The cruise industry has launched the 2011 version of its annual "Wave Season" promotion but a recovering economy and anticipated growth in passenger bookings means cruise bargain hunters need to move more quickly than in recent years to capture deals, says Travel Insured International. Travel Insured also is urging consumers to use travel agents and urging them to include travel insurance in their plans.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which promotes the annual early-year sales event with its 25 member cruise lines and nearly 16,000 travel agents serving North America, has expressed strong optimism for improved 2011 bookings, Travel Insured says. They note that CLIA said 86 percent of surveyed agents expect stronger bookings this year, more Wave Season business, and predicted 16 million total 2011 passengers, a 6.6 percent increase from 2010.
Travel Insured says whether cruise fans are considering offers such as "Free Upgrades for All" "The View & Verandah Sale;" "The Early Saver Sale," or other major cruise line sales, the collective industry wisdom is the best deals of the year are available now. Travel Insured notes the possibilities of fuel surcharges and the possibility of higher fees.
Travel Insured also offers consumers tips to consider when seeking Wave Season deals. This includes:
- Use a professional cruise travel agent with strong industry affiliations, such as membership in ASTA and CLIA. They often have special deals with partner lines.
- Consider older ships of cruise lines launching new ships in 2011. New ships typically command higher prices due to novelty demand: the best discounts fall to older vessels.
- European river cruising is popular now. River ships are smaller, only about 150-200 passengers each, but shore excursions (and sometimes air deals) are included in prices. Travel insurance can protects travelers inclusive prepaid cruise package price.
- Good deals can be found for Caribbean cruises during hurricane season (June 1 – Nov. 30). Protect against hurricane delays or cancellations with travel insurance.
- Several Travel Insured International plans include "change of itinerary" coverage. Prepaid, non-refundable excursions can be covered if a ship skips a port of call on short notice.
- Travelers can get a better deal for shoulder season dates compared to high season. For example, consider May or September to Alaska instead of June, July or August. .
- Travelers can get a good advance airfare or use frequent flier miles, get the best deals on southern Caribbean cruises out of San Juan, often cheaper than Florida departures.
- Consider the deal most valuable to you: cabin upgrade or onboard credit? If you want a balcony, seek the upgrade. If you want some prepaid drinks or discounted spa treatments, get the onboard credit.
- Some major card companies offer cruise credit incentives to book with their card.
Travel Insured also says cruise travelers should be aware that their U.S. health insurance plan or Medicare, as noted by the U.S. State Department on its web site at travel.state.gov, may not cover them when traveling outside the U.S. Travel Insured International reports it offers comprehensive Worldwide Trip Protector and Worldwide Trip Protector Gold plans that include up to $50,000 in Emergency Medical Expense coverage with an option to upgrade to primary coverage and double the limit to $100,000.
There is $1 million of Medical Evacuation coverage included in Worldwide Trip Protector Gold and available as an upgrade from the inclusive $500,000 Medevac coverage in Worldwide Trip Protector, Travel Insured reports. Both the Trip Protector Lite and Trip Protector Lite Expanded plans include essential Emergency Medical Expense Coverage, and up to $100,000 in Emergency Medical Evacuation coverage with an option to double Med Evac to $200,000.