Helpful Hints on Cruising
Top Ten Tips On Bargain Hunting
by Anne Campbell
By this time, you should know that no one pays full brochure rates for a cruise – it’s like the sticker price of a car, a figure to base discounts on. And remember, a bargain’s only a bargain when you wind up cruising on a ship that fits your personal interests and lifestyle.
HERE’S MY “GOLDEN RULE”:
Never, never select a ship based on price alone, or just to save a couple of hundred dollars. Narrow your search down to one or two ships you’re sure you’ll love, then start looking for the best rates on those particular vessels. If you’re looking for a last-minute discount, be prepared to compromise on cabin location – the best staterooms go early.
Bargain hunting is also affected by luck–looking in the right place at the right time. But with the volatility of cruise prices, you can easily wind up paying a much lower price than you dreamed possible, or upgrading to a cabin you couldn’t otherwise afford.
KEEPING ALL THAT IN MIND, HERE ARE 10 TIPS FOR BARGAIN-HUNTING:
- To determine whether the deals you find are true bargains, start the process by determining the basic rate the lines are charging for those cruises. The quickest way to find these prices is at the cruise line’s web site (you’ll find links to all cruise line web sites in CruiseMates’ “links” area). A few cruise lines also offer online discounts exclusive to web surfers.
- Don’t rely on last minute bargains, especially in cruising regions that tend to be fully booked each year during peak season, like Alaska, New England/Canada, Bermuda and Europe (unless there’s a major upheaval like the Kosovo conflict). You may actually end up in a less desirable cabin at a higher price. Your best bet is to go with the cruise lines’ advance purchase discount. While it’s a buyer’s market in the Caribbean right now, cabins are almost impossible to find during summer months, when ships are full of families.
- Start bargain hunting in the Sunday travel section of your hometown newspaper. Many lines offer regional bargains, so you might be entitled to a super deal aboard a wonderful ship that is not available outside your area.
- Find a local travel agent who specializes in selling cruises. This person may be part of a “cruise only” agency, or the cruise specialist in a full-service company. Tell your agent you’d like to be added to mailing lists and are particularly interested in bargains aboard a specific ship. Travel agency faxes run 24 hours per day receiving notices of terrific deals.
- Use CruiseMates’ new “I Need A Cruise” bargain finder. You simply list the ship, dates and any other pertinent data, and agents will e-mail you with their best deals.
- Check out CruiseMates’ “News and classified advertising areas. Also, many travel agencies with web sites offer free newsletters – sign up for several and you’ll get lists of new bargains weekly.
- The best way to find a terrific agent is by referral. I know several CruiseMates members so devoted to their travel agents, who give them fantastic service and great rates, that they wouldn’t switch to save $100 with another person. They found this “dream” agent on the internet by referral. While it’s true too many agents are simply order-takers, there are some experienced, outstanding pros who offer invaluable advice.
- Visit the internet auction sites. We’ve seen very good ships with terrific deals on their lists. One of our favorites sites is All Cruise Auction.
- Whether it’s a newspaper ad, newsletter or internet site, look at the small print. Does the price include port charges/taxes? If not, you must factor in this extra charge to determine your “real” price. In addition, when communicating with a travel agent, ask if they can give you a ballpark estimate of the airfare between home and the port.
- When traveling with children, you can save a bundle when they share your cabin. Ask your agent which cruise lines have the best rates for kids (sailing as third- or fourth-cabin mates). Cruise lines frequently offer “specials” for kids, and this can lower your cruise cost significantly.
|Copyright © 2000 – 2003, Anne Campbell. All rights reserved.|