Cruise Packages In's and Out's

There are many ways to find cruise packages. The main thing to remember is that in booking holidays, as in the rest of life, human contact is key. The internet is useful for many forms of travel. But bear in mind that what makes internet booking quick and convenient for straightforward transactions such as buying plane or train tickets may well make it infuriating for more complicated procedures. That's to say, it's impersonal. There are plenty of broker sites providing cruises but it may be difficult to find someone to talk to if you need to modify your booking, particularly if it's not in the company's favour for you to do so. This doesn't mean it's impossible to get a good deal over the internet, far from it. But there are so many variables with a package holiday not just the cruise itself, but the flights to and from the places of embarkation/debarkation and possibly accommodation at them that it's useful to have someone who will help you through it step by step.

That's why the best way to book cruise packages is usually through an agent. Considering how long cruises have been around, agents are a relatively new invention. Until the 1970s, the vast majority of cruises were arranged directly with the lines themselves. But when travel agents and lines realized that they could be of benefit to each other, it all changed and nowadays only about a fifth of cruises aren't booked through agents. A good cruise specialist will be able to use their detailed knowledge of the industry to find you the best price and style of holiday.

One place to start looking for a good specialist is the Cruise Line International Association (www.cruising.orgwww.cruising.org). Set up in 1975, it now has 17,000 travel agencies across America and Canada affiliated with it, and is the industry's official US trade body. It's a good benchmark for reliable agents.

One more thought in so far as you can, make sure you are happy with the flight times when you book the package. Several lines send people out in group bookings, and if you change the flights, delays or cancellations will be your problem, not the cruise company's. That's to say, you may not get compensation if you miss embarkation and have to travel to another port (although there's a possibility the airline will eventually award it to you as a courtesy).

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