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Lots of travelers are turning to cruises for the best of all worlds: the excitement of exotic ports of call, the convenience of not having to change hotels with every new destination, and the delight of world-class dining and entertainment day and night.
In fact, cruising isn't limited to a particular group when it comes to popularity. Parents with young children may gravitate towards cruise lines that are known for their top-notch onboard clubs for kids, and young singles tend to choose sailings with tropical destinations - and unlimited drink packages! From casinos to spas and so much more, a cruise vacation has something for everyone.
Tuesday, January 19th
Cruise Direct has a long history of providing the best prices and perks on cruise vacations. With no processing fees, an easy-to-use website, and readily available help from knowledgeable vacation specialists, this company makes it fun and affordable to find the right cruise for your travel party. Cruise Direct continues to be our top pick among cruise vacation booking sites.
If you want a one-stop online travel agency for booking your cruise, airfare, and hotel, Expedia should be your first choice. With rewards points, no booking fees, and some of the best perks and promotions, this well-established online cruise booking site is a fantastic choice for your next vacation.
Orbitz is a sister site to Expedia, so you'll find almost identical results when shopping for a cruise vacation. You'll also get equally great customer service and promotions. Why choose Orbitz over Expedia? It's all about the rewards programs. If you've booked often with Orbitz, keep it up when booking your cruise vacation to rack up the rewards!
Where can the Travelocity gnome take you? This sister site to Orbitz and Expedia has some advantages, like a Price Match Guarantee, and some drawbacks (like no rewards program). Otherwise, you'll find the same pricing and promotions as the other two sites, making Travelocity a trustworthy cruise booking site.
Priceline is owned by the same company as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity, and so your cruise booking experience will be mostly the same. But, this company tacks on the $24.99 processing fee and doesn't offer as many promotions as their competitors. We recommend choosing a different service for your cruise vacation.
Last Minute Travel came in with some of the lowest rates available on cruise vacations - although their discounts were more competitive on their advance reservations and not on the truly last-minute sailings. But, across a variety of travel situations (hotel, airfare, etc.), we found more than a few complaints that this company botched the reservations, leaving customers in the lurch. Worth it to save a few dollars? That's up to you.
Cruises Only offers a wide range of cruise lines to choose from, including budget and luxury options. Unfortunately, the booking process and perks can't compete with our higher-ranked companies, and many customers have been frustrated when dealing with Cruise Only representatives.
Vacation Outlet claims to have cruises at "outlet prices". But, with very few promotions and pricing exactly the same as their competition, this cruise booking site doesn't seem to deliver what it advertises. Plus, extra fees like a $24.99 booking charge make it more expensive to use Vacation Outlet for reserving a cruise vacation. You'll probably have a better experience with a higher-ranked cruise booking site in our review.
While you might think that the best deal on a cruise is found by booking directly with the cruise line, you're more likely to get extra incentives if you purchase your cruise through an online partner company. The agents working for these companies know all of the most current incentives, like onboard credits or discounted shore excursions, and it doesn't cost you extra to get the help of an agent. The internet makes it especially easy to price the destinations and dates that interest you, get a ballpark amount, and then request a detailed quote - or even book your cruise right away! - with just a few clicks of the mouse.
If you're new to cruise vacations, you should be aware that there are costs to expect beyond the price of the actual sailing. Most initial price quotes don't factor in taxes and port fees, for example. Also, you're generally expected to pay a certain amount in gratuities - to the stateroom attendant who makes your bed and often leaves you with towels shaped into cute animals each night, and your wait staff in the dining room. Some cruise lines have suggested amounts, while others automatically charge your credit card on file for the gratuities they require from each guest.
Onboard, while many things are part of your all-in-one vacation experience, you should anticipate paying extra for alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, though some cruise lines have packages you can buy that include them. And, of course, if you want to take advantage of your ports of call for shopping, excursions like swimming with dolphins or taking a guided tour, you'll want to budget for that as well.
When deciding which site to use when booking your next cruise vacation, how can you tell which company offers the best service? Here are several criteria to keep in mind as you make your choice:
TopConsumerReviews has reviewed and ranked the best cruise vacation booking sites available today. We hope this information helps you find the perfect sailing for your travel party. All aboard!
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