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Tips For Your Next Cruise

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Tips & Advice for the Seasoned and Armchair Traveler Alike! 

Dec. 11, 2007 

----- 13 tips to save money on your next cruise ------

Wave season is just around the corner, and there are deals 
to be had 

By Christopher Elliott
Travel columnist
MSNBC contributor

Thinking of taking a cruise? Then you picked the right time 
— and you're reading the right story. 

Wave season — the time of year when most cruises are booked 
— is just ahead. It runs from January to about mid-March, 
and because everyone's out there buying a floating 
vacation, there are lots of deals to be had. 

But the 2008 wave season promises to be a little different 
than past ones. Coming off a year in which the industry 
trade group Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) 
expected to welcome a record 12.62 million cruise 
passengers, an increase of about a half-million guests 
over 2006, there's trouble on the horizon.  

The biggest, as far as passengers are concerned, are a 
pesky and probably illegal fuel surcharge on cruises. It's 
no secret that fuel prices have risen recently, but the 
cruise industry appears to have taken the Gordon Gekko 
approach to paying its energy bills. Many have retroactive-
ly charged customers who already paid for their cruises in 
full, offering a piece of the action to travel agents who 
helped them collect. 

Forget, for a moment, that some cruise lines have hedged 
their fuel costs, which means they aren’t really paying 
more for energy. And forget that those same cruise lines 
also agreed in 1997 to not charge any fees in addition to 
the advertised initial ticket price, except those actually 
passed on by the company to a government agency. 

Apparently, greed is good. 

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At a time like this, you have to be smarter about your 
cruise purchase. First, find a competent travel agent. 
Nearly 9 in 10 cruises are sold by professional travel 
consultants, and there are many knowledgeable agents out 
there who know their stuff. I always check to make sure 
they're members of the American Society of Travel Agents 
or CLIA — signs that they're on the up-and-up. 

Next, you should know that there could be deals, and lots 
of them. The major cruise lines were expected to add 12 new 
ships totaling 22,039 beds, and if demand doesn't keep up 
with supply, you could see some serious discounting come 
wave season. So shop hard. 

And beyond that? I asked a few good agents and veteran 
cruisers for their money-saving secrets. 

Here they are: 

Buy now. When Jeff Cooper worked for a cruise line, the 
best deals didn't come during wave season. They came 
just before. In other words, now. "The sailings prior to 
Christmas and New Years were rarely at capacity," says 
Cooper, who now works as a hospital administrator. And 
while the bargains during wave period were good, these 
were better. 

Skip the air-inclusive cruise. "Cruise air is usually the 
worst possible deal," says Amber Blecker, an agent for 
CruiseResource.com. "You get bad itineraries, multiple 
connections and higher prices." And, she adds, don't think 
for a moment the cruise line will wait if your plane is 
late. "That's a wives tale," she says. 

Find a preferred agent. There are travel agents, and then 
there are travel agents. "Find one that specializes in 
booking with your desired cruise line," advises Charles 
McCool, a consultant who specializes in finding travel 
deals. "Only a select few have preferred status. These 
agents and agencies offer better discounts and amenities, 
and the cruises cost between 10 percent and 20 percent less 
than cruises bought from other agents." 

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Think small, think shoulder-season. Crystal Griffith, a 
nurse from Baker, Fla., scored a deep discount on her 
Alaska cruise by choosing a September itinerary and picking 
a windowless inside cabin. "We rarely spent much time in 
the cabin, and use it mainly for sleeping," she says. "It 
saved us lots of money." 

Become a shareholder. "If you buy 100 shares of Carnival or 
Royal Caribbean shares, you'll get between $50 and $200 of 
free cabin credit on every cruise," says George Smart, a 
consultant in Research Triangle Park, NC. Note: Carnival 
and Royal Caribbean own most of the cruise lines out there, 
so this is a pretty decent deal.' 

Ask about discounts. One of the most popular is the 
military discount. Some cruise lines insist on either 
active-duty status or evidence of a long career. But not 
all. "Carnival Cruise line will sell their military rate 
to anyone who has served for two years," says Liz Lamagese, 
a Tampa, Fla.-based travel agent. "As long as you have your 
separation papers to fax them, you can get very low rates 
on most of their cruises."  

Private tours can save you big money. That's what Jerry 
Rothstein, a New York investment consultant, discovered 
on a recent cruise to the Greek islands. "We quickly 
figured out that for six people, we'd be better off having 
a private arrangement for shore excursions," he says. Now 
he regularly runs Internet searches to find less costly 
tours for groups that are "more intimate" and cost less 
than those offered by the cruise line. 

Become a frequent cruiser. Evelyn Fine, a market researcher 
based in Daytona Beach, Fla., has found that loyalty pays. 
Cruise lines offer her everything from discounts to special 
on-board perks, like VIP receptions and priority dinner 
reservations. "Becoming a loyal customer is worth it,"  
she says. 

For a free upgrade, tell them you're a VIP. Actually, get 
your travel agent to tell them you're a VIP, says Royce 
Jones, a Jackson, Miss., furniture manufacturers 
representative. "My agent tells the cruise line I'm one 
of her best customers, and that if I like the trip, I'll 
return again in the future," he says. "And then she asks 
for an upgrade. It works most of the time."  

Don't get on the bus. "One of the best ways to save money 
on a cruise is to not take the provided transportation that 
meets you at the dock," says Michael Berger, an information 
systems consultant in Chilliwack, Canada. "They usually 
cost more or end up taking you to their uncle's store to 
get a discount." Instead, he recommends walking a block or 
two away from the dock and finding a local transportation 
option. It's cheaper, and you're less likely to fall for a 
tourist trap. 


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Get a soda sticker. If you like bubbly drinks, buy the soda 
sticker for the cruise if your cruise line sells one. On 
Princess, for example, $29.50 gives you unlimited soda — 
something Tom Kinsella Woodbridge, Va., software manager, 
discovered on his last cruise. "And bring your own large 
soda mug. Ours is 64 ounces, and they'll fill it any time 
you need it filled. That way, you're not stuck with their 
small glasses."  

Or try these two booze tricks. Tip #1: Bring your own wine 
and pay a corking fee at dinner. "It's still cheaper than 
the roughly $30 low-end wines offered by the cruise line," 
says Kirsten Taylor, an information technology manager in 
Feeding Hills, Mass. Tip #2: If you prefer hard liquor, try 
emptying a water bottle and replacing it with your favorite 
vodka or gin. "No one will notice," says David Tuder, a 
banker from New York. 

Buy your next cruise... on your cruise. "The cruise line 
will offer special deals available only onboard, with much 
lower base prices than you’d find off the ship," says Kevin 
Harris, a hotel owner from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "And when 
you book with the onboard person, you usually receive 
higher onboard credits to spend anywhere on the ship." 

This wave season, you don't have to be swamped with higher 
cruise prices and unexpected surcharges. Just take a few 
tips from people who are in the know, and you'll save a 
few bucks and have better cruise. 

Well, that's it for this week, group. Thanks again for 
reading, and please keep those comments, complaints and 
questions coming in. 

You can send me an e-mail message at: Email Pierce

Until next week, thanks for reading.   

Your Tipmeister,   


P.S. If you're interested you can now post comments on this 
and recent issues on our forum at... Travel Tips Forum 


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