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As the name implies, Cruise Direct only offers cruises - and does so better than any other site reviewed. With that focus, Cruise Direct surpasses those vacation sites which try to be all things to all people. Ease of use, big discounts, and 100% best guarantee combine to give this site our highest cruise vacation rating.
The Cruise Direct website is well thought out, and its attractive page layout is easy to navigate. In fact, Cruise Direct offers some great ways to search for cruises. To start with, they have a convenient "Cruise Finder" facility. With this, you simply enter information such as destination, sailing date, and length of cruise, and you're instantly told the number of cruises that match your search criteria. You can then look deeper at these search results to find the right cruise for you.
Alternatively, you can search for cruises in the following ways:
A large number of cruise lines (15) are supported, including such big-name cruise lines such as Carnival, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Disney - as well as lesser known lines such as Viking and MSC.
Booking a cruise is a simple, straightforward process. Once you find your specific cruise, you're asked to select the type of room that you want. For most room types, Cruise Direct offers you pictures of the rooms, so you can see exactly what your cabin will look like. And impressively, Cruise Direct consistently offers rates that are 30-40% less than the published cruise line rates. In fact, they offer a 100% best price guarantee, to assure you won't find a better price anywhere else. This can save you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars when booking your cruise.
Once you select your room type, you are shown a deck plan with all matching cabins shown. You simply click on the exact cabin that you want and proceed to checkout. It really couldn't be easier.
Customer service is available throughout your search and checkout process to answer any questions you may have. They offer a slick instant chat window for those people who want their questions answered quickly; alternatively, you can call their toll-free number of send an email with your questions.
Cruise Direct does everything we want a cruise vacation website to do. They offer cruises from a large number of cruise lines, great price discounts, and an easy booking process. If you're considering a cruise vacation in your future, your search should start with Cruise Direct. They earn our highest rating.
Like most travel sites, Vacation Outlet packs a lot of information, but we found it easy to navigate through to what we wanted. The search buttons are on the top left hand side, which is the first place most people look when reading, and that location is a nice change from some other sites we visited which bury the Search function at the bottom of the page.
You can search for eligible cruises by activities, specific cruise line, or destination map. The destination map works just like others in our review. By including other vacations on their site, there is an added bonus - the ability to shop for airfares to and from your port of call. Vacation Outlet offers a large selection of cruise lines (both big and small), as well as ships. Once you decide on your cruise line, you are presented with a listing of all the ships available. You can read ship reviews and specifications, and can search/sort with a variety of options.
A detailed FAQ assists shoppers with answers to many questions that can arise before booking a cruise. Free gifts and promotions offered by the cruise lines are clearly stated when shopping, and Vacation Outlet offers a best price guarantee for the same ship, sailing dates, and stateroom category. For questions, shoppers can email or call Vacation Outlet 24 x 7.
Vacation Outlet provides good information, low prices, and simple navigational structure. These have combined to give this site one of our highest scores.
Travelocity's cruise area is intuitive, easy to navigate, and walks you through the myriad of questions that need answers when deciding on a cruise. For example, you'll need to know when you want to leave and where you want to go. To facilitate this, Travelocity offers a map with all the destinations clearly marked. Click on Mexican Riviera, for example, and you're whisked away to a page that lists the Ports of Call and the departure ports for cruises that sail there.
A very handy matrix lists cruise lines and the months that they sail to each destination. No more wandering around a site and clicking on a cruise line only to discover that they don't sail where or when you want to go. You can also take a "snapshot" of your cruise destination - making it very easy to decide whether a "lively nightlife" is really what you want.
Travelocity allows you to search by destination, cruise line, top deals, and even by ship. When you choose Ship Finder, you see a matrix which lists the ships, (more than 100) and the cruise lines (13) - a few less choices than our top-ranked selections. The matrix shows helpful information such as Cruise Critic Rating, Services Entry Date (when the ship took its first trip), number of swimming pools, how many internet cafes and theaters there are, and so on. You can also drill down deeper into each ship's offerings.
One feature we would like to see on this page is the ability to display and sort the shipboard activities that are offered. Perhaps you won't sail without a casino but couldn't care less about an internet cafe? Unfortunately, you have to spend extra time weeding out the ships that don't have the amenities you want. For support, customers can call Travelocity 24 x 7.
Travelocity advertises their catch-phrase very prominently -- "You'll Never Roam Alone." One of the best parts about using Travelocity is their name-recognition -when a cruise line gets a call from an irate passenger who got an interior room instead of a window-view, there is a lot of clout behind the company. Their dependability, support, and affordable prices make Travelocity one of our top selections.
Forbes has rated Priceline as one of the best travel sites, saying that Priceline is the best place to get a luxury hotel inexpensively. And although hotels are not what we need when booking a cruise, we hoped that the good vibes from Forbes would pass over to their cruise area.
We were not disappointed. The destination search, cruise line search and last-minute cruise search were all easy to use and similar to our other top-ranked sites. The most distinguishing feature about this site is that if you already know what cruise line you want to take -- say Carnival, for example -- you can see immediately from the main page if Carnival is offering any deals, such as free upgrades. Other sites require you to drill down much further before you get this information.
Unfortunately there is no direct way to get to "special interest" cruises if you have a particular type in mind. The Customer Service area has a familiar setup as with our other top-ranked cruise vacations - again, makes sure you jot down the offer code. The FAQ section displays good, if not general information. Cancellations are available but vary based on cruise line and type of cruise you booked.
Another plus for Priceline is that making air reservations to get to the cruise is easy since you're already at a full-featured travel site. This holds true for hotels as well - if you want to stay in your home port before or after you sail.
The convenience that a full travel site brings, plus Priceline's legendary affordability, make this a very strong offering.
Easy Click Travel tries to be your one-stop shopping for travel planning. However, the navigational structure of this busy site left something to be desired; and the amount of cruise information left us wanting more.
Click on Cruises in the top menu bar, and you'll get a page where you can make reservations - IF you know where you want to go and what month you want to leave. There are no hyperlinks for anything except for booking hotels, which is also inexplicably on the cruise page. What we did find is that this site offers competitive pricing on several of its higher-priced cabins. Easy Click Travel had consistently higher cabin prices than those of our highest rated selections. If you are shopping for economy cabins, this is not the site to use, but it does illustrate how shopping around can make a huge difference.
However, the way this site seems cobbled together makes us wary of spending a lot of hard-earned money here. The FAQ section contains very little information - half of which pertains to your Internet Explorer version and how to get your browser to accept cookies. There are no price guarantees offered on this site.
Would we buy through Easy Click Travel? It might be a good place to reference prices - and only prices since researching anything else is painful - but for gathering information and actually booking the cruise, we'd look elsewhere.
Last Minute Travel boasts that it's claim to fame is booking and getting great prices at the last minute. However, when we compared their cruise prices with our top-rated selections (same ship, same itinerary, same timeframe), we discovered that Last Minute Travel was higher by $80 for the interior cabin and $50 for the oceanview. Suite prices were exactly the same.
OK, we thought, so maybe this isn't the best place to get a great deal on a cruise. After all, every site we visited had a heading for "Last Minute Deals" or something similar. So for grins, we tried comparing airfares. The criteria was a next day flight (you can't get anymore last minute than that!) flight from various cities across the country. Priceline consistently found cheaper airline flights, averaging $86 less. And even when comparing the same flight - airline and destination - Priceline was, on average, $60 less expensive.
So we ask you: If you don't get the best prices on cruises at Last Minute Travel, and you don't get the best price on airfare at Last Minute Travel, then why should you bother going there?
Vacation cruises have seen rapid growth in recent years. People enjoy waking up to a new port-of-call adventure every day, without having to unpack and move all their belongings. New ships offer roomy accommodations, a feast of food options, and shipboard activities that boggle the mind. Indeed, many vacation cruise ships now are full-fledged vacation destinations all by themselves.
To be sure, the increased popularity of vacation cruises is also due in part to better affordability. Lower costs for cruises, and the all-inclusive nature of many cruise programs, prove an attractive option for many vacationers.
The internet is, of course, part of the reason for that affordability. Booking a cruise online can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over traditional booking methods. When reviewing cruise booking sites, the following traits should factor prominently in your consideration:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best cruise vacation sites available today. We hope these reviews help you book your next cruise quickly and easily!
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