Booking my cruise through an online booking site…is it a good idea?

Update after Coronavirus: It was sad for us, but this cruise was cancelled because of the Coronavirus. We did get a refund from Cruise Direct, but lost some of our money as a fee. I think we lost $50 a person. I don’t think that we’ll book again with an online site just for that reason…

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Okay, I’m somewhat of a control freak when it comes to booking my vacations.  That being said, we wanted to try something different for our next cruise in November.  Our last cruise was on the MSC Meraviglia, and it was a disappointing cruise for both of us.  We have a $310 credit for our next MSC cruise because the long awaited Ocean Cay was not ready on time. However,  I just could not bring myself to book another MSC cruise, even though the price would be very good.  Maybe in the future.

Norwegian

We’ve been trying to decide what cruise to do for some time.  We’d been wanting to cruise on Norwegian to see what it was like, but the prices have always been too high.  I did notice though that on some online booking sites, the cost of the cruise we wanted was $200 less than on the Norwegian website.  Now, like I say, I like to be in control of my travel bookings, but a $200 savings per person is nothing to sneeze at.  Can you trust booking sites?  What’s the catch?  Why is it so much cheaper? I’ve booked motels before through places like Hotwire and Expedia, but a cruise is quite more expensive and complicated. 

Researching booking sites

I decided to do some research on the online booking sites.  It’s really hard to find information so I read reviews.  I’m aware that a lot of people only leave reviews when they’re not happy with a company, but I did find one company that had almost entirely good reviews.  Plus, it said it had an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.  But, can you trust a website to tell you the truth?  I did some more research, found the parent company, and checked it on the BBB.  And yes, the company did have an A+ rating.  There were 8 total complaints within the past three years, and almost all were satisfactorily resolved. 

Then I did a dummy booking on a couple of sites to see what would happen.  We are AAA members, so I tried that one first.  When we put in our details, the price came up as $400+.  But, when we put in our details to book, the price jumped up by a whopping $200, to the same price as Norwegian’s website.  I’m sorry, but that to me is bait and switch, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. 

And on to CruiseDirect

The site that I’d been researching was CruiseDirect, whose parent company is International Voyager, Inc., based in NJ.   (And because of my good experience I decided to become an affiliate of CruiseDirect.  But remember, I haven’t gone on this cruise yet, so I don’t know how this will turn out. Use it at your own risk.)  When I did the dummy booking on that site, there was no rise in price.  Still, I was wary.  When I looked into the details of the cruise, I saw that we would receive a 10% discount on excursions, a $25 On Board Credit, and the unlimited free drink package. 

Be aware, when I looked into the drink package fine print I saw that even though it was technically free, we would be charged an almost $20 per person per day gratuity charge by Norwegian.  That kind of puts a dent in the “free” drink package, in my opinion.  We’re not huge drinkers, and wouldn’t even drink enough for the gratuity fee. Water and iced tea is fine for me, so I immediately got on the chat room with CruiseDirect agent Jorge, who assured me that they could take off the “Free” drink package after we booked.  

To book, or not to book, that is the question

At this point, I contacted a Travel Agent to see if she could meet the price, but she couldn’t.  And I was not going to pay full price for this cruise.  I talked to my husband, and we decided to chance using CruiseDirect.  The down payment would be $200, and we decided it was worth a try.  We really want to check out Norwegian and this was the only way we could do it.

I put in all my information, and the price came up at the lower price again.  However, at this point there was only one cabin left.  We decided to do an interior cabin for this cruise to save money.  We only use the cabin for sleeping and relaxing.  It wasn’t in the most ideal spot, all the way to the front of the ship on deck 8, but we decided to book anyway.  We may hear the anchor being lowered early in the morning when we get to port.  This is a five day cruise with only two stops, so it shouldn’t be too bad.  We’ll bring earplugs and a sound machine with us. 

CruiseDirect Customer Service

As soon as I booked I got back on the CruiseDirect chat room with agent Jade.  Both time that I used the chat room, I was hooked up with an agent immediately.  There was absolutely no waiting.  There is a phone number, but I didn’t use it so I don’t know the wait time with that.  Jade was very helpful, and told me that yes, she could take the free drink program off of our booking.  Then she asked me if I would like the free 100 minutes of wifi instead, or if I’d like $50 off of excursions.  I really didn’t expect that I’d get anything in place of the drink package, and was very pleased to get the free wifi. 

Jade then gave me the link to Norwegian, and I was very happy to see that my booking was showing up on the NCL.com website already.  I just had to sign up for my $25 on board credit, and I was done.  So far, I’d give CruiseDirect an A+ for customer service.  At this point, I think it was a good idea, but I won’t know until I’m on the ship sailing to the Bahamas.  If anything happens in the months ahead to change my opinion I’ll let you know. I’ll be sure to put it on my Facebook page, so make sure you like the page so you can keep up.

Our Cruise on the Norwegian Escape

I’m really excited about our Cruise on the Norwegian Escape.  We’ve sailed Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and MSC, but this will be our first time on Norwegian.  It’s a large newer ship, and it looks like there will be a lot to do.  It’s only a five day cruise, and our ports will be Great Stirrup Cay, which will be our first time on a cruiseline private island, and Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.  It seems that Puerto Plato’s new cruise port in Taino Bay will be opening this summer, so it should be interesting.  From what I’ve read, the same people are building it that built the Costa Maya port, and that’s one of my favorites. 

NCL Escape
Norwegian Escape St Thomas
Affiliate Link

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