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November 01, 2011


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I would actually prefer the Costco deal even at the same package price as another site. A dollar of onboard credit is worth a lot less than a dollar in my pocket. Prices on the ship are going to be a lot higher than what you'll pay at each port of call if you spend it wisely.

We've done a couple cruises through this agent: and been very happy as they've taken care of everything. If you get on their news letter, they make you aware of the trips and dates.

May not be the best if you are looking for specific cruise locations/dates, but they host several every year.

On a side not, I'd be curious how much you feel you've saved vs the time and effort you seem to have put into your trip.

KenH --

Versus the full fare, I've probably saved several hundred dollars. Was it worth the time/effort? Probably not on this trip alone. But much of it was an education for me -- something that will benefit me on future trips. Also, I knew I could write about it here, so I'm not adverse to putting in some extra time.

Hey, since it's a "business" topic, think I can deduct the trip? ;-)

@FMF - start a travel blog and it probably is deductible!

I just got back from my honeymoon. While we tried to plan everything perfectly, there were some instances where we didn't get quite the best deal or had to pay more to exchange money than we had hoped, etc. It would be wise to budget this into all our future vacations because oftentimes, especially in a foreign country, situations don't lend themselves to getting the best deal, even with prudent planning.

I was thinking more of if you'd just booked it after a quick check of a few sites. I manage an IT team and they use to spend quite a bit of time searching for the best deals and tell me how much they saved...all the while we are behind on our other tasks. Since we've changed to just ordering from a few sites and just compare those prices, they've spent a lot less time 'saving' money and have gotten things done. Definitely somewhat different when it's your time and money though.

I would think you could easily deduct the trip. The blog would be a most beneficial means towards that end. If you could analyze the cost differential of the excursions thru the ship vs on your own, I would appreciate it. One port you could analyze land excursions and another the water ones...or some other breakdown.

Have fun and i think you'll be happy for the room upgrade.

I'm tired just reading your experience. My partner and I are going on a cruise right after Thanksgiving. It's a 5 night Caribbean cruise on Carnival and I paid $400 and will receive $100 on-board credit. The credit came from 1) pre-paying for my next cruise when I cruised in 2010 - be sure to look into that when you're on the boat and 2) taking advantage of a promotion code the on-board casino mailed me.

I booked directly on the website. My research took 20 minutes or so. It helps that I am flexible - I looked at three different ports and two months to find the best deal.

Just a tip about cruise onboard credit - you CAN use it to pay gratuities (for most cruiselines, at least) despite what the disclaimer tells you. So unless you somehow amass an enormous amount of it, this makes OBC basically the same as cash, and you shouldn't feel obligated to spend it all on the overpriced crap onboard.

Also, look into booking your excursions independently - it's well worth it, both in savings and in having a better & less crowded experience, but you do have to be more cognizant of managing your own time off the ship.

Lastly, if you happen to be going to Cozumel, I highly recommend looking into Nachi Cocom (all-inclusive beach club excursion).

Helen --

Is there a way to find out about independent excursion options (and various providers) for each island we'll be stopping at?

I reviewed 5 sites before finally booking my cruise with I can tell you that in 4 years of cruising I have yet to find a company that beat their deal.

Just booked our first cruise for end of February when its pretty dreary here in MI, 8 night cruise for $1200. I am just waiting to get hit with all the on-board charges since I have heard they nickle and dime you for everything.

Either way, we are looking forward to it and for the price, it would be hard to stay in a hotel and pay for food for that price.

Cindy --

I just checked (in the past 5 minutes) that site for grins since you mentioned it. They were $250 more expensive than Costco for the same cruise, room, etc. -- even with their much more generous OBC counted in.

Be aware of booking your own excursions, the ship doesn't wait if you are late returning to port. It's on your dime to meet up with the ship at the next port-of-call unless the excursion is booked through the cruise line. Pay attention to time, as in time zones and daylight versus standard time, the ship's time may not be the same as local time.

Other than the cruiseline-owned private islands, any excursion type offered through the cruiseline should also be available independently (especially since the cruiselines just contract with independent providers themselves.)

I usually look on Cruise Critic and TripAdvisor for suggestions and recommendations - Cruise Critic has a separate message board for each port and there's a lot of great information posted there, although it does take a bit of digging.

Good luck!

Helen --

Thanks! I'll check out Cruise Critic!

BTW, Lurker Carl's comment is exactly what I meant about being cognizant and managing your own time. It's definitely something to keep in mind, but really not as hard or scary as it may seem.

The cruiseline will make sure you know what time to be back (usually half an hour before departure), and any differences with local time. This info will be on the schedule of activities delivered to your room the night before, announced over the PA, and posted by the gangway as you leave the ship.

Also, the tour operators are very used to having cruise ship passengers and will work with you to meet your schedule - making a customer miss his/her ship isn't exactly good for their business.

If you can get to a plane on time, you can definitely handle this. :)

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