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Finding and Booking Cheap Cruises

Discussion in 'Cruises' started by MilesAddict, Oct 26, 2014.

  1. MilesAddict

    MilesAddict Level 2 Member

    I was going to publish this as a resource, but there isn't a cruise category for resources - so thread it is. I wanted to document the strategies I have used or know of to find and book cheap cruises. Would love to hear new strategies from others. I also thought we might be able to use this thread to post exceptionally good deals we stumble across.

    What’s in a Fare?
    Like airfares, the final price you pay is going to be a combination of the base fare plus taxes and fees.
    Unlike airfares, the prices advertised are for base fare only. Taxes and fees are extra.

    Finding a Cheap Cruise
    • Cruise Sheet - http://www.cruisesheet.com
      • One of the only sources that can sort by cost/day (cruise fare only).
    • VacationstoGo - http://www.vacationstogo.com
      • Once you’ve generated a list based on your criteria (date range, length of cruise, region, etc), the list can be sorted by cost per night.
      • 90 Day Ticker is useful for finding last-minute deals
      • Discounted solo supplement list is great for us solo-cruisers.
      • Note: This is a good place to start, but I’ve never actually booked with them because every time I’ve called (about three times) the fare on their webpage was “no longer available”. YMMV
    • CruCon - http://www.crucon.com
      • One of the larger online cruise travel agents. Their interface is pretty easy to use to check prices.
      • They often run sales which provide extra perks for booking depending on the type of cruise you are booking. Longer cruises in higher categories of cabins get the best benefits.€
    • LMTClub - http://www.lmtclub.com
      • “Paid” travel club. But, there is almost always a way to get free membership if you google around a bit.
      • I’ve seen cruise fares here that are lower than anywhere else on select sailings, but it’s very hit or miss.
    • CruiseCompete - http://www.cruisecompete.com
      • Once you’ve determined which cruise you want, you can select the sailing, number of people, and type of cabin on CruiseCompete and receive quotes from a number of travel agencies.
      • Sometimes they will offer additional perks such as OBC, gratuities, or excursions in addition to the standard best price you can get booking online yourself.
    Discounted Fares

    There are a number of groups that sometimes receive discounted rates. This can be hit or miss depending on the cruise line and specific sailing, but it’s wise to check and categories you belong to just in case. Only one person in the cabin needs to be eligible for the rate and it will (generally) apply to the whole cabin.
    • State of Residence - Cruise companies (for reasons I don’t fully understand) will often have resident rates for certain states that are less than their published rate.
    • Cruise Line Loyalty - There are often lower rates for individuals who have previously sailed with a line before. There are also sometimes specific discounts for elite members of a cruise line’s loyalty program.
    • Senior Citizen - Usually defined as 55+ but each line may vary.
    • Military - These are generally searchable on each line’s webpage and vacationstogo.com maintains a list of currently discounted cruises.
    • Police/Firefighters/EMTs - Vacationstogo.com maintains a list of discounted cruises.
    • Teachers - Vacationstogo.com maintains a list of discounted cruises.
    • Interline - Discounts for airline employees - see: http://saverocity.com/forum/threads...nts-for-airline-and-military-and-others.2305/

    Discounts, OBC, and Other Perks
    • Travel Agents
      • Travel agents will sometimes offer additional discounts, OBC, or other perks (alcohol, gratuities, specialty dining, etc.) for booking with them.
    • American Express Platinum Cruise Perks
      • Provides benefits on cruises of 5+ days on the following lines: Azamara; Celebrity; Crystal; Cunard; Holland America; Oceania; Paul Gauguin; Princess; Regent; Royal Caribbean; Seabourn; Silversea; Uniworld; Windstar.
      • $100 - $300 OBC depending on category of cabin booked.
      • Additional perks depending on cruise line - this can be something like a bottle of premium champagne/wine (Royal Caribbean); plate of canapes (Princess); or $150 per cabin shore excursion credit (Crystal).
    • Shareholder Perks
      • Carnival Corporation (Owners of 100 Shares)
        • Cruises on Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Seabourn, Cunard, Costa, Aida, Ibero, and P&O.
        • OBC based on number of days of cruise:
          • $250 - Sailings of 14 days or longer;
          • $100 - Sailings of 7 to 13 days; and
          • $50 - Sailings of 6 day or less.
        • Can generally combined with other discounts, sales, and OBC offers.
      • RCL (Owners of 100 Shares)
        • Cruises on Azamara, Celebrity, Croisieres de France, Pullmantur, Royal Caribbean, TUI Cruises
        • OBC based on number of nights of cruise:
          • $250 - Sailings of 14 nights or longer;
          • $200 - Sailings of 10 to 13 nights;
          • $100 - Sailings of 6 to 9 nights; and
          • $50 - Sailings of 5 nights or less.
        • Generally cannot be combined with other discounts, sales, and OBC offers.
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  2. Matt

    Matt Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks very much for this- I'll add a cruise resource category too.
  3. Dangjr213

    Dangjr213 Level 2 Member

    For those who book far enough in advance cruisefish.net can be a very useful tool. For 99 cents per booking they will track cruise prices and alert to you a decrease so that you can make a price protection claim. Have used this several times with Carnival's early saver bookings to receive tons of on board credit.
  4. MilesAddict

    MilesAddict Level 2 Member

    Excellent Point -- I think I should add an "After You Book Section". Cruisefish is great. You could do the same thing yourself. And then depending on the fare you booked, the amount of time until your cruise, etc. - you could either file for price protection, cancel and rebook, or upgrade for free.
  5. Matt

    Matt Administrator Staff Member

    Resource category is built - sorry for it not being there previously.
  6. ElainePDX

    ElainePDX Level 2 Member Premium Supporter

    Thanks for this.

    Would it make sense to have a sub-category for river cruises?
  7. Matt

    Matt Administrator Staff Member

    How many river cruise threads do we have?
  8. ElainePDX

    ElainePDX Level 2 Member Premium Supporter

    I was hoping that would encourage some! It's my dream vacation but I've always thought they are too expensive. My intention was a way to keep cruise resource info separated for ocean vs. river.

    It gets hard to find info when things get mixed up, for example there were lots of AFT posts mixed into the Redbird threads for a while. I like categories.
  9. Matt

    Matt Administrator Staff Member

    It is hard to keep the natives from posting in the correct thread.. hopefully I have cleaned up Redbird for now...

    I don't like creating empty areas - I'd rather have too much in one place to the point that it becomes complex, then spin out their dedicated areas, else you have everything sub categorized and no content. Though that said I tend to build the subforums pretty quickly, so if I saw more than a couple of posts on river cruising I'd open up the area for them.
  10. MilesAddict

    MilesAddict Level 2 Member

    In random cruise discounts: myVEGAS (the MGM facebook game) has rewards for their partner Royal Caribbean, including:
    • $100 in OBC for 100,000 points
    • $200 in OBC for 200,000 points (4 nights or longer)
    • $300 in OBC for 300,000 points (7 nights or longer)
    • Select Beverage Package for 140,000 points
    • Ultimate Beverage Package for 225,000 points
    • Complimentary Companion Cruise Rate on Select Sailings - 750,000 points
    • Free 4 Night Caribbean or Bahama Cruise for 2 - 1,200,000 points
    There seems to be a sweet spot with the Beverage Packages on longer cruises (if you are a drinker), since those awards don't seem to have a restriction on the length of the cruise. OBC redemptions are also intriguing.

    It is RCCL, so rewards can't be combined with other discounts such as Shareholder OBC, AmEx Platinum benefits, or Crown&Anchor (loyalty program) benefits.
  11. Darlene

    Darlene Level 2 Member

    This looks like a good place to get an opinion on my cruise strategy. We took a cruise 11 years ago and it was the most relaxing vacation I ever had. So being that I am extremely stressed right now seems a cruise is the logical solution. The biggest problem is winter in NEPA and the smaller problem is a cheap husband.

    There are some cruises leaving this week for cheap but airfare is 3-4x what I am willing to pay. My idea is to book a flight 4-8 weeks from now and then book a cruise the week of sailing. I am willing to take the chance of the cruise not being available. The reason for doing this is if the weather is not looking good I can scrap it and try again in a few weeks. Though it looked like we were going to have a bad storm today and it only rained. Insurance against airline delays for weather (among other things) is $49/person on an approximately $200/person cruise which is not frugal so by booking last minute we would avoid having to consider that extra cost. I'd like a 4 day cruise but thought that if we fly down 1-2 days prior that will give us a good buffer for weather and then we would take a 3 day cruise. If I fly down that early I will more than likely need a car. If I fly to Orlando and have a car but can't get a sailing from Port Canaveral I am only a couple hour drive from 3 other ports.

    Other info:
    Cruiseline: Carnival
    Airline: Southwest
    Schedule: Flexible,
    Hotels for extra days will not add to cost.
    Would need a deal on a rental car.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  12. slickmouse

    slickmouse Level 2 Member

    Darlene -

    Hi! I'm new to the boards - but not to cruising. I agree - it's one of my favorite way to vacation. IMO, if you're flexible in which cruise line you want to take - I would think you'd be able to find something available. Especially this time of year. Another thing to consider is being flexible on which port to leave from. I've found some of the best deals ($ or pts) to FLL or WPB from my area...and you can easily take the train between WPB and/or FLL.

    Giving the time of year - I would think you'd be able to find something - and the rates are pretty great right now.

    Have fun!
  13. Xingu Bob

    Xingu Bob New Member

    Great info. Thanks. But don't forget, once you have booked your cruise the fare can drop and you'll want to take advantage of the decrease. For $1.00 you can set up an alert on www.cruisefish.net and they will email you when the fare drops. I have saved hundreds of dollars with this alert system.
  14. Gloobnib

    Gloobnib Travel Burninator

    Below is a cut/paste of advice I gave to a neighbor who was looking to book a cruise for the first time. It is my current go-to strategy for getting the best pricing on cruises without going crazy or getting to 'analysis paralysis'. The neighbor found it useful; I'm hoping others will likewise find it useful.

    My top advice:
    • Do a bit of reading to try to figure out which cruise is for you. If you haven't found it yet, cruisecritic.com is the best site to get feedback on various cruiselines, individual ships, as well as member reviews on specific itineraries. They have a very strong user community (message boards) where you can find out just about anything you'd ever want to know about ships, ports of call, excursions, or just getting ideas about what to do.
    • In the past we've booked cruises through cruise.com, cruises.com, and crowncruisevacations.com. I can't say any of them are better than the others. But they each have a cruise search page that you can use to get an overall idea about which ships are sailing which itineraries on which days. You can also find out rough prices through their online 'cruise search' forms without ever having to speak to a human.
    • Once you've really narrowed down the cruise you want to just one or two specific ships/dates, go to cruisecompete.com, set up an account, and submit a pricing request for the cruise you want. Within a matter of a few hours you should have between 3-7 different travel agents submitting quotes with their 'best' pricing. **Be as specific as you can when submitting the request**, as it is really hard to get the agents to give you true apples to apples quotes.
      • Example: "My family and I are interested in two cabins for the January 2nd 2016 sailing of the Adventure of the Seas. We need one Balcony Cabin category D2 or above and one Inside Cabin category whatever. There will be two adults staying in each cabin. We are not interested in 'Guarantee ' cabins; we want the staterooms assigned at booking. I have done my research and will be booking this cruise within the next 72 hours based upon the best available offer."
      • Most of them will come back with a price which will generally be within $100-$200 of each other. They will all include some variation of the current promotion from whatever cruise line you've picked. Where they will primarily differ is in the amount of on-board credit (OBC - equivalent to a gift card for optional services you buy onboard), and if they are throwing in "pre-paid gratuituties". I personally value the pre-paid tips over an equivalent amount of OBC. We don't drink much on the boat, so we often find ourselves with a lot of OBC that we have to spend down before the cruise is over.
      • Choose the one that you like the best, then go ahead and book that puppy!
      • Bonus Expert Mode Tip: Once you've booked the trip, setup a cruise price alert on Cruisefish.net. It basically keeps checking the price for the cabin you booked up until the final payment is due. If the price drops, it will email you. If the price drops significantly (I usually wait for a difference of $150 or more per cabin), you can then go back to your agent and tell them you'd like to see an adjustment or compensation. Most of them will gladly issue you OBC equivalent to the difference in fares.

    A few other things to keep in mind:

    • When you do finally book a cabin (over the phone), be sure to do so while you are in front of your computer and with the deck plans available. Don't be shy about telling them that you want to understand exactly where your cabin is located (and more importantly what is around your cabin). Things to watch out for:
      • Pool decks/restaurants/gyms on the deck immediately above or below you. Ideally you want to be on a deck sandwiched between two other decks with guest cabins above/below you.
      • Service areas - Basically where the housekeeping and room service people come and go (ALL NIGHT LONG). If you see an unexplained gap between cabins, that's likely what the gap is.
      • Proximity to Elevators - Some prefer to be close, some prefer to be far. Some say the dinging keeps them up at night. I personally don't care much.
      • Stern Cabins - Lovely views, but many people complain about engine vibrations especially really early in the morning as the ship docks for the day.
      • If you're worried about seasickness, pick a cabin towards the middle of the ship and on one of the lower decks. There is much less motion there (as opposed to high up and in the far front/rear). Personally I've never had a problem with it, but <wife> and <daughter> were a little queezy on one of the trips.
  15. plane2port

    plane2port Level 2 Member

    Good basic advice in you post, Gloobnib!
  16. Toddb

    Toddb New Member

    WOW.. Great information. The wife and I are talking about taking our fist cruise, and this information will help a bunch. I never thought about the cabin location being a big deal, but now I will make sure to look into that.
  17. Calgary88

    Calgary88 New Member

    Very informative, and thanks.
  18. ttnc4me

    ttnc4me New Member

    We cruise at least once a year and have traveled all over the world cruising. If you're flexible, you can wait to get a discounted fare <90 days from sailing because that's the cutoff date for people to decide to pay in full or jump ship (figuratively). It's generally at this time that fares decrease. Of course time of year plays a roll and I would not necessarily suggest this strategy around Christmas, New Years, or some more popular spring break weeks.

    Other deals sites to be had I didn't see mentioned are Costco and BJs. They tend to have their own cabin availability with prices in line with the discount operations in addition to their own perks.

    Lastly, if you book <90 days, most lines' policies are to be SOL for pricing but it still pays to watch for drops and request either a refund or more likely a free upgrade. If you paid $1100 for an inside cabin and then a porthole opens up for that amount, then you'll likely get bumped up as long as it's in the exact same category. It'd be up to you to decide if any lost perks are worth losing at the time. Sometimes they'll remain & other times they'll remove them. Make sure of what you're getting before you agree.

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