How to save money without sacrificing fun!
Accredited Cruise Counsellor
Owner/Manager, Group Cruises Unlimited
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE ROLE OF THE TRAVEL AGENT
DOING YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Ports of Call
Cruise Line Considerations
LET'S GO CRUISING
A SIMPLE PLAN
TO INSURE PROPER SERVICE (TIPS)
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
More Than Bus Trips
FOOD, FOOD, FOOD
Dinner Meal Time Selection
GETTING YOUR DRINK ON
MAMA NEEDS A NEW PAIR 'O SHOES
TABLE OF CONTENTS (continued)
SPORTS AND SUCH
Calgon, Take Me Away
OH MY ACHING TUMMY
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA
NO MONEY, NO MONEY, NO MONEY
WRAPPING IT UP
“Baby let me take you on a sea cruise”
The lyrics to Frankie Ford’s song “Sea Cruise” released in 1959 seem to echo the sentiments of many people when planning a vacation. Did you know, however, that 80% of the U.S. population has never taken a cruise? Some think it’s out of the realm of possibilities when considering a vacation on a budget, but not anymore!
Many people think that cruising the open seas on a luxury ship is a vacation they can’t even dream of...or it's just for the newly wed or nearly dead! However, with some careful planning and saving, a cruise that fits your lifestyle is definitely within the realm of possibilities!
The cost of cruising has dropped dramatically over the last few years, and it's become affordable for almost everyone as a vacation alternative. But many of us could afford to cruise even more often if we could just cut down on all the extra on-board and on-shore costs, above and beyond the actual cruise fare.
There are hundreds of tips out there on how to save money on your cruise. Whether you get advice from family and friends, the Internet, or your local travel agent, they all are valuable. The only problem is how do you remember them all? This book has taken the best tips from several sources and put them in one convenient place – HERE!
Almost anyone can take a cruise vacation that’s everything depicted in the movies and on television. You can enjoy The Bahamas, Hawaii, Mexico, and even Alaska
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aboard luxury cruise ships with all the amenities of a resort on land.
The key to making the most of your cruise vacation is to know where you can save money without sacrificing fun or rest and relaxation. Many cruises are all-inclusive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean “ALL inclusive.” There are extra charges for items on board as well as activities and shore trips.
You deserve to enjoy your vacation and all that comes with it, and you can do it on a budget! What could be better than that?
So sit back and read up on the best ways to save money on your cruise. Gopher, Julie, and Doc from “The
Love Boat” won’t be there, but YOU will be!
I listen on the radio quite often to Gopher Smith, a.k.a.
Fred Grandy. He has a show on WMAL 630 in Washington, DC. He's just a nutty on the radio as he was on TV.
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THE ROLE OF THE TRAVEL AGENT
If you decide to use a travel agent, or consultant as they care to be called, know who you are dealing with! Most cruise agents are very competent; others not so. A real travel professional will take the time to qualify you as a client.
Besides the obvious questions to find out where and when you want to go, she'll ask: why? She will ask pertinent questions about your travel history and preferences. If you've cruised in the past, for example, she'll find out what kind of cabin you've had, what you liked/disliked about your experiences, if you're qualified for any past passenger discounts. The travel professional may even ask you what hotel brands you frequent to get a feel for the cruise product best suited to you.
A travel professional can provide you one key item that you cannot get on the Internet: customer service. In fact, that is the “value add” that they bring to your travel experience. If possible, find one that's associated with the
Cruise Lines International Association and is certified as an Accredited, Master or Elite Cruise Counsellor. That way you'll know that the person servicing your cruise vacation is a true professional.
Travel agents are certainly the easiest way to go when booking a cruise. In fact, a number of travel writers recommend that a cruise is one of those occasions where you need to use one. Here's an article we wrote entitled:
Why You Need A Travel Agent. It references and has a link to an article in MSNBC.com from Christopher Elliott, a travel
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columnist. Mr. Elliott states in his article entitled “Stay off the computer”:
Travel agents remain your best bet for a floating vacation. Why? Two main reasons: First, cruise lines give travel agencies access to special deals that you probably won’t find anywhere else. And second, because a cruise can get complicated. There are airline tickets that have to be bought, hotel rooms to be booked, shore excursions and lots of options on the ship.
If you do use a travel agent to book your cruise, you have plenty of company. The Cruise Lines International Association reports that upwards of 87% of people use a travel agent to book their cruise. The reason is pretty obvious when you consider that the World Wide Web lets us know the price of everything and the value of nothing!
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DOING YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
Start with research. We’re assuming you don’t have a particular cruise line in mind, but if you do, start with their web site. If you don’t care whether you cruise on Carnival or Oceania, do a quick web search for cruise deals and you’ll find tons of places that will give you information on what they have to offer. In fact, you'll be overwhelmed with information!
There are some web sites we have found that might help guide you:
You will have a lot of options to consider when deciding on your cruise, which we will outline in this chapter.
One such option is taking a theme cruise. What exactly is a theme cruise, you ask? It is a cruise booked around a certain theme that could focus on a particular interest such as murder mystery, sports, music styles, etc. The cruise line may provide special events and lectures for you to attend revolving around the theme. Some theme cruises
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have celebrities along for the ride giving you the chance to rub elbows with the rich and famous. If you can think of a theme that interests people, they probably have a cruise to match it.
A theme cruise can be great fun if you pick the right theme for you. One resource is ThemeCruiseFinder.com to find a theme cruise that matches your interest. Here's part of a description for a Total Ship Takeover Adult Lifestyle Cruise we found at that site.
You can expect the same great entertainment, playrooms, and parties that we had on this past cruise, and a lot more. Nudity will be allowed on the sun decks and pool areas, and you will also be able to go topless in the disco.
This cruise is being produced by a group that has been producing lifestyle events for many years. They have a depth of understanding of the lifestyle community, and they have held many successful lifestyle events previously...The ultimate erotic vacation for lifestyle couples. Sensuous fun on a Radiance class ship. FINALLY, Lifestyle Cruising with class - where your fantasies can be fulfilled.
Besides the “Lifestyle” category mentioned above there are more wholesome choices available to you. The cruise lines will tell you that the hottest theme cruises this year are food and wine. Some of the premium cruise lines have made major investments in teaching kitchens. Here's an
article about how Celebrity Cruises has teamed up with the Food Network to offer their guests “enticing and exclusive experiences.”
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Here are some other categories of theme cruises sailing this year:
• Hobbies & Crafts
• History & World Affairs
• TV & Film
• Gaming & Technology
Don't expect to get a bargain on a theme cruise. After all, if you going on an Oldies But Goodies cruise, for example, the cost of the entertainment is added to your cruise fare.
You may want to check out a group cruise. This isn’t necessarily you getting together a bunch of people and planning a cruise with them. There are some groups out there that have secured special, low rates for large groups of people. You don’t even have to know the people you’re cruising with. Here's an example of a web site for a group
You can find these group cruises in various places. Try looking at an Internet chat board for cruisers. They often have postings on there for groups who have secured such rates, and you can save a lot of money by booking with them instead of on your own.
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There are two types of groups: affinity and
promotional. Affinity groups are created by travel agents to accommodate groups of people with a like interest who want to travel together. They may be members of a social club, a family reunion or a church, for example.
A promotional group is one a travel agent or travel agency assembles through advertising, word of mouth, or other promotional means. A promotional group is typically composed of people that do not necessarily know each other.
One of the easiest ways to find groups is with travel agents/consultants. For example if the consultant you're working with is part of a large host agency there may be dozens of agents they network with regularly that have affinity or promotional groups that have extra space. And you'll be able to book with that group and take advantage of the perks they may have received, such as on-board credits.
If you're considering establishing your own affinity group, you'll want to get some more basic information as to how the process works with the cruise lines. Our web site,
GroupCruisesUnlimited.com, lays it all out for you and shows how you can cruise for free as an organizer, or divide the savings up equally among your fellow travelers.
Alternatively, you may download my free report Group
Ports of Call
Check out the ports of call on your cruise's itinerary.
Since these will also be a major part of your cruise, you want to know where you’ll be going and what you can do
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there. You’ll want to ask about the types of the shore excursions available. What do you enjoy: shopping, nature, sports, historical sites or exotic culture? You’ll want to pick ports of call that have activities that interest you.
You can easily get tourist information about the ports of call at Tourism Offices Worldwide Directory web site. This site provides a collection of addresses, phone numbers, and web links to many foreign governments’ official tourism offices. It also contains a search feature that lists contact information and web links for official U.S. State Tourism Offices, regional, city, and convention and visitor bureau sites.
Next, check out air/sea packages available. An air/sea cruise is when your cruise has been booked with airline tickets to get you to the ship’s port and back home again.
The cruise line buys its tickets in bulk from the airlines.
They find out where you are coming from and book you passage from a nearby airport to one close to the ship’s home port. Each cruise line has its own policy on how they deal with the sale of airline tickets, so you’ll want to ask some important questions.
• What is the cost of the tickets if I book them with my cruise?
• If I need to cancel, are the refund policies different for the plane tickets than for the cruise?
• Is there a service fee charged to have the cruise line issue my airline tickets?
• Do I have any choice in which airline is used?
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• Can I get credit for my frequent flyer mileage membership?
• Can I fly nonstop or have any control over the route that is taken, or do I just get what ever they find?
• How do I get from the airport to the ship’s port?
• Is there a shuttle service available from the airport where you’ll be arriving? Is there a charge for this service or is it included? Is the service included if you don’t book your flight through the cruise line?
• How and when do I meet up with cruise line personnel?
• How is my luggage handled, do I have to pick it up at the airport or is it automatically sent to the ship?
• What accommodations, if any, are made if the airline they use causes me to miss the ship?
There are many advantages to booking an air/sea package. The cruise line takes care of the airline reservation. Since cruise lines buy in bulk and usually provide a discount package rate, the ticket price is generally lower than what can be found in the general market. The transfer of luggage is easier, and a free shuttle will take you from the airport to the docks.
The cruise line will have your flight information and will be able to track your flight in case of a delay. Others on the cruise might be on the same flight and they might just hold the ship waiting for you to board. The biggest advantage is that if anything goes wrong to delay you, the cruise line will
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generally become more involved to help you make it on board the ship.
There, of course, are disadvantages as well to booking an air/sea package. You might be able to find a better deal on your own, but you may have to fly an airline you don’t like. You will probably not get credit for frequent flyer miles by going through the cruise line, and you might not be able to fly non-stop. Finally, you might end up flying a longer route than you’d pick for yourself.
You could book your own airline tickets, but only do so if you can get a better deal. The strongest consideration should be how confident you are in being able to make it to the ship on your own. If you are already flying in a few days early, know you’ll be there on time and you can save over the air/sea on plane tickets and shuttle costs, then you might just consider going it alone. But, remember you are going it alone.
The cruise lines will be more likely to make
accommodations and work with the airline if their booking didn’t get you to the ship on time. They will be better able to track your late flight and might even delay the ship if they know you’ll only be slightly late. They might pay for you to stay in a hotel or pay for flights so you can catch up with the ship at the first port.
Depending on the circumstances, they might even rebate some of your cruise or give you a discount toward your next cruise with them. However, the airlines are independent contractors. Most cruise conditions of carriage state that since the airlines are independent contractors the cruise line makes no warranty and assumes no responsibility for any failure or delay in their contractor’s services. This is
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another reason to purchase a strong trip insurance package.
We’ll get to the topic of trip insurance a little later.
When you book your own airline tickets, if the route you picked to make it to the ship fails, you are on your own.
Don’t risk missing the whole cruise over a few frequent flyer miles. Sure you can probably get on if you can catch the ship, but will you be able to find a flight and transportation to the ship. Will it be worth it, considering how much you’ll have to pay in last minute travel arrangements? No matter how you get there, try to avoid this situation by booking a flight that leaves you plenty of time to get you to and from the port to the airport.
It’s a good idea to book early. The booking rates become more expensive the closer to sailing. Although some people report that if you’re able to wait until the last minute, there are deals that can be had on under-booked ships. The objective of the cruise line is to have a full house before sailing. If they find themselves with some empty cabins, they may reduce the rate just to fill them. Just keep in mind that you will be limited on your choices as far as where your room is located, whether you have a balcony or not, etc.
Booking early on a cruise line generally refers to 120
days prior to sail date. If you book early you will have a better chance of getting exactly what you want and at a discounted price. However, if the ships have low occupancy rates close to sailing, you can still find great deals. With all the new large ships that are being launched, last minute deals are still a possibility. But, these deals can be limited and many people don’t have the flexibility to leave or at least book in an instant.
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Shopping the Internet can be the quickest and easiest way to compare many different cruise rates. Be flexible about your travel plans. As with every other travel industry, cruising during the off season will also help you save money.
Here's our basic, no-frills site you can use to quickly search for cruises.
Apply any coupons or special discount programs for which you are eligible. Discounts may be available for associations, corporations, seniors, children or even large groups or family reunions. Memberships in loyalty clubs like the Elks or the Moose often include offers of discounts and upgrades. Some credit cards will have special discounts available to their cardholders.
Package deals often include a discounted cruise price along with pre- or post-cruise activities. Most cruise lines will also give discounts to the military, so if you or someone in your party is or has been in the military, ask for their discount.
Two for one deals are popular sales incentives where two cruises are offered for the price of one. However, airfare is usually not included in the two for one rate.
Cruise lines have also offered discounted or free airfares, free post or pre-cruise hotel stays, free cabin upgrades, extra days free or free shore excursions.
Some cruise lines will offer a first time cruiser discount to encourage you to give their cruise line a try. It probably won’t have to be your first cruise, just your first cruise with that particular line.
The bottom line with discounts is….ASK! They may not offer you the discounted rate up front, but if you ask, they
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will certainly tell you if any would apply. The goal of the cruise line is, after all, to gain your business.
Cruise Line Considerations
The cruise line you choose is another important factor to consider when picking your cruise. The cruise ship is your hotel, restaurant and entertainment for your whole vacation. It is a package deal that is different from a traditional vacation.
You’ll want to spend some time and do your research to make sure you pick the right cruise for you. The perfect cruise for some might be a miserable one for others. Make sure you find the best match. You’ll want to find the best rate on the right cruise for you, not just the cheapest rate.
Cruise lines cater to certain groups and their whole ship is meant to entertain and please that crowd. Some cater to certain age groups, singles, or families. Some are calm, elegant and feature haute cuisine. Some have lots of loud, exciting activities to attract the active crowds. Others have lots of family activities planned, so the ship will be filled with kids. Some will have shore excursions that are right up your alley, while others might be a real snooze for you.
Like many other industries, cruise lines "target" their product or cruise ship experience to hit certain markets. For an excellent primer on this subject we recommend you read this recent article by Paul Motter entitled: “Cruising 101: