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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Where’s the cheapest place to book an Alaska Cruise?

Where’s the cheapest place
to book an Alaska Cruise?

By: Raye and Marty Trencher,
Editors & Publishers;
Cruise Traveler Magazine

Raye and I are often asked  “where’s the cheapest place to book an Alaska Cruise?”  To answer the question, requires more than a simple explanation, as each of us has a different take on what price and value represent when booking a vacation.

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All Alaska cruise prices are not the same

Most cruise lines prohibit travel agents from discounting the cruise line's prevail rate of the day for cruises.  Agents are required to show the same prices and fees, as shown on the cruise line's web site up.  However, there are exceptions. Many agents have access to other negotiated fares, such as group, senior, family or resident rates, or when they bundle the air or hotel with the cruise and the consumer does not see the exact break down, allowing some agents to have a price advantage over their competition. For example, at one agent's web site you may find a better cruise deal on 7 day cruises to Alaska, while another agent has a better deal for a land tour and sea cruise bundle.

Look out for those agency fees

Many travel agents will add their own nominal service charges, ( some as much as $24 per person ) a processing fee or cancellation fee depending on the transaction. Additionally, extra fees might be added if you need to make a change to the cruise after final payment, on top of the fee the cruise line itself might charge, often costing you more money.  Some travel agents don't charge fees at all, beyond what the cruise line imposes. Make sure to thoroughly read the terms and conditions of your booking prior to paying a deposit, or other payment. Make sure the agent explains their fee policy clearly and puts it in writing to you. If you anticipate possibly having to make changes or cancel your cruise, be sure to understand your obligations as it concerns these fees.

Cruise Lines

For most cruise lines, you will find the same prices on their sites as you will on any independent travel site. Cruise travelers prefer travel agent sites where you can shop multiple cruise lines, compare prices and availability,  book online or by phone and most importantly speak one-on-one to an experienced agent to not only save some money but get insights and advice about their trip.

Your cheap, not my cheap!

Stop someone on the street and ask them to define cheap, and it's most likely you'll get a variety of different answers. If it’s truly the least expensive cabin onboard you are looking for, then you may end up with an inside cabin below the disco, near the elevators, laundry room or all way to the rear of the ship. For most cruise travelers, that's not what they had in mind. If you spend a little more, you might get a good deal on an ocean-view cabin, or even a cabin with a balcony for not that much more money. If you book early, you might get an ocean-view or balcony-cabin for the same price as an inside or partially obstructed view outside cabin. Often these free upgrade promotions are not advertised or found on most sites. Your best bet is to call to find the latest up-to-the-moment cruise deals. Many agents are able to bundle the cruise, with pre-or-post cruise hotel stays in Fairbanks, Anchorage or Vancouver and bundle discounts, say on an Alaska land and sea vacation they put together and pass the savings on to you for a much better total price than if you bought them separately.

Be flexible, in Alaska, seasons count!

If you are able to keep your dates flexible by choosing the right month to travel to Alaska, you could save hundred's, plus find many more cost-saving options. Take advantage of the opportunity to be flexible, ( say book an Alaska vacation in May or September ) but when you see the savings, make sure a good deal is a real deal.

Do your due diligence

You should compare sites, prices, lines, ships and departure dates, but be sure to factor in onboard spending, gratuities and the cost of shore excursions in to your budget.

Bottom line, it’s all in how you look at it!

Your idea of a cheap Alaska cruise is likely to be different than other cruise travelers. Don’t rely on the cruise line or call center reservationist to help you find the cheapest solution that fits your travel needs. Know what you want before you shop and be as flexible as you can. Work with people you are comfortable with, and remember, experience and insightful tips from your agent have a value way beyond just the price you pay. When talking with a travel agent,  keep it simple, and make sure the conversation is focused on what is important to you. Don't be swayed by a sales pitch. When you are in contact with a Certified Alaska Cruise Expert, booking an Alaska cruise or Alaskan cruise tours is an easy process. You'll get great advice in addition to rock bottom prices.  If you find an agent that works well for you, spread the good news among your family and friends. And be sure to sign up for rewarding email-only promotions, unpublished prices and past-guest discounts.

We want to hear from you.

What is your favorite cruise travel booking site? Use the comments section and let us know.

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