You Should NEVER Buy These from Your Cruise Line
You Should NEVER Buy These From Your Cruise Line
While Cruise lines make it easy and convenient to book and buy most things for our cruise directly with them, have you stopped to ask if it’s in your best interest? I have and this is why you should NEVER buy these from your cruise line.
I think they are they banking on us not shopping around, comparing our options, and discovering that some non-cruise line alternatives not only cost less, but are better, safer, and more comprehensive. Including, as you will hear, one that I think will totally throw you.
This first one might sound completely counter intuitive and crazy!
You Should NEVER Buy These from Your Cruise Line – Direct Is Not Always Best!
If you book a hotel, you’ll normally get the best price by going direct to the hotel, with chains like Hilton guaranteeing the best price when going direct. This is not true with cruise lines.
Cruise lines never undercut travel agent prices because they are too important to their business. So, at worst, you’ll always get the same price as booking directly with the line.
And travel agents may even give you a better price. Many get discounts if they sell certain amounts of cabins which they pass on, some also use their commissions to cut the price or to give us extra onboard credit.
Cruise lines also use some travel agents to sell off unsold cabins at snappy prices when they don’t want to advertise deep discounts. This is to stop cruisers like me who track fares and then chase them to reduce my fare to the lower level.
But a travel agent will also make sure we book the right itinerary, go with the right line, right ship, right cabin, answer all our questions, and they may even steer us away from what we think we need to what we really need!
For example, I wanted to cruise to Greenland, and I was set on a Seabourn cruise I had seen. After talking to my travel agent about what I wanted to see and experience, she suggested a completely option. One I had no idea existed.
I finally went with Hapag-Lloyd because the ship and itinerary were better, and they were right. If I’d just gone direct to Seabourn I would have missed out.
You Should NEVER Buy These from Your Cruise Line – Don’t Package It All Together
I know many cruisers like to book the cruise line offered flights, transfers, and pre- and post-stays. This you can do whether booking direct or with a travel agent. The theory being that with everything linked, if something goes wrong, such as a flight being delayed and getting to the ship on time looks challenging, they will make plans, hold the ship or sort out getting you to the ship.
However, booking these with the cruise is not always the best idea.
I have often found cruise line flights usually have less appealing routings, I assume from the deals they have with the airlines.
For example, the next cruise I am going on as I type this, is a Silversea South Africa cruise out of Cape Town. Their routing would have had me flying from London Gatwick, not Heathrow, the airport closest to me, to Istanbul, onto Johannesburg, then onto Cape Town.
But there is a direct flight which goes from Heathrow and would take me almost half the amount of time. And the price was lower booking that myself.
When booking flights with the line, bear in mind it may not actually be the best routing. I always try and avoid connections if I can when flying to my cruise ship, as it adds more risks of things going wrong from delays and cancellations. Which makes me cautious of line flights.
With one exception I will come to, I tend not to book cruise line transfers, as I get more flexibility using Uber, pre-booking on car service sites or using a taxi.
For example, I recently flew to a Norwegian Viva cruise out of Barcelona and I had booked a transfer with the cruise line. I had to sit for well over an hour until everybody allocated to that bus had arrived. If I had jumped into an Uber, I could have been at the ship within 20 minutes.
But while that works in big, well know port cities, I learnt sticking with the cruise line transfer makes sense when it is not.
For example, last year I went on a Holland America Oosterdam South America cruise. I flew into and stayed overnight in Santiago, Chile, and booked my own taxi transfer to the port of Valparaíso over an hour away, the next morning.
However, the cruise passenger check in terminal is not where the ship docks and was tucked away. The driver struggled to find it and I was madly trying to use Google translate to find it and direct him there. I wish I’d booked the cruise line transfer as they knew where to go.
I’ve already mentioned the best hotel rates are by booking direct. In theory, the cruise lines should offer a better rate as they get a volume/ group rate. But as I have seen, this is not always the case. So, compare their quote.
For example, for the Silversea cruise I mentioned, their price for a 3-night pre-stay at The Capital 15 on Orange Hotel in Cape Town was cheaper if booking direct. Though on other trips this has not been the case.
But there are two other things I found.
First, the hotels always seem to allocate me a better room booking myself versus those used for the group. I found this when sailing out of Barcelona. I was staying at the Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel, having been there a few times, both having booked through the lines and direct.
Second, booking with the line means getting no points towards loyalty I have with the hotel group.
Check With Your Travel Agent
While I know many of you like to keep flights, transfers and hotels linked to the cruise, so there is one contact and all linked to make it simpler and interlinked if a problem occurs. However, check if your travel agent can do this.
My travel agent, Sarah Bolton of Travel Counselors, can do bookings and package all those things together and I have a 24/7 contact if anything goes wrong. Often she will tell me there is an issue before I know it.
For example, when my flight to Panama City to join an Oceania Marina cruise was cancelled 12 hours before departure, she picked it up, told me to wait while she sorted out alternatives and found a new routing and changed transfers and hotels based on the new times and arrival.
This brings me to another critical cruise item to not buy from the cruise line.
You Should NEVER Buy These from Your Cruise Line – Better Insurance Coverage
When you are going cruising, get insurance, as the costs if anything goes wrong can be enormous. None of us expect anything to happen, but it can.
For example, I was following the story of Natalia Ortega and her partner Ashley from Tampa who thought the same but had an accident on a scooter they hired in Cozumel while their ship, Carnival Paradise, was in port.
They had no insurance and the hospital demanded $20,000 for the operation on Ashley’s broken ankle before they could leave. The family did not have access to this kind of money, leaving them desperately trying to raise it, and the cost to get home.
You should also ensure your insurance has cruise specific cover, as some travel insurance policies will not pay out for losses incurred during a cruise without it. So, if you are relying on insurance linked to your credit card cover, check cruising is covered.
The cruise lines offer insurance for us to buy, but this too is not the best option I believe.
Many policies do include trip cancellation insurance due to unexpected weather or illness, trip interruption or delay if we must join the cruise late or return home early. Some include emergency medical and dental care, medical evacuation and delayed and lost baggage.
However, there are big watch outs versus alternatives.
First, I’ve always found travel insurance from Third-party providers is cheaper and has many more inclusions than cruise line insurance. Not all cruise line policies cover everything.
Secondly, cruise line insurance usually does not cover any pre- or post-cruise expenses like airline, hotel, or transfers, unless I have booked them through the cruise line.
Thirdly, cruise line insurance policies tend to have way lower limits on medical cover versus third-party cover.
And, if my cruise is cancelled or disrupted, many would not pay back in cash but only give me future cruise credits.
I am not a travel insurance expert, of course, but I use third-party insurance for those reasons. So, check before just buying the cruise line option as easy as it is.
I’ve seen travel magazines like Afar suggest USA travellers look at companies like Allianz, Travel Guard from AIG, Travelex, and Berkshire Hathaway. In the UK I’ve used at various times Staysure, AllClear and Holiday Extras. So, these could be places to start.
This leads me to another area you should really be cautious about booking with a cruise line, even though it’s very easy and convenient.
You Should NEVER Buy These from Your Cruise Line – Exploring Wisely
I do need to address buying cruise line excursions without comparing three things here.
First, never book a hop-on hop-off bus with the cruise line because it will be significantly more expensive. For example, on that Norwegian Viva trip I mentioned, the line was selling the Barcelona one for $70 on board, but it cost half that in the terminal.
Second, don’t book cruise line excursions to well-known and nearby attractions or rides, as the line will charge a huge premium.
Some like ShoreExcursionsGroup.com say they’ve never had anyone miss a ship, but if they get back me back late, they will arrange and pay for my accommodation, meals, get me to the next port and offer up to $1,000 compensation on top.
Never book an excursion on a cruise line without at least looking at your options because you could save a lot of money and have a better experience as they tend to have smaller groups versus the line.
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