It's one of the easiest ways to save thousands of dollars on your next vacation...
When most people go to book a cruise, they go straight to the cruise company. Some might call a local travel agent. But this isn't the easiest way to find the best price.
Instead of spending your time searching, let travel agents bid on you.
Imagine a 14-day Mediterranean cruise sailing in the summer... If you were to go directly to the company's website, you'd pay $4,755 for a room with a balcony and $3,135 for an inside stateroom.
But with a few simple clicks, you can save thousands of dollars and find big incentives (more on this in a moment).
The site is called CruiseCompete.com.
The site boasts that it has provided "13 million quotes since 2003"... But considering that an average of 16 million people cruise every year, a lot of people are paying more than they have to for their vacations.
The most popular destination for North American cruisers is the Caribbean, but cruises visit all over the world... (You can see the top 20 most popular destinations, based on money spent in port, below.)
One of our Retirement Millionaire Daily editors, Steven Longenecker, has a personal stake in this game.
His wife challenged him to find a room with a balcony for the same price as the inside stateroom on the cruise line's homepage.
It was a tough assignment. Again, an inside stateroom was nearly $1,600 less than the room with a balcony.
But when the bids came in... CruiseCompete returned 10 quotes from 10 different travel agents for the same cruise within seven hours. Steven notes it's important to read the details of each offer to make sure you're comparing the same vacation.
The cheapest bid was $3,453. That's a great price... just $300 more than an inside stateroom. But it wasn't the best quote.
The best was for a price of $4,455 paid "upfront." That's less than the original sticker price for a room with a balcony. And that's before you factor in the amenities...
You see, amenities are a travel agent's best friend. They're what differentiate one bid from another. Here's the rundown for everything that was included in that $4,455 upfront price:
*** $600 in onboard credits. This is cash you can spend on board the ship. You can use it for the spa, shore excursions, professional photos of your vacation, extra drinks, or specialty restaurants on board the ship.
*** $365 in prepaid gratuities ($13 per person, per day). Cruise-ship workers are paid a low base wage and make the rest of their money via tips. Many cruise lines charge these tips automatically and disperse a portion to your cabin attendant, waiter, and bartender... In general, they're regarded as a service fee... not a true "tip" in the most common sense of the word. So having them prepaid is about as good as cash in your pocket.
*** $500-$900 for an all-inclusive drinks package. This turns a cruise ship into a true all-inclusive resort. You don't have to think about buying a drink... It's all taken care of for you. If you paid cash for the amenity, the cruise line would charge $65 per day per person – or more than $1,800 for this 14-day cruise. Ultimately, it's worth whatever you normally drink on vacation... so we valued it at about $500.
All told, the amenities knock the room cost down to $2,990... That's nearly $1,800 cheaper than the original room with a balcony – and it's more than $100 cheaper than the sticker price for the inside room.