How To Find A Great Cruise Deal
1. Cruise During Shoulder Seasons. For the best cruise deals, travel during the cruise industry’s low seasons. The best deals typically are offered during the fall (September through early November), pre- and post-holidays periods (first two weeks of December and first two weeks of January) and late spring. Sometimes even being flexible by a week can save big bucks. Fall hurricane season ushers in outstanding bargains, but some of the trade-offs can include missed ports and changed itineraries. Make sure you're comfortable with the possible outcomes before booking during this period.
2. Bring A Group. Traveling with friends and family can help save big. Significantly lower cruise rates are generally available for group bookings of eight cabins or more. Sometimes this can be achieved by traveling with friends and family, but it’s also easy to do if you can arrange to travel with members of your kids’ sports teams, a local club or another affinity group. If you don’t have a group, get in touch with cruise travel agents to see if they have a booking group that you can join.
3. Check With Top Discount Travel Agencies. Look for the lowest available per person rates before doing comparison shopping. Some of the best places to start can be VacationsToGo.com, Cruises.com, CruiseOne.com, and other cruise-oriented online sites. Visit their websites, follow them on social media, and call to find out if they have better non-advertised deals. In addition, contact the cruise lines directly to see what they can offer. Talking with an experienced travel agent is smart. After all, a cruise you don't enjoy isn't a great deal. Some discount agency sites may quote prices without port charges, taxes and fees, fuel surcharges and other costs, so make sure to include all these costs before comparing prices.
4. Sign Up For Newsletters. There are a number of sources promoting deals and last minute cruise sales. In addition to the cruise lines, these include sites such as Travelzoo, Groupon, LivingSocial, Cruise Critic and others. If you're shopping for a great cruise deal, get on these newsletter mailing lists and see what you can find.
5. Put Your Cruise Out For Bids. If you'd like cruise travel agents to bid for your business, check out CruiseCompete.com. This free service allows vacationers to anonymously request competitive cruise quotes. All of your customer account information stays private, so none of the cruise agencies can contact you directly and there’s no obligation to purchase. It's up to you to contact the agents if you are interested in their bid.
6. Ask About Discounts. Cruise lines regularly provide a wide variety of discounts for potential guests, including military discounts, senior fares, group travel discounts, past passenger specials, state or regional resident discounts, air gateway discounts, 2-for-1 specials, cruise line stockholder discounts, membership deals, past guest savings offers and more. This is just one of the many reasons for working with a good cruise travel agent. Make sure to let your travel agent know about past cruises as well as military and stockholder status, if any.
7. Look For Added Value. Ask the cruise line or your travel agent about packages and potential "soft sailing" upgrades. Onboard credits are often offered on these sailings, which will provide a set amount in your shipboard account to use for shore excursion purchases, spa treatments, drinks, specialty restaurant charges, and other times. Other packages and added value deals can include free gratuities, free shore excursions, complimentary Internet packages, free beverage packages, free specialty dining packages and other incentives. Guaranteed upgrades at time of booking are sometimes offered by cruise lines to stimulate sales. These upgrades allow you to purchase a cheaper stateroom with a guaranteed upgrade of one to five categories, depending upon the promotion. Guarantee cabins provide another opportunity for a free upgrade. Only buy a guarantee cabin if you will be happy with the category you've purchased as well as any potential stateroom in that category.
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