24 Smart Cruise Shopping Tips From Cruise Traveler Magazine

Cruise Traveler Magazine is a cruise travel blog and online magazine offering an unbiased cruise guide, latest cruise news, cruise reviews, tips, feature cruise articles, and need to know information about cruising. Featuring community member contributed content. Cruise Reviews. Cruise Ship Ratings and Cruise Line Rankings. Editorially independent of travel providers or cruise lines.


How To Get The Best Cruise Deals

     + 24 Smart Cruise Shopping Tips.

       by Raye & Marty Trencher


     Tips to help you plan your next cruise. Save more. 

     Fill your money jar with dollars instead of dimes!

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Learn how to work the system, and you can save a bundle on your next cruise. We've hunted down the best discount and bargain resources on the web. Plus some great tips on how to book and board your next cruise, avoid scams and protect yourself.


If you're willing to learn the the ins-and-outs of online travel bargain hunting, you can save as much as 70% off published rates^ and 10-25% more from cruise brokers, consolidators and group movers.


We cover comparison shopping, clearance, last minute deals, cruise line sites, auctions and travel classifieds. We also searched for the best prices on our favorite cruise ships and destinations and found thousands of dollars in savings.


You can do the same, simply by visiting the highlighted sites noted here. You can even find last minute cruise deals, that the cruise lines are dying to sell you, as an empty cabin generates no income.


While you can find similar bargains at sites run by the cruise lines themselves, often they are not as good as those on offer from a cruise broker or consolidator*. We'll show you where to look.


For most, internet bargain shopping is a bit of a hassle. Going from one site to the next, looking for the cheapest price. Well, we've done the work for you.


If you enjoy the thrill of the chase, you can find a real vacation bargain. A great cruise vacation....all the while spending less, and enjoy it more.


Start By Looking In The Right Places

So many so called travel-help sites do nothing but point you to bargains available from other sites that advertise on their web site. Not very independent. If you see a bunch of ads all over their home page, take the hint; that's a site you should think twice about how impartial they are.


Look for web sites that feature cruise-sellers whose only business is selling cruises. Chances are they have the experience, knowledge and know-how necessary to help you migrate all that's on offer. They also are best prepared to answer you most detailed questions. You see in most cases, they've been there, done that. Stay away from firms that have large telemarketing staffs. You know the popular ones, that sell airfare, hotel rooms and car rentals. They just do cruises on the side. Chances are they don't have many experienced cruise agents.


Look for web sites that use their own searchable database, places like American Express  AAA or  Cruise Direct Online.  At these and other similar web sites you can comparison-shop instantly, pricing staterooms at dozens of cruise lines with just the click of a mouse. At sites like Last Minute Deals, Cruise Brokers , Cruise Search Express, and Alaska Cruises Direct, you can browse for limited- time offers or scoop up clearance and last minute special offers.


Read The Reviews

Cruise Reports lets you sort cruises by traveler ratings quickly, and it provides easy ways to view the popularity of various cruise lines and ships. It also has some of the best in depth reviews we saw. You can find their reviews and more at Cruise Reviews Online, These user reviews are from professional travel writers and consumers alike.   It’s not uncommon to find dozens of in-depth user write-ups for your favorite cruise.

Comparison Shopping Tips

CRUISE SHIP Ratings, Rankings & Reviews - Cruise Reviews Online, Cruise Line and Cruise Ship Reviews, Ratings and Rankings. Cruise Reviews - Ship Reviews and Cruise Lines Ratings. Consumer Port Reviews. Sailing Dates, Ship Information. Cruise Reviews by passengers, and professional travel writers. Reviews of cruises, passenger experiences, dining, shipboard activities and shore excursions.

Comparison shopping online for a cruise makes a lot of sense, whether you’re ready to reserve or just want to find the lowest prices.
• Most sites make it very easy to identify the most popular cruises for any available stateroom category and you can read user reviews. We don’t always recommend going with a web site that is highly visited,  but popularity can be a signal of good price, quality service, and more.
• Price is often paramount among online shoppers, so learn to make use of the special offers that many sites offer, sign up for an e-mail alert when the price or cruise you want becomes available.
• Note how the site you use handles special rates, such as senior discounts, resident specials, upgrades, onboard credit, and price-off offers.
Some incentives on particular cruises are nice, but they might not give you the  best price. For example, a AAA or AARP discount may not get the best deal, especially if you live in State that offers a resident special for your cruise.
• Use several travel-comparison sites at once. Better yet visit sites that let you view all the cruise lines offers and compare lines, ships and prices and itineraries. These sites work best when you know exactly what you’re looking for and have a good idea of what your cruise should cost. Then you can see quickly find out whether the cruise is available—and whether you’re really getting a bargain.

Online shopping for a cruise is big business. Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and Priceline sites that primarily sell airline tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals are now in the cruise business. One of the drivers for its continuing growth is increased sophistication in online comparison-shopping travel-related Web sites, which can not only help you find bargains but also reveal remarkable choices when you’re looking for a cruise. In fact, many consumers use online travel sites just to research vacation options, then brow-beat their local travel agent to match the price.



   Over 12,000 Cruise Deals

     Special Savings, Discounts and More:

                              Find it all here...

Success at cruise clearance or last minute travel sites requires patience and good eyesight to read the "Fine Print".

• If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll find yourself wading through offers with second-rate cabin availability. Cabins near elevators, service doors, under the disco or next door to the children's activity room. (There’s often a reason certain cabins get relegated to the clearance list.)
• Read the fine print carefully.  Clearance and last minute cruises items often are non-refundable.
• If the travel site offers a price-matching policy, read that closely, too, It’s tempting to think that you’re getting a great deal, but you may find a better price later. Price-matching particulars vary among providers.


Forget impulse buying; you’ve got to research every offer.

• Cruise Deals can disappear as quickly as they appear. The better sites—e-mail updated offers that keep you up to speed without requiring you to revisit a site every couple of days. Sign up for them.
• Check the discussion forums that appear on many of these sites. The contributors are usually super-savvy about cruising, and you’ll get great tips, like which cruise lines and ships are the most popular and which ones aren’t. These forums can also tell you which deals really are too good to be true.
• Know what you’re after. These sites are best if you already know what you’re looking for. Like stores themselves, travel sites can be dangerous if you’re just browsing. Inevitably you’ll see a vacation deal you’d be crazy not to jump at—and you’ll wind up spending more money that you should.



New Rules.


Some cruise lines now forbid travel agents from discounting cruises to the public. Now, that doesn't mean the cruise isn't discounted. It most likely is, but only by the cruise line themselves. So, if you see a travel agent offering a much lower price than most anyone else...look out. That agent may be violating his agreement and is subject to sanctions by the cruise line, such as being removed from the cruise line's authorized seller list and loosing the right to sell cruises for that carrier.


Cruising Tips. How To Book And Board


Every year more and more people discover why cruises are the ideal vacation. A cruise ship is basically your giant buffet of wonderful experiences, with a wide selection of cuisines and cultures, activities in the sun and spas to pamper your every indulgence, destinations to exotic locales and a million ways to relax. You can do it all or do absolutely nothing—the choice is yours!

To book the perfect cruise for you and your family, simply follow these helpful guidelines compiled by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).

Chart Your Course! Pick the Cruise That’s Right for You
Your first choice is the most enjoyable, for it allows your mind to wander around the globe and back again, revisiting every destination your dreams have ever taken you to. Where in the world do you want to go and for how long?

The length of your trip largely depends on how much you can afford. Cruises offer everything from one or two-night excursions out to sea and back to journeys that take you around the world in 100 days. Three-day weekend, four-day midweek, week and two-week cruises are the most popular.

With 70 percent of the planet covered in water, the next question should not be where to go to but where to go to first. Cruise ships visit more than 1,800 ports around the world, providing you with rare glimpses into many cultures all in one eye-popping vacation.

Many first-time cruisers choose the Caribbean or Mexican Riviera, where you pleasantly float from one island paradise to the next. Soak up the sun, learn a water sport or discover a new flavor of margarita-the tropics never disappoint.

For a local alternative try Alaska, where you’ll experience calving glaciers and curious whales while following either the Inside Passage or the Gulf of Alaska route. Or, take a fall cruise to New England and Canada, where you’ll be introduced to our neighbors of the north while watching the leaves turn on shore.

Aim for Europe with cross-Atlantic trips to Paris or Rome, Mediterranean cruises to the likes of Italy, Greece and the French Riviera, or tour the Scandinavian capitals from the sea, where historic cities like Copenhagen and Helsinki reign with centuries of heritage.

Finding a Good Rate and the Right Cabin
Paying the brochure rate for a cruise is like paying full sticker price for a car. To lessen the sticker shock, book early—generally 120 days prior to the sail date—and be flexible about your travel plans, for just like the rest of the travel industry, off-season cruises are typically cheaper.

  A great tip: aim for a four-day cruise in the middle of the week instead of the popular three-day weekend cruise. You might get that extra day at a great rate!

The most significant factor in determining the price of your ticket will be the size and location of your cabin. Depending on the ship, cabins range from cozy closets to spacious suites with a hot tub. And they are priced accordingly.

If you plan to spend significant time in your cabin, choose the biggest room you can afford. Standard cabins have twin beds, which can usually be converted into a queen-sized bed, while bunk beds in other rooms cannot be converted.

The most-expensive and least-expensive cabins are likely to sell out first, so book early if you have set your sights on either. Cabins are listed as inside (no windows) or outside (with windows), with outside cabins naturally higher priced. If you are booking a cabin with windows, check with your travel agent to ensure that your view is not obstructed by equipment such as a lifeboat.

Cruise Specialists—Your New Best Friend
For the most thorough advice and the best deals, find a cruise specialist. Travel agents are often certified cruise specialists, and they know which low Internet offers to avoid and which ports of call can make a great cruise unforgettable.

A good cruise specialist may offer you group rates, free upgrades, shipboard credits and other amenities or discounts. They will clarify the need for passports and visas, explain your dining choices and advise the cruise line of any special dietary requests, check periodically to see if the price of the cruise has dropped, book your air and hotel, and review your documents and reservations to make sure that everything is in order.

One if by Air, Two if by Sea – Are Air/Sea Packages Worth It?
Offered by many airlines, air/sea packages include a flight from your home to the ship’s port and back again in the price of ticket. While this option does relieve the hassle of purchasing your own ticket, be aware of both the pros and the cons.

If you purchase the air/sea package, your transfers between the airport and the ship will be included in the price. The cruise line will claim your luggage for you and carry it to the ship, and all you’ll have to do is board the bus. If your flight is delayed, the cruise line will be aware of your delay and may be able to hold the ship for a few hours. If not, they will make every effort to get you to the first port to board the ship.

If you make your own flight arrangements, you might be able to find a better deal, flying nonstop with an airline you prefer while earning frequent flyer miles. You will have to find your own transportation to the cruise terminal from the airport and claim your luggage and carry it with you, so plan to arrive a day early and purchase optional travel insurance that covers trip delays, missed cruise connections and lost or delayed baggage.

Hurricanes—Will They Blow Your Vacation Off Course?
Hurricane season lasts from June through November throughout the Caribbean. Prices tend to drop during this time, attracting new and seasoned cruisers with great deals, especially in late August to mid December. And while the chances are very slim that a hurricane will affect your plans, the best advice is to step on board with the right attitude.

Cruise ships are exceptionally safe, they possess sophisticated weather-tracking systems to steer clear of danger and stay in calm waters. If you plan a cruise during hurricane season, keep track of the weather in the area you are planning to sail. If it begins to turn nasty, keep in touch with your travel agent for updates and advice.

If a strong weather pattern does wander into your vicinity, your ship will simply change course. If your itinerary is set for the eastern Caribbean, then your captain will switch over to the western Caribbean port schedule, remain a few days longer at sea enjoying the calm waters or simply change the order in which the ports are visited. You will not get a refund for missed ports, but you may find a new adventure waiting for you wherever you dock.

Travel Insurance – Better Safe Than Sorry
Travel insurance is a small price to pay for peace of mind. A policy is not only for trip cancellations but also can cover missed connections, lost or delayed baggage, emergency medical and dental expenses and emergency legal assistance.

Some cruise lines offer cancellation waiver insurance, which is different than trip cancellation or interruption insurance. Waivers apply to cancellations made several days prior to the scheduled start of the trip. Trip cancellation and interruption insurance will cover you from the time that you purchase your cruise until you return from the trip.

Types of Travel Insurance Coverage
There are several general types of consumer travel insurance available. The coverage and limitations of each will vary depending on the insurance company issuing the policy. The following is a brief description of some of the general types of travel insurance.

Trip Cancellation: The most important and common type of travel insurance. Generally covers non-refundable payments or deposits if a trip is canceled or interrupted due to unforeseen circumstances.

Trip Delay: Provides reimbursement for expenses incurred when a trip is delayed.

Accident/Sickness Medical Expenses: Covers costs incurred due to injury or illness that occur while on a trip.

Medical Evacuation/Emergency Transportation: Covers transportation when a medical emergency while traveling requires transportation to a hospital or other medical facility.

Supplier Default: Covers deposits or payments lost due to the financial default of a travel supplier.

Baggage/Personal Effects Loss or Delay: Covers losses due to items lost, damaged or delayed during a trip.

Cruise Line Coverage -vs- Third Party Insurance Coverage
Many cruise lines offer their own protection plans and these plans may provide very different coverage than offered through third party insurance companies. In most cases, supplier-provided coverage won’t cover you in the event they go bankrupt. When considering a supplier protection plan, you should carefully compare the coverage with third-party travel insurance products.

Who should buy travel insurance?
Travelers who want to protect their travel investment should consider purchasing travel insurance. If an illness, accident or sudden change in plans forces you to cancel or interrupt travel plans, you face two major financial losses - money you've invested in nonrefundable prepayments, and medical expenses that aren't covered by your health insurance.

How does trip cancellation coverage work?
It is designed to reimburse you for forfeited, nonrefundable, unused payments or deposits if you have to cancel your interrupt your trip due to a variety of situations, including but not limited to inclement weather, illness or another unforeseen event.

Depending on your policy, it may also cover:

› Emergency medical expenses
› Transportation ordered by a doctor to the nearest adequate
medical facility
› Reasonable accommodations and travel expenses for travel delays
› Essential items you purchase if your baggage is delayed
› Lost or stolen luggage

How much does travel insurance cost?
The cost of travel insurance varies from company and policy to policy. The more you have invested in your trip, the more you need to protect it. Travel insurance covers you for losses caused by trip cancellation and interruption, medical expenses, baggage, trip and baggage delay. When you consider all the protection you get, travel insurance is actually a great value.

Where do you buy it?
You can purchase travel insurance through your travel agent, the cruise line, or through an insurance provider. If you’re not sure if travel insurance is right for you, please consult your travel agent for advice.

Passports and Documents
Your ticket packet information will give you specific instructions regarding the necessary forms of identification or other travel documents for your voyage. Most cruise lines require you to bring a passport or a birth certificate with a raised seal and a government issued I.D. such as a driver’s license.


As of December, 2006 U.S. Citizens will need a valid passport to cruise anywhere.

So, if you don't have one, get it now before the rush.

What’s Free and What Costs Money?
The price of your ticket will include your cabin, on-board entertainment and food. Other items to consider when budgeting your trip include:

› Taxes, surcharges, and fees, including airport fees, handling fees, departure taxes and port charges. You should verify which fees and port taxes are included in your cruise rate.
› Alcoholic beverages, bottled water and occasionally soft drinks. Some ships offer "soda packages" that feature unlimited sodas during the cruise for about $15-$20.
› Cost of reaching the ship, airline tickets not booked as part of the package, shuttle service or in-port parking fees, if not included.
› Cost of staying at port before or after the cruise, such as hotel, transportation and meals.
› Shopping purchases made both on and off the ship.
› On board extras, such as gambling, spas, massages and ship-to-shore calls.
› Tipping.

Most cruise lines use a billing system for your convenience. They will take an imprint of your credit card and set up a tab for the cruise, presenting you with the total bill at the end. Keep all the little receipts you sign to verify the tab’s total.

No Belly-flops Into the Jacuzzi—Proper Cruising Etiquette
Even though your cruise ship may be bigger than your hometown, it’s still one place where many people must coexist harmoniously. Be courteous and respectful of others by following these guidelines.

Dress Properly – Even if you’re allergic to dress codes, do not show up to a formal dinner in jeans and flip-flops. The ship will have a code for each day, so learn it.

Keep Your Children Close – Kids, we all love them, except when they’re someone else’s. If you travel with your little ones please keep them under control, especially around pools and while passing through more adult-centered areas such as the casino.

Learn the Ship’s Language – Your vessel is a ship and never a boat, and the ship is always a she or her. Left is port, right is starboard. Aft means rear or stern, while the bow is the front of the ship. The bridge is where the Captain and his crew control the ship, and only some ships have open bridge policies.

Save One Seat, Not All - While it's okay to save a seat for your companion, it’s poor form to save a row of seats for your entire table. The same goes for deck chairs.

Follow Jogging Rules – Most ships post hours when running is allowed because passenger cabins are often located under the jogging deck and some people prefer to sleep at 6 a.m. than listen to your footfalls.

Land, Ho! Discovering New Worlds During Shore Excursions
Whenever your ship stops at an exciting port of call, you have three options: stay on board, explore by yourself or take a ship excursion. But once you glimpse out your porthole and see the tropical island, feel the vibrations of the bustling cities and sense the intoxication of the exotic countries, staying on board will quickly dissolve as an option.

Ship-sponsored shore excursions are valuable if you want to visit the attractions far from the pier, have easy access to historic monuments, forts, and castles and simply learn about the country. They also provide the best ways to experience a metropolitan city port like Barcelona or Rome, and the safest way to visit a third-world country where language and customs may prove too daunting a barrier.

However, if all you want to do is walk around a city or town, shop or go to a beach, then grab a map, secure your money and hike it on your own. Wandering a port on your own can be a great way to get away from the crowd and immerse yourself in a new culture, but it can also be challenging.

For miles around, everyone just noticed the big white ship full of wealthy tourists coming in, so your chances of blending are nil.

Don’t draw attention to yourself with flashy jewelry and large amounts of cash. Don’t walk down narrow alleys or poorly lit streets, and avoid being surrounded by large crowds if possible. Carry a fake wallet and put your money in your front pocket, or place a rubber band around your wallet to make it more difficult to remove from your pocket without you feeling it.

Safety First
Overall, cruising is a very safe way to travel, as ships must follow an extraordinary number of rules and regulations and are subject to rigorous quarterly inspection. Ships operate under international rules known as Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), requiring them to utilize smoke detectors, sprinklers and low-level emergency lighting for escape routes.

Safety drills are practiced within the first 24 hours of sailing, where you’ll learn how to put on your life jacket and locate your assigned lifeboat.

Seasickness is less common nowadays as the ship’s immense size and state-of-the-art motion stabilizers control gentle rocking. Once on board, spend some time on deck and focus on a fixed point of the horizon to help you adjust and get your sea legs quickly.

Be sure to pack a your complete health information with you on your trip, with your medical history, your insurance information, contact person in case of emergency, blood type and list of allergies, medications and immunizations.

Tipping – Know Which Price Is Right
Tipping is a traditional part of cruising and an important part of the income of those who help make your cruise enjoyable. Each cruise line will provide its own guide to tipping, with some providing envelopes for you to pass them out in. Or, in some cases the cruise line automatically puts the cost of tips on your onboard account to paid at the end of the cruise. Here are some general guidelines:

› Airport skycaps generally – $1.00 for each bag.
› Porters at the loading area of the ship – $1.00 for each bag.
› Cabin Stewards and Waiters – $3.00/$3.50 each, per passenger per day.
› Servers or Busboys – $1.50/$2.50 per passenger, per day.
› Maitre d’– $2.00 to $10.00 per passenger for the entire cruise depending on how helpful they have been.
› Many bar and lounge tips are included on your bill at a standard 15 percent which you can generally adjust for poor or excellent service. Check your individual bills to see if a tip has already been included.

Your Final Port of Call—Home
A cruise ship is a luxury hotel with a different view every day. There really are no limits to where you can cruise nowadays, as every ocean and river can be explored in style and luxury. And when compared with the cost of a land-based holiday, cruising offers excellent value with everything you need wrapped into one package.


Auctions And Classifieds

Sometimes, the best online travel deals can be found at  auction sites like eBay and classifieds pages like those at Cruisemates. If you’re shrewd enough, you can reel cruises in for even less than you’ll pay elsewhere on the Web. The downside is that this sort of shopping involves a bit more work than other methods—and a bit more risk. With auction sites in particular, you can spend days trying to find the right cruise, and sometimes the cruise offer goes to someone else. Sometimes you pay too much for it. Sometimes it’s not what you expected it to be. There’s even that small chance you won't get what you paid for. Caution is the byword here.

When using an Auction site to purchase a cruise vacation:

• Pay close attention to user feedback. Make sure the seller has a long history of selling and a long list of feedback. And take the time to read  the feedback.
• Look for auctions with inconvenient closing times: If an auction ends in the middle of the night or during a big sports event, fewer people will place last-second bids, and you have a better chance at a bargain.
- Before you bid, pick a maximum price and stick to it. You’re looking for a bargain. Don’t get caught up in the excitement of an auction. If you miss out on one auction, chances are another one will soon pop up.
• Don’t bid right away. If you bid right away, others will know you’re interested and can alter their strategy accordingly. In most cases, especially if you want a cruise bargain, there’s no need to bid until the last few seconds of an auction. And if too many bids start popping up, go elsewhere. The price won’t stay low for long.
• Check how many people have
viewed that cruise on offer: It works both ways; other bidders are also waiting to lay down a last-second bid. You can tell how popular an item is by checking how many people have simply viewed it. If the number is too high, go elsewhere. The price is likely to skyrocket.

How To Protect Yourself

  • Be wary of "great deals" and low-priced offers. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies' prices.
  • Don't be pressured into buying. Legitimate businesses don't expect you to make snap decisions.
  • Ask detailed questions. Find out exactly what the cruise price covers and what it doesn't. Ask about additional charges. Get all the details included in your package. Consider contacting the cruise line directly to verify arrangements. Ask about cancellation policies and refunds.

        If the company can't give you detailed answers, go somewhere else.

  • Get all information in writing before you agree to buy. Ask for a copy of the cruise line's own written confirmation. Once you receive the written information, make sure it reflects what you were told over the phone and the terms you agreed to. If the company offers you a great deal but won't give you the details in writing until you have paid, it could be a scam operation.     

         If the company can't give you a copy of the cruise lines own confirmation, go somewhere else.

  • Don't buy part of the package - the air fare or cruise - separately from the rest. If the deal is not what you expected, it may be difficult to get your money back for the part of the package you purchased.
  • Don't give your credit card number or bank information over the internet or phone. One easy way for a scam operator to close a deal is to get your credit card number and charge your account. Sometimes fraudulent telemarketers say they need the number for verification purposes only. Don't believe them.

        If the company doesn't take steps to protect your personal information, go somewhere else.

  • Don't send money by overnight mail. Some scam artists may ask you to send them a check or money order immediately.  If you pay with cash or a check, rather than a credit card, you lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. If you charged your cruise to a credit card, you may dispute the charges by writing to your credit card issuer at the address provided for billing disputes. If possible, do this as soon as you receive your statement. In any case, the law gives you up to 60 days after the bill's statement date to dispute the charge.
  • Check out the company before you buy. Contact the Attorney General in your state or where the company is located to see if any complaints have been lodged against the travel firm or the travel provider. Be aware that fraudulent businesses often change their names to avoid detection.

         If in doubt, say "no." Trust your instincts.

         It's less risky to turn down the offer so hang up the phone.

  • Does the cruise price seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is.

         Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially

         undercut other companies' prices.


         Be wary of a salesperson who "pushes" one cruise line, cruise ship or itinerary. That's not a good sign

         that they are working in your best interest.


         You may be asked after you book and place a deposit to pay more for port charges, document

         shipping costs, higher than normal deposits upfront, unreasonable cancellation fees or are offered a

         bonus if you pay in-full upfront.

Examples of 


 hidden fees. 

Fees that are charged, 

in addition to any 

cancellation or 

penalties imposed 

by the cruise line.

Trip Cancellation


Insurance Claim Assistance


Document Shipping

$  7.50


         That cut-rate cruise offer may not be a bargain after all, especially when dealing with "Cheap" or "Deep

          Discount" travel brokers who might use bait and switch tactics to get you to buy something you

          did not  want.

  • Make sure that the company is registered with the State Attorney General's Office where it does business if it sells, or arranges for, air or sea travel (either separately or in conjunction with other services). Ask to see the company's current registration certificate. The certificate has the company's registration number, which must be included in all advertising.

To Book Online or Not?


Many consumers are unsure of whether to use the Internet for researching or buying travel – and if so, when and how. The Internet can be a powerful tool for researching travel. But when you’re ready to buy, the Internet can’t replace the expertise of a trusted travel counselor. Ed Perkins, the consumer advocate for the American Society of Travel Agents and former editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, answers some of the more common questions about researching and buying travel on- and offline.  (excerpts related to cruises from article)

Trip planning
Q: Can I use the Internet to plan a trip?
A: Yes, at least partially. The Internet is great for facts and figures: Thousands of destinations – regions, countries, states and provinces, cities, and park systems – maintain websites. Those sites are great sources for information you need: main features, activities, climate and weather, local transportation, and much more. In fact, your problem is likely to be information overload rather than too little.

But the Internet is seldom able to supply enough depth and detail to allow you to prepare a complete travel plan. You will still probably need good guidebooks and maps (which you can buy online). And you should always speak with a professional travel agent before making a travel purchase.

Q: How about finding out what’s going on at my destination?
A: The Internet is a great resource. Most tourist attractions maintain Websites with complete schedule and price information, as do sports teams, theaters and arenas, cultural programs, and such. Newspaper sites let you access such local details as movie schedules, restaurant reviews, church services times, and much more.

Q: Do the cruise lines discount on the Internet?
A:. Generally, no. Even though most of the big cruise lines maintain elaborate websites, they typically don’t cut prices online and many don’t sell online at all.

Q: So where are the cruise discounts available?
A: Lots of agencies – online and off – provide discount cruise pricing. The Internet is a great way to get an idea of what’s available and the price. But offline sources can usually get the same discounts as you find online and may be able to provide insights on the cruise company and its ships. Cruise specialists can give you firsthand knowledge of the line and help you select cabins, dinner seating and shore excursions.

Last minute deals and auctions
Q: Is the Internet a good source for last-minute bargains?
A: Yes, in many cases. The Internet provides an easy way for suppliers to unload airline seats, cruise cabins, and hotel rooms that might otherwise go unsold, at very attractive prices. The Internet is the only place you’ll see some of the best last-minute deals, but others are available just about everywhere.

Q: Are there any potential pitfalls and traps in using the Internet for travel?
A: Yes, several:

1. Perhaps the most important is that the Internet can respond only to the questions you ask. If you don’t know what to ask, the Internet can’t give a useful answer.

2. A related problem is “Plan B deficit.” Except within very narrow limits, the Internet can’t suggest an alternative if your first inquiry doesn’t turn up a satisfactory answer.

3. The Internet is a fertile field for deceptions and misleading information. Just because a site labels a price as “discount” doesn’t mean it’s really discounted. Ask 10 sites for the “lowest” price for an identical service and you can get as many as 10 different answers.

4. The Internet is also full of misleading promotions.

5. Some sites can’t handle such routinely available deals as senior and AAA discounts.

6. If you run into difficulty, you could have a tough time trying to get an online agency to straighten out your problem – in fact, you may not even know its location.

Final Thoughts
If you’re accustomed to making all your own travel arrangements, the Internet can be a powerful tool. It can increase the scope and reach of all your efforts, and allow you to check hundreds of options. But to make the Internet work for you effectively, you have to know what to ask and where to ask it. If you don’t, you can spend endless fruitless hours that ultimately produce unsatisfactory results.

Even if you know what you want, Internet research can be time-consuming. But just because you prefer some outside assistance and counsel with your travel arrangements, you needn’t ignore the Internet. It can be a good place to do your homework – along with the more traditional guidebooks and other references.

No matter how you buy travel, the more homework you do, the better consumer you’ll be. And the Internet is a great place to start your homework.



Six Types of Cruising

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