Saturday, March 27, 2010
Top 10 Cruise Travel Savings Tips
1. Maximum flexibility = Maximum savings – Most travelers have some flexibility in their travel dates, especially if planning ahead of time. Let your cruise specialist know that you can consider alternate departure dates that may have lower rates available. Keep in mind cruise lines will offer better prices and perks on sailings that are not nearing capacity. Tip: Holiday sailings are typically priced higher and sailings right before or after tend to be less expensive. Do tell your cruise specialist of your dates are somewhat flexible, this may pay payoff in the end!
2. Ask if “guarantees” are available. This requires that you have a little gambling spirit. Many cruise lines will offer a rate on a particular cabin category instead of an actual stateroom number and in effect “guarantee” that rate to you. Then the cruise line has the option of assigning you a stateroom in either that category or better. Sometimes you win and end up in a cabin several grades higher and sometimes you end up in exactly the category you were guaranteed. Remember, there is both an upside and downside to this program. If you are a cruiser that just wants a balcony and doesn't care where on the ship you are, this may be a great deal for you. These deals are available but not on every sailing. There may be significant savings that come with the guarantee cabin option.
3. Upgrade programs. Often, your cruise specialist may offer a cruise line upgrade program. This means that you book and pay for category “X” and will be moved to a higher category “Y”. Again, ask you cruise specialist for advice. Just because there is an upgrade doesn't mean the location may be better. Always ask for advice.
4. Special Fare Eligibility – One of the reasons that savvy cruisers find a knowledgeable cruise specialist and stick with them is the fact that there are many special fare programs that may or not be visible to cruiser’s doing casual research on the web. These include things like regional fares that are made available to residents of selected states. Remember: If you must reside in that state to get the rate and they will check at the pier. Some of the other special fares being promoted today include active duty and retired military fares, union member fares, police and public safety discounts, airline or hospitality rates and more. Tip: If your cruise partner is a member of any of these groups, the discounts usually apply to everyone traveling in the same stateroom.
5. Past Passenger Specials – Virtually every major cruise line has a loyalty club for its members with different levels and benefits. Joining is free and entitles you to special perks and discounts when you book on that line. For many commonly owned cruise lines such as Carnival Corporation, the offers extend across all the brands – Carnival, Princess, Holland America etc. Ditto for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. There are several perks to these programs, including discounts but also on-board perks as well. Always enroll in each cruise line's program after your first sailing.
6. Check for Group Rates: Many cruise agencies hold what is known as “block space” on ships. That means that they have reserved space at group rates, which can be lower than individual rates. Many agencies that reserve space for groups hold aside several cabins for individual clients who might be able to depart on this date. While you may be traveling as a “group”, your cruise experience will be as an individual traveler.
7. On board re-booking – Most cruise lines know allow you to book your next cruise with that line while on board. They may have what is known as an “on board sales consultant” or even a desk. This is usually a great opportunity to save. Generally, the cruise line will throw in some strong perks to retain your loyalty to their brand. Onboard credits on the future cruise can be quite substantial. Upgrades and other benefits are usually significant. Tip: Many cruise lines realize that you may not be sure when and where you want to cruise while on your current voyage. Not to worry, because most have a program where you can book on board with the flexibility to change to other sailings and ships via your cruise specialist when you get home and keep all the benefits. This is a truly a win win for you!
8. Rely on a cruise specialist. If you book with a cruise specialist that is certified my all major cruise lines, this will ensure that they are thoroughly knowledgeable on cruise lines, ships, cabins, ports, and pricing. A good cruise specialist will do all the leg work and hunt for the best deals for you ahead of time. Use them for questions and advice, they have heard it all and will be able to help match the perfect cruise for you.
9. Arrange your own airline tickets. If you need to fly most cruise lines have flight programs known as Air/Sea arrangements. The good news is that it is an all-in-one purchase. The bad news is that in order to publish these add-ons the cruise lines have negotiated the fares far in advance and try to set the rates on a cost average basis. To you, it generally means that these add-ons may be up to 50% higher than the fares you can get by arranging the flights yourself. I always suggest that my clients book their own air, they typically will always save significantly. But always ask! There are times that the cruise lines have air add on specials. Europe may be an exception to this rule. So it is always a good idea to comparison shop. For these frequent fliers if you have several thousand airline miles collecting dust, this might be a good time to try to use them. Tip: If you are arranging your own flights, make sure to allow plenty of time for flight delays etc. Again, ask your agent. It is always a great idea to fly in the night before. Remember, the ship leaves with or without you.
10. Travel Insurance: An affordable comprehensive trip insurance policy can cover many of the unexpected situations including, lost baggage, trip interruption, medical evacuation and more. Your cruise specialist can explain the various programs available as there are several. Mark sure you understand fully the coverage and limitation before accepting coverage and keep in mind that you cannot get coverage retroactively. It’s a small, but absolutely vital part of your vacation expenditures. Keep in mind very few medical insurance policies cover you while out of the country and basic homeowner’s policies often do not compensate for lost luggage or other events.
To wrap up: Depend on your expert travel agent and ask any questions that come up. There is never a dumb question and your travel agent should always be there to help. Never assume, there are always those situations I come across where a balcony is cheaper than an interior or a 7 night sailing is the same price as a 5 night. The more you'll save in the price of the cruise, the more you can spend on vacation. If you find a cruise specialist that is looking out for your wallet at the same time listening to your needs, keep them!