Cunard has defended its latest discounts following claims from agents that it has angered customers who were persuaded to book early.
New Getaway deals, which come with less flexible terms than Vantage fares, were released this week on a range of departures.
While Vantage fares come with a price promise – meaning customers receive an upgrade or onboard credit if their fare is later discounted – there is no such price promise for a Getaway fare.
Agents said customers who had booked Vantage fares had reacted angrily to the latest savings of £700 per couple.
One agent told Travel Weekly a Vantage booking taken in January for an August departure came in at £1,449 per person. The new Getaway fare is £1,099.
The agent, who did not want to be named, said: “We will not be the only agent in this situation. The customer is arguing they booked in good faith in January based on the information we gave them.”
Phil Nuttall, director of The Cruise Village, said he’d been wary of promoting Vantage fares, fearing this outcome.
“This was an accident waiting to happen,” he said. “Cunard is a great brand but the market is tough.
“We don’t need to complicate things – advertise the right fare to fill the ships and go with it.”
He doubted the added flexibility of Vantage fares was worth the difference. “You tell me what’s worth £700 per couple,” he said.
A Cunard spokesman said: “Our Vantage and Getaway fares represent two distinct pricing systems, each with different terms and conditions.
“We have endeavoured to be very clear as different fares may suit different people.
“The Vantage fares offer booking benefits – worth up to $120 per person as on board spending money on a 14 night sailing in August 2013 – as well as enabling the passenger to select their cabin number and stage their payments, with more cancellation protection.
“The Getaway fare is sometimes used on sailings close to departure, but sometimes it is used for cruises further out.
But the key distinction is the loss of the booking benefits like the on board spending money, plus the requirement to pay in full at the time of booking and with full cancellation charges should the need arise.
“Plus a specific cabin number will not be known until departure. The Getaway fare is cheaper, but it comes with limitations.
“Vantage pricing is bringing confidence back to early bookings, but there will always be some Getaway offers and customers have a choice.”
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