Jan. 24, 2014 -- Travelers know about price drop tools for hotels: Tingo, Kayak and Yapta all have some variation of a free tool that sends an alert when the price of a room drops.
But until now cruisers didn't have a similar free tool for sailings. Cruise Critic, the world's largest cruise site, launched on Thursday Price Drop, a tool that compares recently reduced cruise fares with the highest published rates from the past seven days.
"Typically, cruise deals are displayed as a discount from the brochure rate, which is often much higher than the price people actually pay," says Melissa Paloti, Cruise Critic's director of product development. "We've found that by changing that metric, and comparing current prices to those from just a week prior, consumers are given more visibility into the true savings offered."
Here's an example. A balcony cabin on the Norwegian Dawn was priced at a high of $2,699 for a seven-night Bermuda cruise departing Boston on Oct. 14. Cruise Critic found the same cruise and category stateroom for $829, a drop of 69 percent. A seven-night European cruise on the Costa Pacifica departing March 27 was priced at $1,450 for an interior cabin; Cruise Critic found it for $599. Savings? 59 percent.
There is a paid site: CruiseFish.com, which will monitor a specific cruise sailing and send an email alert when the price drops.
But Paloti suggested the best use of the tool might be to get more cabin for your buck. "For someone who has a limited budget and thinks they can only afford a balcony room, they might be surprised to find out they can get a suite for the same money."
Cruise Critic does not actually book the cruise for you. Instead, the would-be cruiser is taken to Expedia to book. Expedia is the only booking partner.
Price Drop works in one of two ways. Cruisers can either search deals by month, cruise line, destination, cruise length, cabin type and price drop percentage, or they can subscribe to Price Drop email updates based on cruise preferences.
Paloti said that the tool was not only good for consumers, but good for the cruise lines as well. "Price Drop helps the line fill cabins when they have to lower prices for whatever reason."
Often cruise lines will deeply discount prices on last-minute bookings. Paloti acknowledged that a large percentage of the discounts that show up in the tool are for sailings in the near future, but not all. Of all the discounts that showed up on the first page of Price Drop during an ABC News check, only two were for the next two months.
But that's not to say even if you book a discounted cruise now, the price won't drop even more later. What happens then?
"That's between the consumer and the cruise line," Paloti said. "We're giving them good visibility to see what's actually out there."