Cruise vacations remain to be one of the best values today. With the inclusion of food, entertainment, accommodations, etc., there is no wonder why the cruise market is the fastest growing segment in the leisure travel market. Although the best value, there are still ways for travelers to stretch their dollar and more out of a cruise vacation. Below are 3 ways to get the best value.
Find a good travel agent
There is a common misconception that travel agents add cost to a vacation. This is not true! In fact, travel agents can actually save you time and money when booking a vacation. Travel agents know the fine print and restrictions, they know the destinations, and more importantly they know what and where to stay away from. Travel agents make their money on commissions from the cruise lines. In addition, many of the cruise lines do not allow discounting. Travel agents can however rebate commission back to their customers in the form of onboard credit (free money to spend onboard), complimentary travel insurance, upgrade opportunities, etc. In addition, most travel agencies hold group space open for clients. These cabins are often held on a lower price than what is currently offered due to the relationships travel agents have with the cruise lines. When in the market for booking a cruise vacation, be sure to ask if any groups are available to be booked in.
Being flexible is the key to finding a cruise vacation bargain. As stated above, booking into a pre-existing group can save up to several hundred dollars off of the prevailing rates. In addition, if flights are needed to get from one destination to another flexibility can further increase the savings.
Don’t spend frivolously onboard .
Do not fall for the traps while onboard…these include the “inch of gold,” or the other so called discounted merchandise. If a major purchase is to be had, do research prior to boarding the cruise. Being an educated buyer can also save hundreds, and help eliminate a costly mistake. Keep in mind, the cruise lines are there to make money too! Shop in port, not onboard! Merchants at the various ports are more willing to negotiate than the cruise lines are. If a spa day is in the works, try to get a list of what specials will be offered throughout the cruise vacation and negotiate the desired treatment to be had on a port day.
Settle with Cash, not a credit card
Instead of linking the onboard spending account to a credit card, use cash. This will assist with knowing exactly how much is being spent. The use of cash onboard requires the account be settled when a certain limit set by the cruise lines has been met.
Buy Travel Insurance!
Travel insurance is not a scam, it is there to protect the client. Many of the cruise lines now impose cancellation fees, and some sailings are fully non-refundable. Travel insurance will reimburse these costs if cancelled for a covered reason. They also cover lost baggage, trip delays, etc. In addition, many health insurance companies will not cover medically related issues while overseas. Ask what the covered reasons are and make sure the policy does not have a pre-existing condition exclusion. Lastly, travel insurance should cost no more than 8% of the total vacation price.
Remembering these tips will ensure a memorable yet cost effective cruise vacation. The last thing anyone wants while on a cruise is to be surprised by the onboard account statement on the last night.
Michael Schad is the President and CEO of Seaward Travels, a travel agency specializing in cruise vacations for families and retirees. Next time you are in the market for a cruise vacation, contact Seaward Travels to get the best value for your vacation.