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You are sold - there's no doubt about it. You?ve spoken to your friends, you?ve read the brochures, you?ve been to all the websites and you?ve finally decided that you will be taking a cruise thisyear. Now what? How do you actually book that cruise of a lifetime?
Step 1: Find a Cruise Expert or Cruise Website you can trust
One of the most important parts of planning your cruise vacation is finding the right company to book your cruise with in the first place. Be it an online company like CruiseCheap.com or the travel agent across the street, you want to make sure that you are working with a reputable company that specializes in cruises and one who makes it very convenient for you to contact them.
A Top Producing Cruise Agency provides a number of benefits:
- Savings ? A Cruise Specialist like CruiseCheap.com has strong relationships with all cruise lines and uses the latest in computer reservations systems to enable our agents and our websites to access the most up-to-date cruise deals.
- Information ? Websites like Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia and CruiseCheap.com all believe that honest, accurate information relevant to your cruise vacation, combined with great prices and service are the key to helping you find the cruise to best your needs.
- Expert Advice ? Your best interests are our number one priority, so our Cruise Experts will work with you, both online and off, to find the best cruise and best rate that fits your interests. Our expertise comes from years of personal travel experience, as well as the travel experience of thousands of clients we have served in our careers.
- Choice ? CruiseCheap.com represents all major cruise lines on more than 150 ships to over 10,000 itineraries around the world. You have choices. A good Cruise Expert should help you sort them out.
- Convenience ? Our website is open 24 hours a day and is full of information that will help with your reservation. And unlike some Cruise Travel Agencies, we make it very easy to contact us by telephone or email to address any questions you may have about your vacation.
- Service ? CruiseCheap.com Cruise Experts are knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic about the cruise industry. Our agents are well trained and have the resources and tools they need to offer you the highest level of service and the best prices.
Step 2: Set a Budget and Choose Your Cruise
Once you have found a Cruise Website or a Cruise Expert you can trust (we recommend CruiseCheap.com for both), you should decide on the cruise that?s best for you. Booking a cruise can be very complicated and there are many factors to consider including destination, cruise line, activities, kids programs, cabin selection, airfare, special pricing, departure port, etc. A good website and a good cruise agent should help you sort through all this and help you find a cruise you will enjoy.
Step 3: Find the Best Price
In today?s Internet economy, it?s never been easier to comparison shop for the best price. There are dozens of travel websites that promise low cruise rates, but what most First Time Cruisers and Experienced Veterans don?t realize is that there are often better rates available if you call and speak with a live person.
Cruise Lines will not openly advertise rates that are not available to the entire public. These unadvertised rates are only available to people who qualify for a specific rate or promotion. If you meet any of the following criteria, you should pick up the telephone and speak with a real, live, living, breathing, Cruise Expert:
- Past Passenger of the Cruise Line
If you are a past guest of a particular cruise line, you may qualify for special discounts, coupons or free upgrades that are not available online. If possible, you should have your past passenger number handy when you call.
- An AARP Member or Over the Age of 55
Many cruise lines offers discounted rates to passengers that are traveling with at least one passenger who is an AARP Member or 55 years of age and older. The rates aren?t always shown online so you must ask for it on the phone.
- Traveling with 2 or more cabins
If you have two or more cabins traveling together, you may be able to negotiate a lower multi-cabin rate. By speaking to a live, breathing agent, not only will they work with you to find cabins near one another, but you?ll get to sit together at dinner and possibly get a lower rate.
- Resident Rates
Cruise lines will often give special discounts to residents of certain states. If a cruise line needs help filling a ship with passengers from your area, they may offer you a lower rate. Call to see if your state qualifies.
- Military ? Active or Retired
The cruise lines are very appreciative of the commitment made by our armed forces. Some extend a special military discount to members of every branch of service including immediate family members. Your military id is required.
- Other Discounts
If you are an Educator, in Public Service, a member of a Wholesale Shopping Club, an American Express Platinum Card holder, a MasterCard holder or a member of a Credit Union, you may qualify for additional discounts.
If you qualify for any of the scenarios above, be sure to alert your CruiseCheap.com so that they can search for any special discounts that may apply to your reservation.
Be careful about price comparisons. Cruise Websites and travel agencies quote differently from one another so make sure you are comparing apples to apples. What you see on Page 1 of an online cruise booking website (CruiseCheap.com included) can be different than what is on the credit card page. The same applies on the telephone with a Live Cruise Expert. Our Cruise Experts at CruiseCheap.com quote all of our rates inclusive of all port charges, taxes, and government fees. There are no additional administrative charges.
If a Cruise Expert from any Cruise Agency (not just CruiseCheap.com) has demonstrated their expertise by providing friendly, knowledgeable service and provided you with a rate that is competitive with others you?ve found, you should stick with that agent. Not only will you be dealing with someone who?s very familiar with your travel needs, you?ll get better service in the long run as well.
Your vacation is an investment of time and money. It begins when you first start planning your trip. Make sure you?re dealing with a company that you can call by phone; one that will call you back promptly and provide the personalized level service you expect and deserve.
Step 4: Pay For Your Cruise ? Offline or Online
Now that you have found the right cruise at the right price, it?s time to pay for your cruise. If you are traveling within 75 days, you will be expected to pay for your cruise in full. However, if you are traveling outside of 75 days, the cruise line will allow you to pay a small deposit with the balance due 75 days prior to travel. If the price drops between the time you book your cruise and final payment, your price can be adjusted to the lower rate if you qualify. After your final payment, the cruise lines no longer offer that flexibility.
You can make a deposit or final payment online through the secure reservation system on CruiseCheap.com or you can call in a credit card payment to your CruiseCheap.com Cruise Specialist.
CruiseCheap.com will confirm all payments by email at the time of the transaction and by regular mail within a few days of your reservation. A customer service representative will contact you within 24 hours of an online booking to reconfirm the spelling of your names, your address, birthdates, etc so that you will have no problems when you check in for your cruise.
Payments made by check, money order or wire transfer are also acceptable. You must speak to a CruiseCheap.com cruise specialist for help with these bookings.
Step 5: Complete and Gather Pre-Cruise Documentation
Prior to stepping onboard your cruise ship, you will be required complete pre-cruise registration forms with your cruise line. You will receive information about this process from your CruiseCheap.com Customer Support Team after your final payment.
At the Cruise Line?s website, you will also have the option to pre-purchase shore excursions or land tours. This is a convenient way to pre-plan your vacation activities without the hassles of waiting in line at the Shore Tours Desk onboard. CruiseCheap.com also has a list of competitively priced shore tours to the Caribbean, Alaska, and the Bahamas on our site.
You will be required to provide proper proof of US Citizenship when you check in at your cruise ship. Most cruises simply require a certified copy of your birth certificate with a photo id, but for international travel, you will be required to have a passport. For complete details, visit the Immigration Requirements section of our website. Your CruiseCheap.com Cruise expert will review specific requirements with you at the time of booking.
Step 6: Have a Great Cruise
Unless you booked your cruise at the last minute, your cruise documents will arrive by mail 7 to 10 days prior to travel. Please read over all your information carefully and complete any necessary forms. Do not forget your proof of citizenship.
If you are flying, make sure you arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes prior to travel for domestic flights and 2 hours prior to travel for International Flights. If driving to the pier, you?ll find comprehensive driving directions on CruiseCheap.com with approximate parking rates per day.
Cruise Lines generally begin boarding the ship around 11:30 or noon. The sooner you get there, the sooner you can start enjoying your vacation. Since your baggage will not be delivered to your cabin for a few hours after you board the ship, it is recommended you bring a carry on bag with a change of clothes if you plan to hit the pool deck.
Step 7: Plan Your Next Cruise
If you are having the time of your life, go ahead and book your next cruise right on board the ship. The Cruise Line will have a vacation consultant right on board who will be glad to help you arrange another cruise. By booking on board, you may be offered additional discounts, free upgrades and confirmed dining. Once you get home, CruiseCheap.com will generate an invoice and help you with all post-booking arrangements.
Step 8: Tell Your Friends and Cruise for Free
Cruising is contagious. Once you?ve done it, you can?t stop talking about it. Tell all your friends and family about your vacation and talk them into a Group Cruise. If you get eight or more couples to travel with you, then you may be able to cruise for free as the Group Leader. If you have friends who may want to cruise, let us know and we?ll gladly send them a cruise coupon for use on their first or next cruise vacation. For more information about Group Cruises, click here.
Although booking a cruise can be complicated process, it can be made much easier when you deal with cruise experts like CruiseCheap.com. We will take the time with you to help you find the best cruise vacation for you. Our purpose is to make you happy and our mission to build a personal and lasting relationship with you by consistently exceeding your expectations ? both with price and service.
Thank you for visiting CruiseCheap.com. We would look forward to serving you.