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Squeeze More Everything into your Carnival Vacation
Bring the whole gang on any Carnival Cruise and get ready for some serious fun. Because almost everything is included, like comfy accommodations, jaw-dropping destinations, delicious dining options, live entertainment, and so much more.
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Allure of the Seas CruiseMates Cruise from $779
We have the best prices on Allure we have seen yet: Central Park view from $949. $100 shipboard credit. Join our group cruise.
Cruisemates Cruises
Allure of the Seas

Norwegian Epic CruiseMates Cruise from $599
A Cruisemates group cruise with Chef Matt Sigel of the popular series Hell's Kitchen. Norwegian Epic 10-30-10
Matt Sigel Cruise

CRUISE NEWS


WHERE THE BARGAINS ARE

Last Minute Deals Looking for a deal? Check America's Vacation Center's last-minute cruise offers! Click for Details!

Other HOT Deals...
  • from $399
    7-Night Norwegian Gem roundtrip New York to Port Canveral, NCL Private Island and Nassau - balcony just $649
  • from $899
    Allure of the Seas Inaugural Balconies $889 per person! Be one of the first to sail on this spectacular new ship with a savings of $980 per cabin over cruise line rates! These low rates will not last long. Call now and receive $50 in onboard credit!
  • from $493
    7-night Mexico on Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas - Biggest ship on the West Coast - leaves in January! See it now. Los Angeles to Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan.

We want your cruise reviews!
CruiseMates started publishing our readers' cruise reviews long before other web sites even thought of it. We already have thousands of reviews online, but there are never enough! CruiseMates and our sister site cruisereviews.com both want more of YOUR cruise reviews. So, please send them to us:

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Kiplinger's Magazine named CruiseMates to its Top 25 Best Value Travel Sites

CruiseMates is the most useful cruise-review site. We especially like its advice columns, which are written for people of different ages and interests.


 
08.12.2010
Travel Agents are the best way to buy a cruise.

Cruise Buying Misconceptions
I received a cruise newsletter for " cruise industry insiders," that noted a market study on cruisers' perceptions on the best way to buy
a cruise. I was surprised at how misinformed some people appear to be about cruise purchases, even in this day of readily available information. And so we want to clear the air.

Not everyone will like what we have to say, but since CruiseMates does not sell travel at all (even our group cruises are handled through an outside agency and unlike similar cruise communities, we don't care to profit from our readers) we have no stake in what we are saying other than our goal to give you the best possible advice on how to buy a cruise.

The study noted that only 78% of cruisers say they book "some" of their cruises with travel agents, down from 88% five years earlier. Most disquieting, 56% of people responded that they believe they can get a better price on a cruise if they book it on their own - without the help of a travel agent. Not true!

Here is the absolute truth: the best cruise deals come from cruise specialist travel agencies. These agencies can and will get you the same price you would get by booking directly with the cruise line every time, and they give you an added level of service you do not get by dealing directly with the cruise line. But best of all, in many cases they will sweeten the deal by offering you additional perks the cruise line would not give you. These are called "value add" inducements.


Norwegian Cruise Line's 7-day Bahamas from $649. Visit ncl.com or call your travel professional to book your cruise today.
Book now at ncl.com

In the last few months both Carnival and NCL have announced "flat pricing" policies, catching up with the flat-pricing policy already in effect with Royal Caribbean for a few years now. This means that whatever price you see advertised directly from a cruise line will be the same price you see at a cruise agency web site. For the record, Regent, Oceania and other luxury cruise lines also have the same policy.

But you will only get additional perks by using a travel agent - not by booking directly with the cruise line. The cruise lines allow agents to use "value added" enticements like transfers, trip insurance, dinner reservations, bottles of wine - anything except cash. There is an official policy limiting these perks to $150 in value, plus the agents cannot advertise the cash value of these value-added inducements. What does that mean? That you have to call these agents to find out what they will do for you.

Many novice travelers have travel agent phobia. Don't. Successful travel agents make a living by acquiring loyal customers and selling in volume. Some people don't understand that the cruise lines pay the full commission of the travel agent, it is not charged to the customer at all. All of the customer money goes directly to the cruise line and the agent is then paid a commission by the cruise line after you sail.


Squeeze More Everything into your Vacation
Bring the whole gang on any Carnival Cruise and get ready for some serious fun. Because almost everything is included, like comfy accommodations, jaw-dropping destinations, delicious dining options, live entertainment, and so much more.
Book your Carnival Function

Part of the new policy is that every cruise booked by a travel agent must be for the exact price set by the cruise line. So, every agency pays the same retail price as you would pay booking directly. Agents are later paid their commission by the cruise line in the form of a check after you sail. It's a tough business where cash flow is critical.

Another misconception is that travel agents will steer you away from what you want and towards the product where they make the most money. Let's answer that concern this way; First, if you don't already have a travel agent you trust you need to find one. Secondly, if do your research and know what you want before you book a cruise you won't be steered away.

Now, for the record, we have heard horror stories about a few agents charging a newcomer the brochure rate on a cruise. That is one reason flat-pricing works for you. If you are ever charged more for a cruise than the line is advertising you need a new travel agent. There is no acceptable excuse.

Travel agents are not paid commissions on airfare, however. Therefore, many agents invoke a service charge for selling you an airline ticket. This is fair, and this even includes the big sellers of air travel on the Internet.

It is important to understand that not all travel agents are the same. We highly recommend looking at our "Cruise Bargains" newsletters (sent out on Tuesdays) and in our "Cruise Bargains" area online to find the best cruise-specialist agencies. Finding a good agent takes time, but you can find out how to pick a travel agent by reading the articles in CruiseMates' Consumer Affairs area. There isn't a single aspect of cruise sales in there we haven't covered - there may be more than you will ever need to know. But one thing is sure, you will know how to buy a cruise when you are done reading.

For a detailed discussion on this topic and exactly what you should be paying a travel agent go to this forum: Travel Agent Fees.

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new feature articles

11 Years As A Cruise Writer; Who The Heck Hired This Guy?
Since our readership has grown exponentially, I thought I'd go back and re-visit some of my favorite articles and experiences. blue arrows

Are Airlines Price Gouging?
I remember when I used to love to fly - back in the day before the Government de-regulated the airlines. blue arrows

Value Season Approaching
The autumn season between the end of summer and the beginning of the holidays is when the best cruise bargains appear. blue arrows

Culinary Quest Aboard Seabourn Odyssey
Our culinary editor gives this luxury line the palate test. Will the food taste as good as it looks in these pictures? blue arrows

Cunard Queen Elizabeth Introduction
Queen Elizabeth emerges with dining, entertainment and décor fit for a Cunard queen. A shipyard inspection update. blue arrows

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Read about CruiseMates

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NEW CRUISEMATES CRUISES!

Chef Matt Sigel's Cruise with CruiseMates
Join Chef Matt Sigel's on Norwegian Epic, Halloween Cruise, Oct 30, 2010 Travel from Miami to Costa Maya, Roatan Honduras and Cozumel - 7-days

Let's Get Lei'd 5.0
We're doing yet again - for the fifth time (because these cruises do so well) - We are going to Hawaii on a Princess ship, this time the mega-Sapphire Princess. We sail from Los Angeles and return to the same. Eight days at sea and five beautiful ports of call - four of them in Hawaii, plus Ensenada. February 26, 2011.

Allure of the Seas
Join your CruiseMates on the newest world's biggest cruise ship on October 2nd, 2011, on the sister ship to Oasis of the Seas slated to debut in early December of 2010. We have great prices and plenty of onboard fun in store for you!