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      January 24, 2020

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Cruise Direct vs Vacation Outlet

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

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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

2020

Cruise Vacation Reviews

5 stars
Cruise Direct

CRUISE DIRECT

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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 stars
Vacation Outlet

VACATION OUTLET

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Vacation Outlet is a World Travel Holdings company, along with Cruises Only - another cruise vacation booking site in our review. The two sites are essentially mirror images of each other.v

That means that when we looked up the sample Disney and Royal Caribbean sailings, we got all of the same results in terms of availability, promotions, and pricing. And yes, that also includes the non-refundable $24.99 booking fee.

So, while Vacation Outlet says that their fares are "always at outlet prices", we definitely didn't find any sailings that offered a significant discount or advantage over other booking sites.

We were glad to see that World Travel Holdings had an "A+" rating with the Better Business Bureau at the time of our review. But, reading through the complaints and reviews registered at the BBB, we found a lot of customers who were frustrated by their experience with Vacation Outlet, especially if there was a need to cancel a cruise because of weather or other reasons. People also said that they were billed for different things that hadn't been explained clearly, and that the customer service representatives were less-than-courteous when handling the issue.

Compared with full-service cruise booking sites that offer one-stop shopping, and also with the higher-ranked services in our review that have a great reputation for customer service, Vacation Outlet just doesn't measure up. We recommend you choose a better-rated service when booking your next cruise vacation.

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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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