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Cheapest Cruises: Where do I Find the "Best Price"


by Tim Rubacky

If there is any one subject that is the bane of every cruisers existence, this is it. So many ships, so many different deals, so many different prices. How do I know I'm getting the best price?

Finding the best price can be accomplished fairly easily with a little time and not a whole lot of effort. The best price does not always result in the cheapest cruise. Don't buy on price alone. A cheap price is not a bargain if the ship or cruise does not fit your lifestyle, interests or is simply an inferior product. Getting the BEST price means getting exactly what you want at a fair price.

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HOW TO FIND THE BEST PRICE
First and foremost, establish a realistic outlook and budget by utilizing all of the online resources in CruiseMates such as the Bargain Finder and reading through the News and Bargains section. You should also consult the cruise line websites to see if they have any special promotions and sample pricing.

Read the Sunday Travel Section of your local newspaper or pick up a copy of a major metropolitan newspaper such as the New York Times, LA Times or Miami Herald.

Consult knowledgeable cruise travel agents and ask them what special promotions they have received via fax or e-mail from the cruise lines such as reduced air add ons or "regional specials" which may be offered to residents of certain states or air "gateway" cities.

If you're a repeat cruiser with a particular line, ask about any specials they may have for repeaters and don't throw out those past passenger mailings. Carnival, Celebrity, HAL, NCL, Princess and RCI typically have some tremendous savings available on select sailings which not only provide savings on the cruise price but include value added perks such as shipboard credits, free shore excursions and phenomenal upgrade opportunities.

Be flexible with your travel dates. You'd be amazed how much you can save just by moving your travel dates by one month or even one week!

Have your travel agent and the cruise lines add you to their mail, e-mail or fax specials list. You may also consider using one of the large online or 1-800 cruise only agencies. In many instances, they hold large blocks of space and pass along considerable savings. You can easily locate listings of these agencies in the CruiseMates Classifieds or in magazines such as Cruise Travel.

Try to book as early as possible to get the best combination of ship, sailing date and choice of accommodations. Ultimately, getting exactly what you want at a fair price is the best value. Many cruise lines will also offer an extra perk such as an upgrade or free pre or post cruise stay to get you to book early.

Check out one of the online auction sites such as www.allcruiseauction.com. While these auction sites may offer what seems to be a great value at the outset, they can get expensive quickly, be sure to check whether port charges and air-fare are or are not included. Read the fine print. What may appear to be a bargain may not be if there are "hidden" extra charges that aren't included in the advertised price.

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