Many agents advise their clients to book
their air travel with the cruise line, because doing
it on your own can be risky. If you book through the
cruise line and you miss the boat, the cruise line has
a responsibility to get you to the ship. If you book
on your own, you are literally on your own.
If you do book your flight on your own,
seriously consider purchasing a travel insurance policy
that will reimburse you for your costs if you have to
catch up with your ship once it has left port.
Look at nearby ports.
The days when cruise ships
only sailed from Florida and California are long over,
says Entin. "These days the cruise companies sail
out of so many different ports that it is much easier
to find a port near you," she says. "I've
taken a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Bayonne, N.J.,
that is much more convenient to me than going out of
“The days when cruise ships only sailed from Florida and California are long over....”
Other out-of-the-way embarkation points
include Galveston, Texas, and New Orleans. Flights to
those and other less well-known ports may be cheaper,
especially during the holiday season, than other more
well-known ports such as Fort Lauderdale, San Diego
and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Check up on shore excursions.
Many travelers look forward to the variety of
exotic ports of call on a cruise and generally turn
to the shore excursions sponsored by the cruise companies.
But by doing some homework before you leave, you can
figure out exactly what you want to do when you're in
port and book your own shore excursions for considerably
less by cutting out the middleman -- the cruise line.
Many travel agents offer reports on the
ports of call that highlight the various attractions
and the best way to get around. "Our port reports
tell you all sorts of things from what you'd expect
to pay for a taxi to where the best shops are,"
says Eggers. "This kind of information gives you
the insider knowledge to make wiser decisions."
You can get the same information
from many tourist guides, such as the
Lonely Planet or Let's Go series of
travel books, he says, although port
reports may be a bit more up to date.
Once you've figured out what you want
to do, you can contact the vendors listed
in a travel book or port report and
make direct arrangements yourself either
by phone or on the Web.
travelers spend lots of time shopping at ports of call.
"My No. 1 piece of advice for shopping is to know
the cost of what you want before you leave home,"
he says. "If it's a deal, go ahead and buy it,
but otherwise you may be able to get it for the same
price at home."
Eggers says that some cheaper electronics
from the so-called "gray market" are not black-market
goods, but don't carry the same warranties that you'd
get on U.S. products. For example, you could get a digital
camera in the Caribbean for a great price, but it may
be a Japanese model not sold in the United States. So
if you have a problem with it when you get home, there
is no warranty coverage.
Haggling is acceptable and even expected
at many ports of call, especially in the Caribbean. Shoppers are expected to bargain and shopkeepers are not insulted.