1. Buy early. When Jeff Cooper worked for a cruise line, the best deals came just before wave season. “The sailings prior to Christmas and New Year’s 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.”
4. Think small, think shoulder-season. Crystal Griffith, a nurse from Baker, Florida, 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 used it mainly for sleeping,” she says. “It saved us lots of money.”
By Christopher Elliott
Tribune Media Services