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 this 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's 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 vacation.
The most popular destination for North American cruisers is the Caribbean, but cruises visit all over the world... (You can see the top 35 most popular destinations, based on money spent in port, below.)
I'll admit, I (Steven) have a personal stake in this game.
My wife challenged me to find a room with a balcony for the same price as the inside stateroom on the cruise line's homepage for our Mediterranean Cruise.
It was going to be tough. Again, the cost for an inside stateroom was nearly $1,600 less than the room with a balcony.
But I wanted to please my wife...
The bids started to come in, one at a time. CruiseCompete returned 10 quotes from 10 different travel agents for the same cruise within seven hours. Each time, I had to tally up the details and make sure I was comparing the exact 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 quote was for a price of $4,455. That's less than the original sticker price for a room with a balcony. But that's before 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, exclusive wine or champagne, 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 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. I value this at about $500, but if you were to pay cash for it, it would be $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...
Valuing our drink package at $500 gives us an apples-to-apples cost of $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.
Challenge met. We're cruising in style... and will be enjoying a balcony room at an inside-stateroom price.