At Inside Cruise we like to keep cruisers in the know with all the latest cruise advice. So here are some of our top insider tips to help you get the best deals when it comes to booking your next cruise.
1. Booking your Cruise
It may seem logical to book your cruise directly with the cruise line, but this is not always going to get you the best price. You may find a travel agent can offer a discounted price on the same cruise which means great savings for you. But do not make the mistake of assuming you will get the best quote simply by walking into your high street agent, come on, you have to do a little work to save yourself some money! Which leads me to my next point …
2. Getting Quotes
Accepting the first price you are quoted wont always get you the best deal. The key is to get prices from a few different companies. Travel agents work hard to earn commission on each sale, and the more they have to discount for you, means less money for them. Again, this is where a little hard work now pays off later. It seems just about every travel agent promises to price beat, so, take advantage and hunt around for the lowest price. When you have it, why not go back to the most helpful agent, and see if they can beat it? It's not always just the lowest price you're looking for either, P & O, Princess, Cunard and Ocean Village for example will offer onboard credit to selected agents on different dates on many of their cruises.
3. Customer Loyalty
It's sad but true; loyalty does not always pay off. You may have received a great deal on your last cruise and have gone back to your same agent expecting another. It is still important to be ringing around. As an existing customer, these travel agents know they already have your custom, they also know you are less likely to be ringing other companies for prices. Obviously, this is not always the case, some agents will honestly reward their loyal customers, but it's always worth checking.
4. Booking Onboard
We have all been there; 13 nights into your fortnight holiday, and it all feels like it's over far too soon. And, if it's been really good, all you can think about is when you can come back again. Well, good news – on many cruises you will be given the opportunity to rebook a cruise onboard with the purser or at the future cruise desk. They may be offering discounted prices, onboard spending money and lower deposits to secure your booking there and then. If you do rebook onboard, but feel discounts and onboard credit still is not enough, once you get home, why not check a few prices offered by travel agents? If they can offer a further discount, you may be able to get the booking transferred to them. The best part is, you still get to keep any benefits offered to you for booking onboard while taking advantage of the lower price.
5. Cruise Only
It is becoming increasingly popular to tailor make your own cruise holiday, this not only gives you the luxury of flexibility with your travel plans, but can be a more cost effective way to holiday.
It may be surprising to hear that when booking your cruise package (flights, hotel stays and transfers) with the cruise line, the flight can cost more than the cruise itself!
The idea is to get "cruise only". This means you are just taking the cruise from the cruise line and will find alternative flights and hotels elsewhere. Your travel agent can then search around for you to find a suitable flight, transfer and hotel stay as required. This can save you a whole lot of money, and allow you to choose your preferred flight and hotel, too.
It is not always advisable to do this, particularly if it is your first cruise, or if you are going to a destination that you are unsure of, but for many popular cruise ports including Miami, New York, Barcelona and even Vancouver it is very easy to do yourself.
Importantly, by booking the flight through your travel agent, you will still be covered by their ATOL license which protects your travel plans, (something to check before booking) and, furthermore, they will be knowledgeable about transfer times and can book a flight that will get you to your destination in good time for your cruise.
6. Shore Excursions
My final tip is to do some research on the ports you will be visiting before you go. Yes, I'm afraid it involves a little work on your part, but its well worth doing.
It is easy to play it safe and go along with the sometimes pricy excursions offered by the cruise lines, and in many cases, an arranged excursion is a great, safe way to see places. However, often the destination is at the port, so you can explore yourself, or you may find it cheaper to hop in a taxi and head to places you really want to see and not the places the cruise lines want to take you. Also, be aware that if you pay for arranged excursions before you go, and they are canceled, due to weather or a change in port of call on the itinerary, you may not be refunded.
Well there it is, enough inside information to make any travel agent squirm … So go out there, do a little work, and make sure you get the very best deal on your next cruise.