First time ship cruisers may elect to book with a Travel Agent. However over the years we’ve learnt they cannot match fares obtained by use of the internet.
One source for comments and hints from past passengers is www.cruiseastute.com. Another popular web address is www.cruisecritic.com. This also provides feedback, plus various cruise offers.
It is also worthwhile to peruse www.vacationstogo.com to view a huge range of cruises. This is a Texan based organisation but they provide a tab for prices to be converted to AUD. When selecting available cruises, good value is offered in the “Repositioning” line of the ‘All Cruise Regions’ box, under the ‘90 Day’ heading. Because we Australians are distant from many cruise departure and disembark ports, return air travel could be more expensive than the cheap cruise!
Another consideration is that cruise fares shown on the web page are invariably without taxes, or port charges. These materialize later in the booking procedure. Also, most ships add a service charge to your onboard account to serve as tips for staff members. This can be US$12 per passenger, per day! We always advise the Customer Service desk that we want to withdraw from that option. We tip if service is above normal – about $6-7 per day at the end of the voyage. Also, expect to be charged a mandatory 15% “gratuity” on all drink purchases from the various bars.
An air travel link is “iwantthat flight.com.au” .A link for accommodation is hotelscomparison.com. Payment in Australian dollars can save bank charges for currency exchange etc. Booking about 6 months in advance often helps to obtain cheaper rates. Selecting inboard cabins, ocean view or balcony is a personal decision. The differences in fares can be weighed up in relation to the time you’d prefer to be in the cabin. If it’s only to sleep and shower, you can obtain a larger ocean view from an upper deck lounge (And without a 20 knot balcony breeze!)
On Carnival ships, Ocean View cabins are generally on Decks 1 & 2. Alaskan cruises (between May and September) will encounter 21 hours of sunlight in June, but in late September, the sun sets at about 4 pm.
For flights Virgin Aust. offers a unique bidding option for a seat upgrade (A seat auction) On our last return leg from LA our bid was successful. It meant we paid just $1200 for a $3600 fare. Good luck!