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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Find Help In Navigating Through All The Cruise Deal Offers During Wave Season

Searching for and evaluating all the cruise deals on offer during wave season, especially senior, family or group offers, has always been challenging.  But a new Cruise Finder at Cruise Direct Online just made the process a little easier. This new tool will help cruise travelers find the cruise that is best suited to their individual needs. Cruise Travelers can compare up to 4 offers side by side helping consumers navigate the complicated cruise travel marketplace.

Wave Season is the annual cruise sales period from January to March when a majority of cruise vacations are sold both by online and traditional "Brick and Mortar" travel agents.

The new information can be found at , http://www.cruisedirectonline.com/cruiseconnect.htm and offers features such as:
  • cruises from up to 24 brand-name cruise lines
  • side-by-side comparisons of ships, sailing dates
  • compare the ports-of-call
  • read  a "Cruise Critic" cruise ship and cruise line review
  • find discount prices, special offers for seniors, families
  • see if you qualify for resident rates based on where you live
  • Are you in the Military or community service, such as a Teacher, EMT , Police Officer or Firefighter, you may qualify for special rates
  • sruise tips, answers to your questions and expert advice
  • all on one easy to read page. Compare and save!
To show you how it works, Cruise Direct Online chose 4 cruise lines ( Disney, NCL, Royal Caribbean and Carnival ) and 4 cruise ships ( Disney Wonder, Norwegian Sky, Monarch of the Seas and Carnival Sensation)  that sail to the Bahamas to compare side-by-side. Prices varied from $229 to $519 for an inside cabin on a 3 day cruise in the same general time period ( August ) and remarkably one cruise came out on top, charging only $215 for a 4 day cruise out of Port Canaveral.  One extra day at a cheaper price! You can also read about what others who sailed on these ships had to say. 63 cruise reviews in all. You can choose any destination or cruise ship to compare side by side to 4 others. The results can be found at http://www.cruisedirectonline.com/cruiseconnect.htm

There is also a section for first-time cruisers 'What to know before you go" with tips, a cruising guide and travel advice. 

If you've never cruised before, you probably have a boatload of questions. That's why you need this indispensible first-time cruiser's guide, filled with useful cruising tips, expert advice, and more.  Find answers to your most pressing questions, get advice on how to choose the perfect ship, cruise line, and stateroom, use the cruise destinations guide to plan your trip, and learn more about the action-packed activities that await onboard. Get your sea legs before you sail with these first-time cruiser tips.

How do I know I am getting a good cruise deal?
Consumers spend countless hours surfing the internet in search of the best cruise deal. Every web site they visit proclaims to have the best deal. But how do you know that's true?  For most web sites, it's nearly impossible to tell if you're getting a great cruise deal or not. That's because there are many variables that affect the price and value of your cruise experience.

Ever cruise ship is different. Some are new, some are old. Some are big. Even gigantic, like the Oasis or Allure of the Seas with nearly 6,000 people on board. Others are more intimate, like Windstar's Wind Surf with 150 guests.

Prices, onboard amenities, accommodations, entertainment all vary from ship to ship. The itinerary isn't often the same. It can be very confusing.

So, the new Cruise Finder allows consumers to compare side-by-side up to 8 variables for the same destination and number of days sailing. Would that help consumers make more informed choices? The information provided with the Cruise Finder makes the cruise travel marketplace more transparent than ever before, so it is easier to evaluate the value and cost of cruising.

Compare cruises from brand-name cruise lines, view side-by-side comparisons of ships, the itinerary, cruise review, traveler rating, sailing dates, discount prices, special offers and cruise tips.  View photo's of ships and staterooms, public areas and more. Check out the onboard activities and shore excursions.  

After reviewing the data, you can choose to book online or speak with a professional travel agent who can help you determine which cruise best meets your vacation and budget needs. 


Exercise Extreme Caution Before Bargain Shopping For A Cruise Vacation
We pride ourselves on being savvy bargain hunters. Online coupons, online discounts, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cruise Tuesday and the ease in how we comparison shop on everything from a blu-ray DVD player to a cruise vacation has made it faster than ever for consumers to hunt down bargains. However, there are some things that are more important than just getting the cheapest cruise deal.

Cruise travel is a perfect example. There’s an array of online travel companies offering cruise deal quotes.
Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline, or Cruise Direct, just to name a few.

Although there is an appeal in convenience and a supposed bargain, cruise travel isn’t a one-size-fits-all vacation. The “right” cruise for you involves much more than cost; much like an electronics buyer doesn’t just consider cost when purchasing a new 50 inch 3-D HD TV. If typing in your criteria and clicking the “buy now” button on the cheapest 3-D Television you can find sounds unwise, then planning your cruise vacation this way should seem just as misguided.
Of course, cost should be a consideration when booking a cruise, but consumers should also consider:

Determine the Vacation Value
“You get what you pay for” is an apt adage for just about anything we purchase these days. What one cruise travel company touts as a bargain vacation is usually nothing more than a cruise line offering an inside cabin, at the very bottom of the ship, next to the disco and miles of walking to the nearest elevator to get to the ship's dining room or entertainment venues. Cruise costs are priced based on the deck and location of a cabin and the type of accommodation: inside, outside, balcony or a suite.  Book the wrong sized cabin for your family and for 7 days you may feel like sardines in a can.  And, you can't ask for another room like at a hotel, because the ship likely to be sold out. Many cruises will appear to be similar, visiting the same ports-of-call, but the shipboard amenities, size of accommodation, caliber of food and service, even the most subtle variation can result in a significant cost, value, and benefit difference.

Determine What Your Travel Needs Are
There are many types of Cruises: adventure and wildlife ( Alaska ),  sunshine and shopping ( The Caribbean ), exotic ( Asia and the Far East ), cultural and historic ( Europe ).

Each of these types is also available in dozens of unique itinerary variations. Some cruise ships cater to an older crowd ( Holland America ),  others to party-hardy cruisers ( Carnival ). Some are more family-friendly ( Royal Caribbean, Disney ).  It might seem daunting to evaluate the benefits and features associated with each type of cruise, but that is truly the only way to guarantee that you obtain the best cruise for your specific need.  Opting for the cheapest cruise, regardless of whether it actually meets your need, can actually ruin you vacation plans.

Consult with a Knowledgeable and Experienced Professional
A cruise vacation, or any vacation for that matter, when purchased correctly, can lead to a fun, exciting and most memorable experience.  However, it is also costs a lot of your hard-earned money, and you want to make sure that every dollar is going toward an experience that is best for you and your family.
A cruise travel expert can help you navigate the waters, lay out the best travel options, and recommend a cruise that bests accommodate your needs.  Best of all, if you have a question or concern about your vacation, you aren’t limited to speaking to a telemarketer or looking up the answer at an online “FAQ” page.

Think Twice Before Buying A Cruise Direct From The Cruise Line
Want to book your cruise directly with the cruise line? Think again.
Calling the cruise line does not always result in the lowest cost or the right choice.  It does, however, mean that you will connected to a call center and the person answering the phone is never the same person when you call again.  As with any telemarketing organization, there is often high turnover in these positions, so you might never develop a relationship you can rely on, nor get the answers you seek.

When you are considering a cruise vacation, you probably want to count on a travel agent to assist you in understanding the many options available. For instance, what type of cabin should you choose? Should you pay for travel insurance or not? Should your teenager kids have their own cabin? How large a cabin do I need? Do I really want a balcony cabin at a higher cost? Why should I choose this cruise ship over another? 

You won't get those answers from the cruise line. You see they represent only their product. They aren't going to help you compare their offerings to others in the business. The telemarketer on the phone may only be interested in getting you to book as quickly as possible, so he or she can get on to the next person waiting in the queue.

Although it is possible that you might attain the best price directly from the cruise line, it is also likely that you might not. More importantly, you might get what appears on the surface to be a better deal, but on closer examination is not as good as you originally thought.

You may qualify for a special rate based upon where you live, or based on your age ( seniors of kids ). You may be serving in the military, a community service worker: teacher, firefighter, or police officer. There are special offers out there just for you.  But if you don't know to ask for them, you won't get them, as often the cruise line's telemarketer doesn't volunteer that information. Their interest is self-serving. Get you to book a cruise at the highest cost possible.

Travel agents, on the other hand, especially those that specialize in cruise vacations have a lot of clout in the industry. They are able to negotiate group rates and offer you a cruise vacation, one that fits your needs,  that costs hundred's of dollars cheaper than you can by going to the cruise line direct.  And, you don't even have to belong to the "group" to get the deal. Anyone can "Book In" and pocket the savings.

Travel Agents earn a commission (10-15% of the cruise fare) when they sell a cruise. If you book direct from the cruise line, guess what?  The cruise line is not going to cut the price, and pass the savings onto you, even though they pocket that commission as extra profit.  In most cases travel agents do not charge for their services, so why not take advantage of their knowledge and experience and get your 15% worth.

Your travel professional has spend quality time with you, knows you and understands your needs. Someone at the cruise line you have never talked to before might not know enough about you to recommend the best choice for your cruise vacation.  If they don’t know you, how will they know what to recommend?  A cruise travel advisor who knows you and your family needs is in a much better position to make sure you know which cruise line, ship, itinerary and price meets your needs.

So, if you are wondering if you might get a better deal on your cruise vacation if you buy direct and cut out the middleman. You won't.

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