FAQs - Internet Travel Agents
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What about booking a cruise on the Internet? Some rates seem cheaper than my
travel agent quoted me. So why should I book with her?
Cheaper isn't always better! Comparing cruise prices on Internet travel sites
can be really confusing. With all the different ships, itineraries, cabin types
and rates, websites often don't describe all the choices available. One website
might list an ocean view cabin at $500 while another one is $550 on the same
sailing. You might jump to book the lower priced cabin without realizing that
your view out the window is blocked by a lifeboat! Or, seeing 5 different categories
and rates of inside cabins, you may think that all insides are created equal...
but they're not! If you were to book the inside category with the lowest rate,
odds are that you'd get a cabin with 2 twin bunk beds - YIKES! Great for
kids, but not so great for the honeymooners or the couple celebrating their
50th wedding anniversary. A professional cruise travel agent can
explain the differences in cabin categories, inclusions, cancellation penalties
A real person can also help explain the value of a higher priced feature. For
example, with newer, larger cruise ships come more cabins. Every ship out there
seems to claim that they have the most balcony cabins at sea. With such an increase
in balcony cabins, there are less ocean view cabins (the kind with a regular
window). Therefore, the cost to upgrade from an ocean view to a balcony can
often be as little as $50 per person. And having a balcony gives you your own
semi-private place to watch the ship come in and out of port or just relax.
But, beware: balconies are addictive. Once you have a balcony cabin, you'll
always want a balcony cabin! Looking to save money on booking a cruise for your
whole family? You may want to look into a suite versus booking 2 cabins. Some
suites sleep up to 8 people and can be a real money saver in the long run.
Dear Cabin Closeouts,
Are all cruises basically alike?
A cruise is a cruise, right? Wrong! A cruise travel agent can explain the
differences between types of cruise lines: luxury, premium and "mass-market".
If you've been watching all those TV commercials for "mass-market" "FUN" cruises
and "MEGA" ships, don't think that that's all there is. Sure, those ships have
it all at a great price, but if you don't want to be one of the 2500+ passengers
onboard, take a look at a premium cruise line. This is a great way to experience
a lot of the same amenities as the "mass-market" ships but on a smaller scale
and with a higher quality of service. There is more room per passenger, making
service more personalized and efficient; and premium lines are often a great
step up for the experienced cruiser who's ready for something new. Often the
rates are not much more than a "mass-market" cruise. And don't think that a
luxury cruise line is out of your budget either. Besides the added extras, many
luxury lines include all food, soft drinks, cocktails, house wines and champagnes,
even some complimentary shore excursions. Depending on your interests and lifestyle,
there's a cruise that's right, at the right price, for you!
Dear Steve & Russ,
I consider myself an experienced cruiser and use a travel agent
to book. Is there anything else I could be doing to get the best rate?
Be flexible. Cruise rates are a lot like stock - the prices go up and down
constantly. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you may reap some
of the best rewards.
Often, promotions will come out at the last minute (within 30 days of travel),
but the choice of cabins can be limited. Often the availability is for a "guarantee"
cabin only. A "guarantee" allows you to book the minimum cabin category
that you'd feel comfortable in, but allows the cruise line to either upgrade
you to a higher category or place you in any cabin anywhere within the minimum
category you've booked. The upside: you have a chance to get a much better cabin
than you paid for. The downside: you have no control over that cabin's location.
With luck, you could end up mid-ship, but it is possible you could end up at
the bow or stern of the ship, or even in an obstructed view cabin.
On the other hand, there can be great deals for those who book far in advance.
Two examples of this are "repositioning" cruises and "early
booking fares". Some cruise lines are rewarding "early bookers"
(those who book six months prior to sailing) by offering reduced fares, 2 for
1 fares and even free airfare. Another type of cruise that has a reduced rate
right from the start is a "repositioning" cruise. At certain times
throughout the year, cruise ships crisscross the globe on their way to new itineraries
for the season. These normally take place in the spring and fall when the ships
leave the Caribbean for the summer and return for the winter. These great cruises
are usually longer than the normal 7 night cruises and they offer a great way
to see the world at a great rate!
So whether you book early or book late, the key to getting the best deal is
being flexible with your travel dates. So keep your bags packed and let your
travel agent know you'll be waiting for her to call with the best deal!