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Finding Cruise Bargains Has Never Been Easier

Mar 23, 2008
The world of cruising has exploded in the past ten years with a half dozen new ships (or more) launching every year. Luxury cruise ships circle the globe offering vacationers a convenient and exciting way to visit multiple ports in a week or two. The selection of cruise lines and itineraries seem endless. In fact, there are so many cruise lines and ships in today's market that it's a challenge to find just the perfect match. Getting the best price should always be paramount on your mind. Here are the steps to follow to find the right cruise for your next vacation at the best possible price.

1. Selecting a Destination
Cruises to the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, South America, and Scandinavia are among the most popular destinations The season of your travel will help determine where you'll head. Most ships sail for the Caribbean and South America in winter and Alaska or Europe in the summer.

2. Think About Your Travel Dates
Each destination has prime weeks that are the most popular, most heavily booked, and therefore the most expensive. Shoulder weeks are priced lower than prime weeks, and are just before and after the prime-time. The weeks just before or after the prime weeks are an excellent time to cruise, as the weather will still be good, but the crowds and costs are less.

3. How Many People You Want to Vacation With?
The industry trend has been to build larger and larger ships, with most averaging 1,000 to 1,500 passengers. That's a lot of people to entertain, feed and bring on shore excursions! Several cruise lines limit their capacity to 300-500 passengers or fewer. While this type of cruise tends to be more expensive, these lines generally provide a more enjoyable cruise experience.

4. With an Idea of Dates, Destinations, and Size of Ship, It's Time to Visit the Major Online Cruise Booking Sites
Here are sites that have been operating for many years and offer excellent online booking services: VacationsToGo.com (love their 90 Day Ticker and Find-A-Bargain features), Cruise.com, CruiseBrothers.com, CruiseDirect.com, CruisesOnly.com, and MomentsNotice.com. I like to keep it simple and price all cruises without air, transfers or insurance. That way I know exactly what the cruise itself costs. Then I can either have the additional services added on or purchase them independently.

5. Next Check Out Your Cruises of Choice on the Cruise Review Sites Here are the most popular: CruiseCritic.com, CruiseMates.com, CruiseReviews.com,and PortReviews.com.

6. Give a Call to a Local Travel Agency or Two
Travel Agencies usually belong to larger associations that reserve bulk space on selected cruises and then sell the cruises at promotional rates, many times with extra bonus items thrown in (maybe a cabin upgrade or an on-board credit to spend as you like). Most important though, a good travel agent will be interested in getting to know a bit about you and will recommend cruise lines that are appropriate for your personality and lifestyle.

7. Compare Your Offers
By now you'll have a good idea of the cruise lines that appeal to you, the dates you want to travel, and you'll have several pricings in hand . Some folks like to buy the lowest priced cabin just to get on the ship, figuring they'll be out and about most of the time. Others enjoy having an ocean view and perhaps a balcony to relax in privacy. Try pricing your cruise as a "Category Guarantee" to save lots of money. This means you are reserving a cabin in a particular category, but will not have a specific cabin assignment until you receive your final documents. Your cabin assignment will be in that category or even higher! It is not recommended that you book this way, if you are someone who experiences sea sickness and needs to be sure they have a cabin in the very center of the ship.

8. Some Additional Advice
Fly to your cruise port early. If at all possible, arrive the day prior to your cruise. This will save you all kinds of angst and worry about your flight being delayed or (heaven forbid) canceled all together on the day of sailing. If you do fly on the day your cruise departs, take the first flight out in the morning to be certain you arrive with lots of time to spare.

Compare cancellation insurance carefully. It's a trend for cruise companies to offer several tiers of coverage, each with different coverage amounts and conditions. Have a pen in hand when they explain the policy and make careful notes. Then visit an online travel insurance site and price coverage yourself. InsureMyTrip.com is a terrific site that will scan multiple insurance providers at once and deliver the results for you so you can compare prices and features.

Happy Sailing!
About the Author
Susan, who has worked in the travel industry for many years, writes a daily blog of great travel tips at http://www.WickedGoodTravelTips.com. Wicked Good Travel Tips is a community of avid travelers sharing insider tips about traveling the world. Come visit us for the best travel tips on the web.
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