Time was, you used to be able to get ultra-cheap air fares if you flew standby. You’d buy a special standby ticket and show up at the airport. If there were room on the plane you’d get on; if there wasn’t you didn’t. The idea being that an airline would rather get a little bit of money for a seat than fly with it empty and get none at all.
Though some airlines still sell full-fare standby tickets, the days of them being deeply discounted are no more, sadly.
Happily, the standby concept might be taking hold in another travel industry: cruises. Luxury operator Crystal Cruises is now offering deals to those willing to be a bit spontaneous with their vacation.
Crystal offers standby tickets well in advance. Purchasing one doesn’t require you to plunk down the entire fare. Instead, you pay a $500 deposit per ticket.
As it becomes clear that a sailing will have cabins available, Crystal will confirm passengers on their standby list. It’s first come first serve, so there’s great benefit to making your request as early as possible. Standby passengers can be confirmed as many of 45 days advance, and in as few as 3 days. Three days after your confirmation the remainder of the standby fare (minus your deposit) is due. If you don’t get a confirmed reservation your deposit money is returned to you.
Standby reservations on Crystal Cruises are for either veranda or non-veranda accommodations. Otherwise, standby passengers are unable to choose specific cabins. Indeed, you probably won’t know exactly which cabin you’ll be in until after you board.
So, how much can you save? Around 40%. On a high-end luxury liner like Crystal, that represents a savings of thousands for a couple. A 12-day Alaska cruise departing from San Francisco typically costs US$6,520/$4,780 for a veranda/non-veranda fare. Go standby and you can get the exact same cruise for $3,995/$2,995. A 14-day cruise Baltic cruise that’s $10,960/9,230 is only $5,995/$4,995 if you go standby.
The bottom line: Crystal Cruises standby rates offer the possibility of a great value on a luxury cruise. The possibility, but not the certainty. Put down your deposit, hope for the best—and have back-up vacation plans.
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