really interested in building a relationship with an agent.  Why not give them the lowest rate; they should require less needs.  Cheapest is cheapest, no questions to ask !

Otherwise, do we like the rate structure ?  Not really.  We all appreciate Carnival trying to help the agent community with commitment.  However, it is more time consuming to explain all these new options and rules, cause most of our folks do not want just cheapest; they want value !

More importantly, I believe many consumers are not only going to get more confused, they may opt in not believing the agent, or think they see a lower rate than their agent is giving them; and if they fail in trusting their agent, by explaining what they see, they may end up going elsewhere (but still receive the same rates available to all agents).  Also, the agent community believes, more folks will end up getting hurt, cause they will opt in “playing their own travel agent”, not knowing what kind of fix they have gotten themselves into !
PS.  If you think this is confusing, wait till you want to talk about Carnival Group Rates or Carnival Sales !



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