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Why Cruise Travel Agents Are A Good Idea

Our colleague at Ports and Bows, Phil Reimer, probably posts more cruise deals on line than any unbiased cruise writer in the business. And every time he does, accompanying the listing is his sage advice:

Check with a travel agent who specializes in cruises.

The reason is twofold. 

One is that the travel agent can do all the work for you, once you provide a couple of preferences…such as where you want to go, what kind of ship you like and how much you want to spend. In most cases, this spadework is usually done at no cost to you, as travel agents earn commissions from cruise lines.

Two is that cruise lines discount cruises for travel agents and agree to some perks. They will certainly be different from perks the cruise lines themselves promote in selling cruises, and sometimes they're better. Sometimes, too, travel agents include perks of their own.

So don't take our word for it…take Phil's. He is expert at such things.

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Two Holland America ships on the move

Carnival Imagination
3 nights
August 21, 2014
Los Angeles (return): Ensenada
Inside: $169
Cost per day: $103
www.carnival.com

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

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