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Finding The Best Perks Just Takes Time

You might say we're a little slow. Last week we got a Costco card. It seems everybody we know has a Costco card. You might also say now we can be more a part of those conversations.

With the card came some perks, some of which told us about other perks.

Like cruising.

Since you already know something about cruising, then you also know there are lots of places you can get cruise perks. Travel agents. Websites that sell cruises. The cruise lines themselves. Memberships in other clubs, such as "M Life" in Las Vegas. And obviously, Costco.

Now that we are members, some of the things we can access by booking a cruise with Costco are on-board credits, cabin upgrades, specialty restaurants, entertainment that you would otherwise pay extra for on the ship…that type of thing.

We've seen perks like this mentioned in a myriad of places, but the Costco deal started us thinking about how you wade through them for the best deal. So here, at no charge, are two suggestions you may or may not already know about:

1. Before researching perks, decide on a cruise line, a ship, a departure point or a destination — or all of the above.

2. Once you narrow your options, check with a cruise travel agent to see what they have to offer. Search websites that sell cruises that match your decisions. Compare. All these places have different perks, and different configurations of perks. While it takes some time, that's the only way to find the one that best suits you.

Everybody has an opinion about the "best" place to book a cruise. We have three that we generally check out for the best deals: VacationsToGo.com, iCruise.com and CruisesOnly.com

At the very least, they're a good place to start, and just because cruise lines discount their pricing for agents doesn't mean it isn't worth checking out the cruise line's website, too. It may not be cheaper but, like we said, the perks are all different.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: The end of a 15-day European river cruise

Caribbean Princess
14 nights
June 21, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand TurkFort LauderdalePrincess CaysOcho RiosGrand CaymanCozumel
Inside: $1,199
Cost per day: $85
www.princess.com

Last-minute — Good Deals or Not?

We’ve always believed you could find some of the best travel deals at the last minute. Fill up the empty seats in a plane, berths in a train, staterooms in a ship, right? Now we’re not so sure.

About 10 days ago, we were were checking out flights because, unexpectedly, we were making “last-minute” plans. Five days before flying, the best fare was $171, one way. As the day of departure got closer, the price went higher, ending our plans when it climbed to $381, one way.

On the weekend, the same thing. On Sunday, the best fare available for a September flight was $289. Yesterday, it was $313.

What’s happened to last-minute bargains?

Most of us have to fly before we cruise and in these regressive economic times every travel dollar saved is important, so these “stock-market-like” prices for flights are important.

What about cruise prices?

We’re planning to track some last-minute cruise prices in the days ahead to see what the research demonstrates. In the meantime, what’s been your experience in booking cruises at the last minute; in particular how you think it has changed…or if it has.

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