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      November 21, 2019

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Cruise Direct vs Priceline

To help you find the Best Cruise Vacations, TopConsumerReviews.com provides you with an in-depth comparison of Cruise Direct and Priceline.

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Book Your Next Cruise With Cruise Direct Today! What's the best way to plan and book a cruise vacation? 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.

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Best Reviews

2019

Cruise Vacation Reviews

5 stars
Cruise Direct

CRUISE DIRECT Visit Site

TopConsumerReviews.com Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award Cruise Direct specializes in - you guessed it - cruises. (In other words, you won't be distracted by vacation packages, offers for hotel/car rental deals, etc.) From luxury Viking River sailings to spring break party adventures with Carnival and everything in between, this cruise booking site has it all across 17 different cruise lines.

Using the site is easy. If you already have something in mind - a particular set of dates to celebrate an anniversary, a dream destination you're finally able to visit, and so on - you can select that right on the home page. If you like the idea of a last-minute adventure, you'll also want to see the Last Minute Cruises link at the top of the page.

How does Cruise Direct measure up when looking at online booking sites for cruise vacations? In order to compare apples to apples, we looked at sailings for 2 adults on two of the most popular cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Disney, and compared the prices with competitor sites and the cruise lines themselves. We priced a relatively last-minute, 3-night trip to the Bahamas on Royal Caribbean and a 7-night Eastern Caribbean itinerary with Disney with a departure date almost 18 months in the future - since the best discounts are usually found very close to departure or as far in advance as you possibly can.

When it came to the Royal Caribbean sailing, we were initially excited to see a price that was $50 less than booking directly with RCL and included a 10% discount on shore excursions and a $75 onboard credit. But, when we went to select the interior stateroom that Cruise Direct said was available, we then got a screen saying that those rooms were actually sold out. Cruise Direct has a Best Price Guarantee, but that only applies to rooms that are available - which wouldn't help us with the interior "sold out" problem.

Our Disney booking fared better (pun intended). While the price matched what we found on the DCL site, booking through Cruise Direct got us a discount of 10% on shore excursions, a Disney autograph book, and a total of $125 in onboard credits. Those onboard credits could be used to pay down the gratuities, book a massage in the onboard spa, or even get souvenirs in one of the many gift shops - making it a great deal to book with Cruise Direct and not through Disney. Even Cruise Direct's competitors couldn't match the perks offered on this booking site.

We appreciate that Cruise Direct doesn't charge any processing fees; some of their competitors charge up to $25 in refundable fees just for booking a cruise, so that's another way that this company can save you money.

Cruise Direct also has an excellent reputation. From their "A+" rating at the Better Business Bureau to thousands of 5-star reviews and more than 500,000 customers served over their 15+ years in business, this booking site knows what it takes to help you get the perfect cruise vacation planned. If you have any questions, you can easily reach a Cruise Direct expert via online chat or toll-free number.

For the best prices and perks like onboard credits, you'll want to start your search for your next cruise vacation at Cruise Direct. They earn our highest ranking among cruise booking sites.

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2.5 stars
Priceline

PRICELINE Visit Site

Priceline became famous for its novel approach to booking flights and hotels: enter a destination and date, and you'll get a list of options...without knowing the name of the place until after you book! Of course, that approach doesn't work with cruises, but Priceline still wants to offer you a good deal.

Although Priceline is owned by the same company as Travelocity, Orbitz, and Expedia, we found a few differences when browsing for cruise vacations. Priceline's initial search gives you more filtering options, the most noteworthy being the ability to specify the desired cruise line right away instead of having to search first and then use the filtering options on the results list.

On the other hand, Priceline's fine print at the bottom of the site says that they charge a non-refundable administrative fee of $24.99 for each booking, which puts them below their sister companies who don't charge that extra fee.

When pricing out our Royal Caribbean comparison itinerary, we were surprised to see that Priceline still showed interior staterooms available. Unfortunately, when we tried to go through the booking process, we got an error message that said we would need to call Priceline's toll-free number for more help. We got the same error on the oceanview stateroom.

The promotion in place was a vaguely-worded "Get back up to $1000 in Cruise Cash!" The fine print said that we'd get up to that amount back after returning from the sailing, which could be applied towards onboard expenses. But, in our experience, once you've settled your onboard account on the last night of the cruise, you'd probably not be very interested in trying to get that credit applied. The promotion also didn't specify how Priceline would calculate that cruise cash, other than it would be "based on your net cruise fare". We had to go to a separate page (through a link on the main Cruises page on Priceline) that explained that our onboard credit would only be $25 on our Royal Caribbean sailing.

The sample Disney booking didn't offer any onboard credits when purchasing the cruise. The only perk was a waived deposit. The fare for the cruise was the same as everywhere else, including the Disney Cruise Line site. So, in this case, there'd be no reason to use Priceline compared with other sites that offered onboard credit, reduced fares, or even reward points towards future travel.

Priceline does offer the same Price Match Guarantee program and terms that we found on the Travelocity sister site.

In short, Priceline seems to offer few advantages over the competition, while adding in a few downsides like a $24.99 processing fee. The company has a good reputation, but when booking a cruise vacation, you'll probably find a better overall package - pricing, promotions, rewards - when booking your sailing with a higher-rated service.

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Continued from above

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!

  • Site Navigation. How easy is it to find the cruises you want? Are you provided with enough information to make your decision?
  • Selection. Does the cruise booking site offer a wide range of cruise lines? Do they offer options for the dates and destinations you want?
  • Pricing. Are the price quotes consistently lower than what you'd get when booking directly? If the site promises good deals, does the company deliver?
  • Full-Service Options. If you appreciate the convenience of one-stop shopping for your cruise along with any necessary airfare, car rentals, and so on, look for a cruise vacation site that lets you book those at the same time. You may even get extra savings for doing it.

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