Expedia and Cruise Tickets
If you're going to be going on a cruise, I highly recommend doing your research and purchase through Expedia.com. I found their system and terms to be quite user friendly.
First, it's easy to research the cruise you want by clicking around on the Expedia website for a few minutes. Track down which cruises leave the port you're near. See which cruises go to the destination you want to visit. Look at the details of the ships, to see if they have the amenities you're interested in.
When you narrow your plans down to a given ship on a given date, you are shown photos of the rooms and can poke through the actual individual rooms that are available. You can get a room exactly where you want it - on the main restaurant deck, down in the lower areas of the ship, up front, in the back. You can't do this in any hotel that I know of! Click on exactly the room that meets all of your needs.
Now it's pretty straightforward. Put in a credit card to make your deposit, and voila! The room is yours. The online itinerary tracking system is simply wonderful, you can rename the various travel plans you have in it so that it's easy to know what is what. The system tells you exactly what you've paid and when any remaining payments are due. Depending on the cruise line's regulations, you usually have a few months in which to pay off the remaining ticket price, so you can pace yourself over time to get that done.
What I really like about Expedia is their price matching guarantee. Lots of travel agents claim "I will match any price". Well sure they will - why would you bother to go through the hassle of switching if you're just going to get the same price that you could have gotten elsewhere in the first place? Expedia takes it one step further. They will not only match any price even if it drops up to 48 hours later - but they will ALSO give you a $50 gift certificate to GiftCertificates.com. Meaning you actually make money by going with Expedia, if the price drops anywhere on the web.
In addition, Expedia has an affiliate program. If someone you know runs a website that has any travel information on it (travelogues, travel photos, etc) have them sign up with Expedia's affiliate program, and put links to Expedia's promos on their website. They can make extra money each time someone buys tickets through those links. Since YOU are buying tickets, you can now buy your tickets via their affiliate program and your friend will get the commission bonus. This is certainly a time where you are promoting a program that is honest and trustworthy!
If you see a price change, make sure you call it in immediately to the provided phone number. Have the exact documentation on hand of what price you paid, what the lower price is, and what website URL you found the lower price on. I found refunds on 3 out of the last 4 rooms I booked, and not all of the customer service personnnel were familiar with how this plan worked. If you give them the details, they can at least speak with their boss, learn how it works, and get you into the system. You should receive the refund either as a credit on your account (if you haven't paid the full balance yet) or as a refund on your credit card (if you've paid in full).
Once I was fully paid, the tickets showed up VERY promptly and were just what I had wanted.
Remember that you typically see a great discount if you go with a travel agent vs going with the cruise lines themselves, because the travel agents buy in bulk and pass the savings along to you. Always be sure to search the web, find out the best prices for the cruise you want, and then put your reservation in at Expedia. That gives you a solid, always-reachable large company to call if you have any problems - and it gives you an easy to use interface so that you can quickly get to the exact details of your travel plans. I've used Expedia for my own cruise plans as well as for trips to Costa Rica and other locations, and have always ended up quite satisfied.
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