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    Cruise lines try to win vacationers back with discounts


    Cruise lines try to win vacationers back with discounts

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    Call it a case of cruise ship phobia.

    Cruise line bookings are down 10 to 15 percent industry wide, after the Costa Concordia wrecked off the coast of Italy this past January and killed 32 people.

    In response, major carriers are finding creative ways to lure customers back.

    “They’re selectively picking out subsets of people. Seniors, people who are over 55, people who live in certain states, like North and South Carolina,” said Rich Tucker of the Charlotte-based website www.cruisedeals.com.

    Tucker says by offering discounts to people living in states located close to ports, companies don’t lose too much money by dropping rates across the board.

    The offers can be aggressive.

    “Just by living in North and South Carolina, you can save $200 to $700 on certain sailings. The ones that need the most help. A lot of the sailings that were most impacted were spring break cruises. Usually if you waited until now, prices would be too high and there’d be no space available,” said Tucker.

    Other bookings, can save thousands of dollars or more.

    “Some of the offers were rather radical,” Tucker said.

    Pauline Fommer, from the legendary Frommer’s guidebooks says in addition to price reductions, there are other incentives.

    “Some large agencies allowed people to book with no money down. They put deposit down for their customers. This requires millions of dollars in advance of them getting paid.”

    Travel websites like Travelocity have even teamed up with credit card company American Express, to offer hundreds of dollars in bonus savings on certain sailings.

    Despite the discounts online, Frommer says the best source for the lowest prices and perks like free on-board credits, is by using a cruise specialty agency to plan your trip.

    “They can get you perks you won’t get if you go their website of to the cruise line directly. Agencies that sell a lot of cruises get incentives they pass on to customers.”

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