Carnival Cruise Price Protection Saved Me $160

If you read Crystal’s blog Budgeting in the Fun Stuff this may feel slightly familiar. A few months ago I contributed to her site explaining how at the time I saved $40 using Carnival Cruise Line’s Price Protection. Since then I have saved quite a bit more. Here’s how it works.

Book the Early Saver Fare

We knew we wanted to go on our first cruise this year so we planned extremely far in advance. We had to get our time off from work approved and plan it around some other events in our lives. In order to book the Early Saver Fare you must book 3+ months in advance for cruises 5 days or less and 5+ months in advance for cruises 6 days or longer. We did exactly that.

This doesn’t always lead to the best price up front but Carnival has a great option that allowed us to save a ton of money on the back end. By booking the Early Saver Fare you get Price Protection, even though you do have to pay a non refundable deposit.

Price Protection

So what is price protection and how does it work? Basically if there is ever a lower rate for the same stateroom type you booked on the very same cruise you can fill out a form to get that new base price. Price protection stops working 48 hours before cruises depart. Taxes/fees don’t change but you do get the base price back either in the form of a lower fare if you haven’t paid the cruise off yet (at least that is how it worked for me), an on-board credit or a stateroom upgrade.

The other catch is that the price must be the price or a Carnival advertised price. Prices through travel agents don’t count. Of course with all of these deals you do need to read all of the fine print to completely understand the process and the way refunds are handled.

How Can Carnival Afford This?

It is pretty simple really. Think back to your last vacation… Did you check the prices after you booked it to see if you still have the best deal? I’d bet 95% of people don’t. On top of that, even if you did find a lower price to you try to get it honored? Each step loses more and more people and that is why Carnival can offer this service. There are very few people that actually ever use it!

I don’t mind checking prices and filling out form though. In fact, I’ve checked the price a few times a month and have been able to fill out three requests to lower my cruise price. The first time I saved $40 the second time I saved $80 and this last time I saved another $40! All I had to do was fill out this form at

This again proves that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. It really is simple and often is just a matter of knowing the details of the transactions you agree to. Read the fine print and find ways you can use it to your advantage.

Have you ever been on a cruise? If so did you use price price protection? Do you have any tips for my first cruise? Let me know all of the details in a comment down below!

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. There he is: always on vacation! If it’s not Disney World… Great for you guys!

    I’ve never been on a cruise but from what I hear going on a diet beforehand is a definite must, as well as some Dramamine. Oh, and don’t do a Caribbean cruise in hurricane season — but it sounds like you have that one covered. 🙂

    • Haha the Disney vacation was more of a last minute vacation weekend getaway while the cruise has been planned for a while. No other vacations planned though 🙂

  2. I’m going on my first cruise in February and this is a great tip. I actually booked it months ago and haven’t really spent any more time thinking about it or looking into flights down to Florida or whatnot. I couldn’t tell you if I booked the price protection, but I think I might have. Needless to say, I need to double-check whether or not I can use your strategy to lower our prices!

  3. We booked a cruise about 2 years ago through Carnival and got the price protection that you’re talking about (we booked 7 months in advance or so). Unfortunately for us the rates never dropped as that was around the time that gas prices were sky-rocketing. The cruise prices actually increased a fairly significant amount and we saved a lot by getting the Early Saver Fare.

  4. My wife and I took our third cruise last year and went through Royal Carribbean. They offer something similar. I think we saved a little but not a whole lot. We booked about a year in advance because we really liked the itinerary and wanted to get a Jr. Suite as it was for our 10th Anniversary. I’d recommend signing up for their rewards program. I know RC offeres one and it usually offers a number of different discounts and freebies. If you do any of the excursions, there are also other ways to do it than through the ship that allow you to save money. If you search for excursions and your destinations, you should be able to find some reputable companies.

    • Thanks for the tips. We only booked one excursion and booked it through Carnival but we’re OK with this as it is our first cruise. We’ll know how it works next time first hand so we know how to pick it all.

  5. I’ve never been on a cruise 🙁

    However, I do try to keep up with prices for my major purchases because a lot of big retailers offer similar price guarantees. Once, I saved $25 off a DVD player I bought as a Christmas gift after it went on sale on Boxing Day.

  6. I don’t know much about price protection but I have been on a cruise. I would say don’t sign up for the activities they tell you about through them. When you get to the mainland, hire a taxi and have them take you to the site. You save a ton of money and get a much more personal experience.

  7. I’ve never used price protection, but man….this sounds like a great deal. I generally don’t buy the insurance that comes with sites like Hotwire or other travel services….and I would have thought this was the same thing without even reading about it (in fact, I thought it was the same thing when I read your headline). Cool stuff.

  8. That is sweet! I remember once I booked a flight and the website promised to warn me and refund me if there was ever a cheaper flight. It had to be booked on that same site, for the same dates, with the same company, so I guess the odds are pretty slim but I liked the idea. Did you find a price pattern, like prices dropping X weeks before departure ?

    • It seems like prices went down while they were trying to fill the ship to some capacity and then as it gets closer the prices are going up as I am guessing they are getting more and more full.

  9. I’ve never been on a cruise, but might use this option if I book one.

  10. I have been on 6 cruises! My travel agent routinely checks to see if I can qualify for a lower price.

  11. Pretty neat trick! I haven’t booked any cruises, but I will have to remember this one when I do!

  12. I don’t know if we’ll ever go on a cruise, but I’ll remember that if we do. That plan is kind of like rebates. They can afford it because most people never follow up. I’ll be curious to see how you like the cruise. I think it’s a love it or hate it kind of trip. At least from the people I’ve known who’ve done one.

  13. Nice work, you know I like these little life hacks haha. When I was doing some research for my post on credit card extras, I saw that some cards offer this price protection completely free on certain items, although I doubt a cruise would be one of them.

  14. “You don’t get what you don’t ask for”. WOW, what a great statement. Kids seem to know this intuitively but I think adults forget. It’s the first step towards negotiating a better life. You don’t get the raise if you don’t ask for it. You don’t get the lower price for the house if you don’t ask for it. You don’t get to go on that vacation if you don’t ask (your family) to do it….. and on and on and on.

  15. That is awesome! I am going on a Carnival cruise starting this weekend. I am looking forward to the weekend away. I am going with the family, so it is free for me, but it is interesting to hear about this kind of cost savings.

  16. gharkness says:

    Well, I happen to have been on a “few” cruises in my life, and I also wrote a book about it, and it’s especially for first-time cruisers. You can see the book at my linked blog, but I’d like to say that paying attention is the best thing you can do for yourself, when it comes to paying for your cruise. Not all lines have the same price protection policy. RCCL, for example, will give you cabin credit (instead of a refund) up until final payment date, and then zip….Carnival does abide by their policy though, and good for you for paying attention!

  17. Jason Clayton | frugal habits says:

    Very Nice! I’ve never been on a cruise, but will definitely take advantage of this in the future. I’ve heard there are similar services for airlines as well, but have yet to check into it.

  18. Ornella @ Moneylicious says:

    I haven’t been on a cruise, but I have been to Jamaica. The trip was booked through a friend’s travel agent. I learned that even with travel agents you have to ask questions. For example, I had no idea the airport was 1 1/2 aways from the resort and that my friends and I would have to wait until the bus filled up until we could depart the airport. We thought we would have our own private shuttle to the resort. We must have waited for over an hour. Now, I know what to ask for next time.

  19. I’ve never been on a cruise but this sounds like a great way to save money! Good to know.

  20. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    I never knew you could do this. So… you buy the ticket, THEN check the prices to see if they drop? Heh, who would have thought!

  21. We went on a cruise last July. It was our first and our last cruise ever. We did plan way in advance, and we did get a good price for it. However, it was the end of us pouring money into the cruise line. We did get travel insurance through the third party just in case. I deleted all surveys, forms and whatever was sent our way. 🙂 I don’t want to go on any cruises ever! 🙂 We are not cruise people.

  22. Tackling Our Debt says:

    Good for you for saving money and you haven’t even left yet.

    I’ve been on many cruises over the years and it is all what you make it. You will find many people on board complaining about everything they see and do and you will also meet lots of wonderful people, that you might even develop friendships with, esp on Carnival. Just relax and enjoy your trip. And remember your travel insurance too. Have a great time!!

  23. We typically wait for the 90 days out window to book cruises that leave from the US. Prices at that point tend to drop really low, even during “wave” season. But we do have a large family vacation we are planning for next year, so we will probably book early so this might help us a lot!

    Thanks for the tip!

  24. That’s kinda awesome. I get lazy if its anything under $100.

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