Late last year, the online cruise agency 7 Blues Seas unveiled its “Senior Rate Shopper,” the Internet’s first cruise pricing tool that displays fares for multiple lines discounted for seniors ages 55 and over. While certain cruise lines make senior fares available to travel agents at the last minute as a way to fill up their remaining berths, these fares have generally not been publicized to consumersuntil now.
The Senior Rate Shopper was the idea of 7 Blue Seas’ CEO and cofounder, Daniel Kwoh, who, frustrated with the inability to compare senior cruise fares online while shopping for a friend, decided to create a system for his site that would display these exclusive rates. Kwoh wanted to give seniors “a bird’s eye view” of the fare options available to them, fares that he claims “are usually the lowest available rates anywhere” for a particular cruise stateroom.
Older travelers can now display senior fares when using 7 Blue Seas “Deal Shopper” to price cruises. This tool allows you to hunt for the best cruise prices in the agency’s database using detailed search criteria including cruise line, date range, itinerary, duration, departure port, theme, and availability of senior rates.
The Deal Shopper itself is a powerful comparison tool and is unique from other online cruise agents’ pricing systems in that it evaluates how good each cruise fare is based on the cruise’s “Fare Market Value,” not its brochure price. Rather than comparing a discounted cruise price to artificially high brochure rates, the Fare Market Value (FMV) system used by 7 Blue Seas attempts to give consumers a more realistic starting price to gauge the true savings.
Kwoh, an award-winning entrepreneur with a PhD in physics, developed a complex formula to evaluate a cruise’s value, similar to the process used to determine the Blue Book value of a car. The formula takes into consideration dozens of factors such as seasonality, location, pricing history, and cabin category to come to the “fair market price” of a particular cruise stateroom.
When the results of a Deal Shopper search are displayed, sale prices that beat the cruises FMV by 30 percent or more will be noted in red, while prices that are 15 to 29 percent less than the FMV are noted in green. Sale rates discounted by less than 15 percent are printed in black.
Senior Rate Shopper put to the test
To see how well the new Senior Rate tool works, we performed several test searches with the Deal Shopper, looking for all the available senior fares in 7 Blue Seas’ system. Currently, the system searches for cruise rates from eight major lines: Carnival, Celebrity, Crystal, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean. (Costa, Cunard, Radisson, and Windstar will be added in the future.)
The system benefits last-minute travelers the most. As with the senior cruise fares made available to travel agents, all the senior fares we found were for cruises departing in the next few months, with the most distant departure date in mid-April. As for destinations, the vast majority of the senior fares were for Caribbean or Bahamas sailings, with a few Hawaii, Mexico, and Panama Canal itineraries. There were no senior fares for cruises to Europe, Alaska, or other destinations popular with older travelers.
Of the eight cruise lines searched, only Carnival, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean had senior fares, and most fares were for Carnival sailings. Notably, no Norwegian Cruise Line senior fares were displayed, which seemed unusual because Norwegian lists senior fares on its own website. However, as a 7 Blue Seas spokesperson explained, the agency has access to cheaper any-person rates for the same Norwegian staterooms and displays those rates instead.
While the senior fares we found were not for the most desirable types of cruises for seniors, the savings on those fares were significant. (Most of the fares are for cruises popular with young families, which more mature cruisers may see as a drawback.) We picked 10 senior fares found with the 7 Blue Seas search tool and compared them with the lowest any-person rates listed on websites of the individual cruise lines. In all cases, the senior rate on 7 Blue Seas was the lowest price, with a maximum savings of $585.
The results of this comparison are noted in the chart below. The savings for fares that beat the cruise’s Fare Market Value (FMV) by more than 15 percent are noted in parentheses.
|Cruise||7 Blue Seas senior fare||Cruise line lowest any-person fare||Savings|
|Three-night Bahamas cruise onboard Carnival’s Fantasy, departing January 29||$179 (37 percent off FMV)||$279||$100|
|Four-night Mexico cruise onboard Carnival’s Ecstasy, departing February 2||$199 (21 percent off FMV)||$249||$50|
|Four-night Bahamas cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas, departing January 26||$249 (16 percent off FMV)||$354||$105|
|Seven-night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Carnival’s Paradise, departing February 1||$349 (outside stateroom, 38 percent off FMV)||$549 (outside stateroom)||$200|
|Seven-night Western Caribbean cruise onboard Carnival’s Elation, departing February 1||$359 (25 percent off FMV)||$479||$120|
|Seven-night Western Caribbean cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas, departing February 1||$699 (outside stateroom, 18 percent off FMV)||$929 (outside stateroom)||$230|
|11-night Eastern Caribbean cruise onboard Celebrity’s Horizon, departing March 1||$750||$850||$100|
|12-night Hawaii cruise onboard Carnival’s Carnival Spirit, departing April 18||$899||$949||$50|
|11-night Southern Caribbean cruise onboard Celebrity’s Summit, departing March 15||$950||$1,150||$200|
|12-night Panama Canal cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Splendour of the Seas, departing February 7||$949||$1,534||$585|
Fares were researched on January 8 and were found on the websites for 7 Blue Seas, Carnival, Celebrity, and Royal Caribbean. Fares may have changed or sold out since this date. Many other sailings are available.
Prices are per person, and unless otherwise noted, are based on double occupancy in interior staterooms. 7 Blue Seas’ fares include port fees, but not taxes. Fares found on the cruise lines sites do not include taxes or fees, meaning that the savings amount listed above may be greater. Senior fares are for travelers age 55 and over. In most cases, companion travelers of any age staying in the same stateroom can use the senior rate as well.
Whether you purchase a senior fare or not, the 7 Blue Seas Deal Shopper can help find discounted fares previously unavailable online. And even if you are aren’t ready to purchase a cruise, the ability to compare rates using the Fare Market Value can help you be more informed about cruise value and pricing when you do decide to buy. You can also use the search tool to research rates ahead of time, and then make a reservation through an agent over the phone if you’re more comfortable booking with a real person. Overall, finding the best price for the best cruise for you will still be a challenge, but this new tool promises to cut your research time, at least a little bit.
To search for cruise fares or make a purchase, visit the 7 Blues Seas Deal Shopper. Be sure to click on the box next to “Senior Rates (55+)” when selecting your search criteria. Senior rates will be highlighted in yellow. You can reach a 7 Blue Seas cruise agent by calling 800-242-1781.
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