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      January 29, 2020

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Priceline vs Cruises Only

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

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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

2.5 stars
Priceline

PRICELINE

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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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2 stars
Cruises Only

CRUISES ONLY

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Cruises Only has one of the widest selections of cruise lines among all online booking sites, with 27 different companies to choose from. These run the gamut from popular-and-budget-friendly Carnival to the intimate-and-luxurious Regent Seven Seas.

Looking at our apples-to-apples comparison fares on Royal Caribbean and Disney, how did Cruises Only do?

When it came to RCL, we were shown no available staterooms in the interior category, just "Call for prices". That stateroom was still showing as available for booking on the RCL site itself - and, in fact, the price had decreased by a few dollars from the first time we looked it up. We were able to get Cruise Direct pricing on interior staterooms if we went farther into the booking process - where, lo and behold, the price exactly matched what we found on the RCL site. Unfortunately, many customers would stop at the "Call" indicator and look for a different cruise - or different cruise booking site.

Cruises Only didn't have as many hoops to jump through when looking at our comparison Disney sailing, probably because it wasn't a last-minute cruise. The fare was exactly the same as the quote on the DCL site, but only as a "guaranteed room" fare. That means that while Disney let us choose the exact stateroom we wanted for that price, Cruises Only gave us a guarantee of a particular stateroom level without letting us pick which deck or area of the ship (fore, midship, aft).

What about any perks for booking through Cruises Only? There was a bonus offer for an Amazon gift card on last-minute sailings, but the site didn't tell us exactly how much we'd get, only that after booking we'd get a link on the invoice to a form to fill out. Then, we'd get an Amazon gift card that "will not exceed 10% of cruise fare" that would be sent out within 30 days of the sailing. That's not as good as an onboard credit we could use on our cruise vacation, in our opinion - especially when competitor sites tell you upfront exactly how much you'll get.

There was a similarly vague promotion on the Disney sailing: Amazon gift card, unspecified amount, probably not received until after the sailing was completed. The Disney booking added the ability to make the reservation with no money down - a nice perk if you don't want to pay the upfront 20% deposit usually required to book a Disney sailing.

The fine print at the bottom of the Cruises Only site had another "surprise": a $24.99 processing fee on all bookings that's not included in the quoted price. This fee is non-refundable - so even if you cancel your sailing for some reason and it's early enough to get a refund from the cruise line, you'll still be out $24.99. The top-rated cruise vacation booking sites don't charge processing fees, putting Cruises Only even lower in our rankings.

Cruises Only, along with another cruise booking site in our review (Vacation Outlet), is owned by World Travel Holdings. When we checked most recently, the parent company had an "A+" rating with the BBB. But, there were more than a few negative reviews and complaints there, mostly regarding Cruises Only's fees and policies. Customers said that the company's representatives were almost rude when responding to issues. When you're paying for an expensive, much-awaited vacation like a cruise, that's the last thing you want when something goes wrong.

For all of these reasons, Cruises Only ranks at the bottom of our listings, along with its sister company, Vacation Outlet.

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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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