Online Traveler
by John Garrett

Published May, 14, 2000

Cruisemates high on list of sites for cruise bargains

The introduction of so many new and larger ships has made cruising a bargain hunter's delight, and Cruisemates (cruisemates.com) is one of the Web's best sites to start hunting.

It is also one of the most complete sites I've seen for cruise information -- everything from ship reviews and ratings to itineraries for almost every cruise ship -- to a plethora of information for first-time cruisers.

There are two ways to look for bargains.

You will find a list of some of the best deals offered by several different travel agencies when you click on the "Cruise Bargains" button. Or try "Bargain Finder," which allows you to seek bids from travel agents for any ship or destination that interests you.

The site's best feature, however, is the vast selection of ship reviews by Anne Campbell, who authored Fielding's Guide to Worldwide Cruises and founded America Online's Cruise Critic feature.

Her reviews are marvelously detailed and, based on my experience, dead on. She gives a "Quality Rating" and a "Value Rating" for each ship, then quickly tells you what makes the ship desirable and, equally important, who should avoid it.

You can also read reviews by visitors to the site, and their detailed ratings. You are also invited to submit your own ratings for ships on which you've cruised.

Some of the best bargains I've seen on the Web come from a New Jersey travel agency, Cruise Value Center (www.cruisevalue.com/page1.html).

I've had no experience with this firm, but the prices (click on the Top Secret button) are certainly enticing.

Cruisehunt (http://www.cruisehunt.com/)allows you to search for deals by date, ship, destination or special interests, and claims that it will find "the travel agent who has secured the best deal on the cruise you select."

Cruise411.com (cruise411.com) claims to maintain the Net's largest cruise database, and whether that istrue or not, this site is worth a visit.

It offers deck plans for most popular cruise ships and the same reviews by Anne Campbell that you'll find at the Cruisemates site.

The Online Traveler is a weekly guide to travel information available in cyberspace. Send e-mail to The Online Traveler at jgarrett@pe.net or visit the Web site, http://www.inlandempireonline.com/traveler/html/2000/www.inlandempireonline.com/traveler.