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Five Tips To Get The Best Cruise Deal

(October 17, 2003) 

Pricing a cruise is a lot like pricing a car. There's the brochure price, and then there's the real price, which varies depending on the popularity of a particular cruise and on the seller's ability to cut into profits in order to make the sale. Once you've found a cruise or cruises that you are interested in, here's how clinch the best possible deal:

1.) Contact The Cruise Line

Talk with a cruise line representative about the particular cruise or cruises and stateroom categories you are interested in. Be sure to mention your state of residence, if you've sailed with the line previously, and if you're a senior, the aforementioned may qualify you for additional discounts. Use the quote given as a reference point; travel agents should only take it down from here. If an agent gives you the same rate as the cruise line, that's an indication that you should keep shopping around.

(Note: In addition to 800 numbers, many cruise line sites now offer "Live Help" functions on their websites where you can text message with an agent regarding pricing.)

2.) Place A 'Cruise Wanted' Ad

Check out CruiseMates.com "Bargain Finder" section. After you complete a quick registration, you can post an anonymous ad that travel agents can respond to with their best offers. The key is to be specific on what you are looking for. Often times an agent or agents will get back to you with price quotes within the first day.

CruiseCompete.com is a free service for experienced cruisers. Simply submit a ship name and sail date with a few other pieces of relevant information. Top travel agencies then compete to offer the lowest prices on cruises.

3. Check Online Cruise Booking Websites

icruise.com, Cruise.com, 1-800-Cruises.com, and Cruise411.com offer some of the lowest cruise rates anywhere. Large sites like Expedia and Travelocity often have excellent deals as well, particularly on last minute cruises.

4. Call A Travel Agent

Try both local independent agents and large national agencies such as AAA, American Express, and Carlson Wagonlit. If the cruise line you're researching has an agent finder function on its website, use it to find agents near you. In addition, there's the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) website where you can use their "Cruise Expert Locator". Try not to waste your time or the agent's.  Be frank, tell them exactly what you're looking for and that you're comparison shopping. In today's ultra-competitive market many agents will try to beat the lowest quote you've found.

5. Negotiate

Once you've received several quotes, it never hurts to haggle a bit to get the absolute best price or some additional onboard perks. Online, use Cruise.com's "Let Us Beat Your Quote" and icruise.com's "Let icruise.com Beat Your Price" to see if they'll bump your lowest offer down a bit further. Also, Cruise411 offers a lowest price guarantee. Should you ever book a cruise with Cruise411 and find a lower advertised rate for which you qualify from a competitor, they'll beat it.


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