Cruises, where to book?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Topic Author
BarbBrooklyn
Posts: 914
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:33 am
Location: NYC

Cruises, where to book?

Post by BarbBrooklyn »

I've searched the forums and not come up with a good answer.

I want to book a fairly expensive (for us) cruise: NCL, 20 days from Rome to Abu Dhabi; trying to figure out if I do this through Costco or NCL directly. Costco is offering me several "free" offers (unlimited alcohol and upgraded dining options, both of which come with hefty gratuity add ons that bring the price of the cruise up by nearly 1K; my husband doesn't drink and I might drink too much if I'm given this option; the upgraded dining is kind of lost on us, we're folks who like diners).

I'm a big Costco fan and almost always find them to be the better deal, but in this situation, booking directly with the cruise line seems to offer me more flexibility, i.e., to take the "free" options (some wi fi and cash back on shore excursions) that we might actually use that don't come with add ons. The "cash back" of 405$ does not come close to making up for the extra charges.

Any and all advice is appreciated. I'm having enough trouble pushing the button on spending 5-7K on this cruise before airfare.
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."
truenorth418
Posts: 515
Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:38 am

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by truenorth418 »

Call the NCL rep on the toll free number listed on their website. Ask if they can offer any “extras” that you’d actually be interested in. Put down a deposit. Check back occasionally to see if there are any price decreases prior to final payment is due. If there are any price reductions, call your rep and have them adjust your price down prior to final payment. At the same time, ask them to see if any other, new promotions have come on line during this period and ask them to apply those offers. Keep pushing on them to make sure they are giving you every break that is available.
curmudgeon
Posts: 2132
Joined: Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:00 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by curmudgeon »

Costco sometimes offers the option of taking the extras or getting a yet cheaper price. Might not work for Norwegian on the Costco website, though. I would call the Costco travel number and see if they can give a direct answer in person.

Another option that sometimes discounts a bit more would be "Vacations to Go", though the discounts are more likely on cruises in the next future.

We had the Norwegian drinks package thrown in on a cruise, and I agree it tends to be poor value for moderate drinkers because of the high gratuity charge. On the other hand, the "specialty dining" was appreciated, as the only decent steaks on the ship were the filet mignon in the specialty steakhouse. The cruise we did (on the Norwegian Star Spirit) didn't impress us (ship, food, service, other passengers) though we enjoyed the ports, and we've avoided Norwegian since then.
Last edited by curmudgeon on Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
David Jay
Posts: 10003
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2015 5:54 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by David Jay »

Use the search function on “Cruise Critic” (cruisecritic.com) and see what the options are through a number of booking sites. Cruise Critic search function is kind of like Kayak or Trivago for cruises...

[edit] We are frequent cruisers and even when I think we have a great deal I always double-check on CC. There are pull-downs for type of cabin and “all prices” which shows more than a half-dozen booking agents including direct through the cruise line.

Try this link, I selected NCL, departing Rome, 15+ days and I found a 20 day from Rome to Abu Dhabi departing Feb. 20 11, multiple agents have a price lower than NCL direct for Suite, they all have the same price for Balcony.
Last edited by David Jay on Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:26 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future - Niels Bohr | To get the "risk premium", you really do have to take the risk - nisiprius
tibbitts
Posts: 12537
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by tibbitts »

I have not found much difference in prices between sites and direct booking - sometimes there is something like a pre-cruise hotel night thrown in by agents. But I have booked cruises under $1000 per person (base fare) and normally book fares that don't qualify for any freebies.
Topic Author
BarbBrooklyn
Posts: 914
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:33 am
Location: NYC

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by BarbBrooklyn »

David Jay wrote: Sat Nov 02, 2019 8:58 pm Use the search function on “Cruise Critic” (cruisecritic.com) and see what the options are through a number of booking sites. Cruise Critic search function is kind of like Kayak or Trivago for cruises...

[edit] We are frequent cruisers and even when I think we have a great deal I always double-check on CC. There are pull-downs for type of cabin and “all prices” which shows more than a half-dozen booking agents including direct through the cruise line.

Try this link, I selected NCL, departing Rome, 15+ days and I found a 20 day from Rome to Abu Dhabi departing Feb. 20, multiple agents have a price lower than NCL direct for Suite, they all have the same price for Balcony.
David Jay, what link do you mean? Thanks!!
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."
User avatar
David Jay
Posts: 10003
Joined: Mon Mar 30, 2015 5:54 am
Location: Michigan

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by David Jay »

Oops, I copied the link but didn’t paste it: https://www.cruisecritic.com/cruiseto/c ... &length=15

I mis-wrote Feb 20, it is Feb 11, 2020 (corrected in the first post above, but not in your reply to me)

Check out the special offers, especially from Expedia!
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future - Niels Bohr | To get the "risk premium", you really do have to take the risk - nisiprius
User avatar
ResearchMed
Posts: 10997
Joined: Fri Dec 26, 2008 11:25 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by ResearchMed »

However you book, keep watching the fares for your cabin/suit category.

In most cases, if it is before final payment/penalty phase, you can cancel and re-book if the price goes down. However, make *sure* that the deposit is refundable, and if you use an agency that they don't have any fees to cancel, etc.

After final payment, if the fare goes down, sometimes you can get some perks, such as a cabin upgrade or OBC (On Board Credit), or paid gratuities, although usually not enough to match the actual reduction in fare at that late point.
Waiting until "late" to book runs the risk that your category might be sold out, or in some cases, the price may have gone up.
Likewise, watch for special promos.
But IF you change your reservation, be careful that you aren't losing some good perks to get something less desirable for you specifically.

Costco used to give a 10% discount for NCL, but they discontinued that a few years ago.

If you call regular travel agencies, ask if they can offer you any perks, and see if they are things you *want*.
Beware: Sometimes a perk means extra "service fees". For us, free alcoholic beverages comes with a "service fee" that is going to be more than if we just purchased an occasional cocktail.

NCL no longer allows one to bring on soft drinks or bottled water, and they changed from Coke to Pepsi a few years ago.

Also, note that CruiseCritic does not allow naming of specific travel agents/agencies.

RM
This signature is a placebo. You are in the control group.
StealthRabbit
Posts: 528
Joined: Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:25 am

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by StealthRabbit »

If this is a 'relocation' the rates may go down if it does not fill.

We did the opposite route (Dubai > Venice) a few yrs ago for $100/ night for both of us, (Which I thought was a good deal, until I met two couples who got the same trip with upgraded cabins for $550/ cabin (19 nights) They booked 'short notice' direct with RCL as 'frequent cruisers'.

BTW, It was a great trip, to places I would normally not go. (Persian Gulf, Oman, Strait of Hormuz, Egypt, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Greece).
It made for an interesting leg on our 1yr RTW. (none of the trip was 'pre-planned')
GuyInFL
Posts: 331
Joined: Thu Aug 04, 2016 7:17 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by GuyInFL »

I've been happy with www.crucon.com
Their prices were better than CostCo for my last cruise. They typically have 'bonus' credit of $100 around black friday.
tibbitts
Posts: 12537
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 6:50 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by tibbitts »

StealthRabbit wrote: Sat Nov 02, 2019 10:24 pm If this is a 'relocation' the rates may go down if it does not fill.

We did the opposite route (Dubai > Venice) a few yrs ago for $100/ night for both of us, (Which I thought was a good deal, until I met two couples who got the same trip with upgraded cabins for $550/ cabin (19 nights) They booked 'short notice' direct with RCL as 'frequent cruisers'.

BTW, It was a great trip, to places I would normally not go. (Persian Gulf, Oman, Strait of Hormuz, Egypt, Red Sea, Suez Canal, Greece).
It made for an interesting leg on our 1yr RTW. (none of the trip was 'pre-planned')
I've never gotten a special fare for being a mid-tier frequent cruiser - if you are any kind of previous cruiser there is sometimes a rate for that - even if you just have done one cruise with the company.

I'm not sure what truly consitutes minimally short notice. I think there may be a limit - I'm not sure you can hold off until minutes before departure, even when there are empty cabins, as there were on my last cruise ,since they have customs and other security considerations to deal with. Otherwise you'd see dozens or hundreds of people waiting with their bags at the terminal, hoping to get that next-to-free fare.
Tal-
Posts: 507
Joined: Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:41 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by Tal- »

Getting the best fare is part art and part science. Here are some highlights:

Who to book with?
1: Don't book directly. You get more control if you book directly, but you can always get a better price, or better perks if you book elsewhere.
2: Costco is super popular, and is a good middle-ground if you want to go with someone you trust, but get some perks.
3: Vacations to Go is also very popular, and has a reputation for being good to work with. You're likely to get a much better deal here than through Costco. They also have my favorite cruise search engine in existence.
4: If you want the best deal, check out Cruise Compete. Here, you basically have smaller firms bidding for your business. This is where you will get the best deals - though you will be working with companies that you haven't heard or before, and agents who are polite but basically work in a call center.
5: With all of that said, many people opt to go with a traditional travel agent who can provide exceptional service (very useful for a first cruise!!!!), but not offer much of a discount.

When to book?
6: The best option is to book early, but be sure that your deposit is refundable and that you can "re fare."
7: If the price drops (and it typically does), ping your travel agent and ask if you can re fare. Your agent will not like this, but it's their job - and your deposit is refundable so you can go to a different agent if you need to. Anyhow, I track general prices on vacations to go, and ping my agent if the prices on the site go down... That's generally a good indication of whether I can get a lower price.
8: The second best option is to book late - typically within 90 days of departure. At that time, all refundable deposits become non-refundable, and people typically back out, opening up rooms. And cruise companies feel that they need to sail full. This is why you can occasionally get a great deal on a last minute cruise. However, you can also get an awful room, find your self on the wrong side of the supply-demand equation, or simply find your choice sold out.

Hope that helps.
Debt is to personal finance as a knife is to cooking.
User avatar
galawdawg
Posts: 1755
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:59 pm
Location: Georgia

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by galawdawg »

I've used Cruise Compete before to get competitive quotes from travel agents on cruises I was interested in. I'd suggest you give it a try to at least see how the prices compare to booking direct with NCL or with Costco.

https://www.cruisecompete.com/
cruisefan
Posts: 25
Joined: Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:11 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by cruisefan »

I've booked a few cruises with Costco but their website can be difficult when choices are involved. I believe if you call you can probably get what you want.

I assume your looking at a balcony that would include all offers. See if you can decline the drinks and dining. You would still get the $405 Costco card but not have to pay the gratuity charges on the drink and dining packages.

On the NCL site you can uncheck "take all offers" and jusy pick the 2 you want so I believe the Costco phone rep can do the same.

Good luck and have fun, looks like an awesome trip
Cactuscoug
Posts: 97
Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2018 7:36 am

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by Cactuscoug »

We have used Cruise Vacation Outlet ((800) 797-4635) for years. They regularly beat Costco, as well as the cruise line. We usually cruise Princess, but recently decided to try Oceania. We booked direct, then had CVO check pricing. They knocked the price down $600, PLUS were able to include gratuities. We moved the rez over to them.
Mapmaker
Posts: 61
Joined: Sat Aug 25, 2018 10:16 am

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by Mapmaker »

I’ve transferred many bookings to bestpricecruises.com for additional perks after I’ve booked directly with Celebrity, HAL or Princess. I haven’t had better luck with Costco travel except for their rental car prices, which have always been the lowest.
I’ve used Affordabletours.com and Pavlus.com for Uniworld and Avalon river cruises. Pavlus actually sends you a check for their discount as soon as you make final payment.
User avatar
tennisplyr
Posts: 2765
Joined: Tue Jan 28, 2014 1:53 pm
Location: Sarasota, FL

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by tennisplyr »

We've had success using this site for booking, deals, etc

www.crucon.com
Those who move forward with a happy spirit will find that things always work out.
MJS
Posts: 645
Joined: Sat Aug 05, 2017 10:55 pm

Re: Cruises, where to book?

Post by MJS »

To add more columns to the spreadsheet:
1) If you are a Costco Executive Member, you get a 2% reward on travel booked through them. Deduct 2% from their price.
2) However, add back the cost of money since it takes months to actually get your annual Reward. The Reward system starts after you travel, not when you pay.

Since you're on NCL, if you own 100 shares of NCLH stock, you get onboard credit for each cruise. https://www.cruiseforyourcharity.com/no ... -benefits/
Post Reply