Most advertisements we see for cruises are on gigantic ships with names like “The royal Princess” or “The Pride of America” which makes us think that we may not be very happy traveling in them. Actually, most of the people traveling on cruises are normal, everyday folks looking for a nice, decent vacation.
So what’s the deal?
Booking a cruise is a great deal because for a 14 day vacation, we can get 14 days accommodation plus 14 days worth of free food for the entire family. Along with that, we can see different places every day. The ship is big enough for a mile jog, there are plenty of exercise machines, swimming pools, hot spas, game rooms, etc. The fact that most of it is “free” is icing on the cake.
Think of any other vacation that takes us to a new country. For a family of four, we end up spending for everything, every day. Our travel agent got us such a good deal on the 7 day cruise that we spent the same amount as we would have anyway for the flight and got the flight+cruise+ all the above benefits bundled in it! How can we beat that!?
The best time to go cruising
Bargain cruises can be booked way early in the season or at the very last minute. Early bookers usually get about 60% discounted rates. Some cruises that are not filled in the last few weeks before setting sail may be discounted up to 85% just before the date of the cruise. If you are independent enough to leave on such a short notice, it may pay to wait until the last minute for cruises.
Going off-season is also a great way to cut the cost of cruises. Summer in North America is the peak season for cruises since schools are closed. These cruises need to be booked earlier and the discounts on them are not very deep. In Alaska, the low season is May and September. For Bermuda, the low season is April- May and September – October. In the Caribbean, the low season is Late April – May and early January. The low season in Hawaii is late August, late November and February. These will be the best times to get fantastic bargains that will have your mind cruising forever!
How do we book?
I would suggest that the first thing you do is to surf the web. If you have a fair idea of where you would like to go for the cruise, then go to a site that gives us more options: http://www.vacationstogo.com/index.cfm or http://www.ncl.com/nclweb/home.html where you can search for cruises near the countries you are interested in . If you are traveling with children or with a large group, its best to book early to get adjoining rooms in the level that we are comfortable with. To avoid seasickness, choose the innermost, lower level staterooms. They also happen to be the cheaper choices. Check out the ports that the cruise ship will be staying overnight. Decide on the particular cruise, write down the particular dates and itinerary along with any plans to stay in the port before or after the cruise. It’s a good idea to reach the port a day ahead and stay in a hotel to see the city overnight.
Call the travel agent – They can advise you on the airfare, extra fees and taxes and also about passports and visas if needed. They can also help you choose a cabin if the website descriptions are too confusing. If you have little children, it is better to have an adjoining cabin with a door to the parents’ rooms. There are bunk beds for teenagers, which gave them lots of room for their cosmetics, luggage and all their paraphernalia. Also, let them help you select the offshore excursions and tours. Its best to book tours ahead of time to save money as well as to avoid the rush on the ship immediately after embarkation.
Timeshare and other options – Before you decide to pay for the cruise, look at your other options. If you are a member of RCI or any timeshare company that will give you discounts on cruises, check them out the see if their quote sounds better. They may be able to give you better deals if you can pay with exchanges or points systems to get deep discounts on the packages.
Cruise consolidators – They are similar to the airfare consolidators where they buy in bulk and sell it to travel agents or individuals. Websites: http://www.terrastartravel.com/ http://www.cruise.com/ http://wholesalecruises.com/ http://www.vacationstogo . Search for your particular cruise and see how much more (or less) there offer is.
Repositioning Cruises – Sometimes a cruise company has to move a large ship from one part of the world to another (as weather changes, etc). These trips are called “repo cruises” and there are many passengers who avail of these opportunities by booking on these cruises a year ahead. Compare to regular cruises, they may not be luxurious or well planned, but they do visit many exotic places and the cruise last for 2 – 3 weeks.
Freighter cruises – There is nothing luxurious about these utility ships which haul cargo from one port to another. However, the prices are really low and if you are the type to live simply and use few resources, then you may be able to enjoy these cruises as well. On a very low budget, with limited food and services on board, these gigantic ships travel in all sorts of weather conditions permitting the passengers to see the rarest of sights. If you are an avid photographer, this is the trip for you!
Sometimes we need to stay in hotels before or after a cruise. If we book a cruise, we can get good deals from the same company on hotels near the sea port for before or after cruise stays. Just as we get good deals on airfare when they are combined with the cruise, we can also get decent prices in hotel rooms in these port towns if they are bought as a package along with the cruise.
The best way to book these deals is again through a travel agent so that they can give us a complete itinerary of our trip starting from our house to the time we return to the house.