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Video: Understanding Your Cruise Offer

Summary: A cruise is a major investment--not just of your money, but of you and your family's limited vacation time. Feeling like you don't understand what you're buying can make for an anxious experience.

Video Run Time: 3:43

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Video Transcript:

A cruise is a major investment--not just of your money, but of you and your family's limited vacation time. Feeling like you don't understand what you're buying can make for an anxious experience.

Ultimately, you just need to know a few things to understand exactly what you are getting for your money, and to make intelligent decisions when comparing multiple offers. While all of this may seem like a lot to absorb, it's really not as complex as it seems.

Here are some general guidelines:

Cruise Cost.

Your cruise price consists of three elements: the cruise fare, port charges, and taxes, and these are sometimes listed separately on your cruise invoice.

If you're comparing prices on CruiseCompete, all of these costs will be bundled together. However, most other sites leave out the taxes and then add these on the final booking screen to make their costs seem lower. When you compare cruise quotes, always make sure you are comparing total costs in order to understand comparative value.

Your cruise price generally INCLUDES:

your cabin
food onboard in the main restaurants
onboard entertainment like shows and most activities
Pools, hot-tubs, fitness centers, etc.

Your cruise price generally DOES NOT INCLUDE these categories of onboard expenses:

alcohol, sodas, and premium coffee drinks
casino gambling
specialty restaurants
onboard shopping

Your cruise price generally DOES NOT INCLUDE these other vacation expenses:

shore excursions (for activities in ports you visit) transportation to and from your cruise (eg., flights, taxis, etc.) hotels before or after your cruise (if you choose to arrive at your port city early--which we recommend--or stay after you return). Travel insurance (unless specifically requested).

Experienced cruisers don't just look for the best cruise price. They look for the best overall deal. Cruise offers vary quite a bit based on what extras they include, and these can take a number of different forms. The key is understanding what each perk is worth to you based on your own preferences.

On-Board Credit. Whether called "OBC" or "Ship-board credit" this amounts to the same thing: money in your ship-board account to spend during your cruise. And you will spend it, whether on tips, drinks, specialty restaurant fees, or other onboard purchases. This one is easy: the value is exactly the same as is if it were cash deducted from your cruise price.

Free Cruise Insurance. It's always a good idea to have insurance in case problems arise. But understand not all insurance is equal: find out exactly what each policy covers when considering its value to you. Cabin Upgrades.

Cabin upgrades are usually within the same cabin type. In other words, you may get upgraded from an outside cabin on a lower deck to an outside cabin on a higher deck, but you usually do not see offers to upgrade you from an outside cabin to a balcony cabin. Take the time to understand the difference between the cabin offered and what you would get for the same cost without the upgrade. What is that difference worth to you?

Other onboard perks. These can range from free dinners at specialty restaurants to drink coupons to bottles of wine to onboard internet--really anything that can be purchased onboard the ship. To gauge the value to you, ask yourself--would I buy it anyway? If not, how much would I be willing to pay for it?

How you pay for your cruise. An agent can generally put a "courtesy hold" on a cabin for you for one to three days at no cost (so you can check flights, confer with travel companions, think about it), but bookings usually require a $500 per-person deposit. confer with travel companions, and think it over). Your final payment (after which there no refunds) is due anywhere from 120 days from sailing to about 60 days out depending on the cruise line and the cruise length. If you're booking inside these windows, you'll need to pay for the entire cruise when you book. It's always best to use a credit card when booking for the rare occasion that there's a problem, and also to maximize your credit card points/cash back.

I hope that these general guidelines will help give you a good basic understanding of how cruise offers work. However, please understand that there are many exceptions, especially on small-ship cruise line, so do make sure to discuss all details of your cruise with your travel agent.

To learn more valuable cruising tips please visit You can also request and receive competing cruise ship quotes from travel agents who ensure that you get the best cruise value. CuriseCompete was named as the best in cruise travel by the Wall Street Journal.

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