April 21, 2008

Are Cruises Worth the Money?

So, you want to know how much cruises cost and whether they're worth the money.

Really, it all depends on how much of a bargain hunter you are. Cruise costs overall can vary by as much as 200%, but you have to remember that you always get what you pay for. Having a stateroom to yourself vs. sharing a cabin will cost more. Going to a remote destination at the height of tourist season will cost more. Cheap cruises aren't always what they're cracked up to be. But there are certainly ways to get great deals for those who know how to shop!

Fortunately, even if you don't want to spend a lot of time trying to find the best deal, you're not going to get ripped off or taken advantage of.

There was a lot more range in price before the Internet came along. Today there are cruise comparison sites, cruise blogs, and forums where you can get advice from other cruisers. These days, all of the companies assume that you can and will research their prices online, and so a great leveling of price structure has happened throughout the industry. For the same destination, time of year, and amenities, you'll likely not encounter a price difference of more than 20%.

The most popular destinations are also the most affordable. Because cruise offers are capacity-controlled, as well as being time-sensitive, they are subject to availability and conditions just like airline fares.

But there is no fair comparison of airline rates to cruise ship rates. An airline, even the most luxurious, exists solely to get you from point A to point B in the fastest way possible. Airport terminals herd you through line after line, before doing the equivalent of jamming you into a seat and sending you off. For a vacation, it doesn't make sense to go by air, since flying is often so stressful you can end up feeling like you need a vacation to recover from your vacation.

Contrast a cruise, which will be a leisurely experience even at the cheapest possible rates. A cruise ship qualifies as more of a hotel on the water, with dozens of ways to relax and have fun. A cruise line is the pinnacle of hospitality, so for the value, a cruise fare is actually cheap by comparison with other ways to travel. If you live near a seaport, you get an even better deal since you don't have to pay for airfare to get to your ship.

While prices are similar, different cruise lines cost more than others (you'll always pay more for more luxury), and there are still deals to be found.

If you are a senior citizen, a student, a member of a club traveling as a group, or a previous passenger, you will most likely have a special offer made to you. Lacking any of these means, your next best bet to get a discount rate on cruises is to go in the off-season, and book early. Often you will find that the earlier you reserve, the lower your fare will be. (However, you can also get good "last minute" cruise deals if you are able to travel on short notice.)

By the way, you should know that a certain part of the price is not in the hands of the cruise line. The cruise line passes along to you the port fees and taxes. This is the money charged by the various governments in the destinations where you are going, and cover the cost of docking the ship. That's right, there is no "free parking"! Some governments also impose a tax per-passenger, which makes sense if you consider the civic burden of having a village of 250 people suddenly have to accommodate another 250 ship passengers for a week. What these prices are may depend on who's in charge at that time, and how friendly they're feeling towards tourists.

So, how much cruises cost varies. Whether or not they are worth it, however, is a moot point; for the experience of a luxurious cruise vacation, they are all worth it.

Click to Read Full Article by Annie Buroker