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

 

I know that sounds a bit like a Shakespeare quote, but it’s a very common question that we get asked a lot. Is it best to book your cruise in advance or wait until the last minute?

Recently we returned from the Allure of the Seas. During that cruise I attended the past passenger party. At the party a passenger took to the stage and spoke about all his cruises and how he books them. He had some very interesting comments that I wanted to share with you. This man who has been on over 100 cruises in the past 5 years did a spreadsheet to track the benefits, if any, of booking ahead.  He generally books all his cruises 2 years in advance, once the schedules become available. He discovered that 70% of the cruises he had booked had increased in price from the time they booked it until the ship had sailed. 15% of the time the prices had remained exactly the same, and the other 15% of the time they had decreased in price. He made the comment that if there was a machine in the casino that consistently paid off 70% of the time he would play it all the time. That’s a very true and smart statement.

He also said that if the price does happen to go down before the final payment date then the travel agent will protect it and adjust the fare to the new lower price. “So how can I lose”, he said.  Another very good point made. He also followed up with the fact that by booking 2 years in advance he also gets the best cabin choice available.

 The moral of this story is that buying your cruise in advance will give you the best price and location 85% of the time. If you are one of those people who have a very flexible schedule and can go at the last minute (and take advantage of that rare 15% discount) that’s great. Your cabin may not be in a great location, but at least you got a good deal. 

 

 

A trip to Las Vegas is cheap….NO, it’s not!

We just returned from a national convention in Vegas and spent 5 nights at the Paris Hotel and Casino. Do you know that you can almost go on a premium deluxe cruise or a romantic and picturesque river cruise through Europe for about the same amount as a trip to Las Vegas will cost you? If it’s been a while since you’ve been to Vegas it has changed! It’s not like the good old days when there were lots of bargains; those days are gone. You will no longer find $59 per night luxury hotel rooms, or all you can eat steak and lobster buffets for just $8.99. Since Las Vegas has welcomed  the culinary invasion of Chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Emeril, Bobby Flay, Gordon Ramsey and others, the prices in Vegas have sky rocketed. These days you will have to look long and hard to find a basic dinner buffet for under $33.99 per person.

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I have attached a copy of our breakfast receipt. You will see that my wife and I did not over indulge. We each had a cup of coffee and a glass of juice. We shared one croissant. Lanette had a quiche and I had the Skinny du Jour which was a crepe with fresh berries and crème – that’s it – and it cost over $60 with a tip for just 2 people. So it’s VERY easy to spend over $30 per person for breakfast for a very average size breakfast. Dinner at Roy’s was supposed to be less expensive since we decided to eat off the strip that night. A cocktail was almost $11 each; the “canoe for two” at almost $27 was an appetizer plate. My Roy’s Trio was a very small sampling of three different fish portions and we split one dessert.  Again, almost $85 per person by the time we paid a tip.

I hate going on vacation constantly budgeting every drink, beer, and menu item that I eat and drink throughout the day with the fear of what my bill will be at the end of my vacation. Vacations are supposed to be stress free…not stressful !!!

Let’s be honest, if you’re going to entertain yourself in Vegas you will have to purchase expensive excursions to the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, or spend lots of money on admission fees, cover charges to clubs, gambling and shows. And good luck finding a decent show for under $75 per ticket. A good seat (I stress the word “good”), will cost $125-$300 for shows like Blue Man Group, “O”, Elton John, Celine Dion, Jersey Boys, etc.

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For those of you who say you can drink for free in Vegas, are you really drinking for free when you’re sitting on a stool pouring money into a machine?

So if you think a trip to Europe on an upscale line is too much money and a trip to Vegas is cheap you are wrong! I included a spreadsheet table below that will provide you with a comparison. Now I will admit that airfare to Europe will cost more money than a trip to Vegas but that’s about the only benefit Vegas has over Europe, in my honest opinion.

Lets’ be honest here. When you are on vacation you want to let your hair down, relax and enjoy yourself. You won’t enjoy yourself that much if you’re constantly watching every dollar you’re spending, or limiting yourself on drinks, sightseeing options, shows, etc.

So I encourage you to expand your horizons the next time you’re planning on taking a vacation.

Las Vegas River Cruise Azamara Oceania Regent Crystal
Hotel w/ taxes $176 or $88 p.p. $399 p.p. $408 p.p. $335 p.p. $757 p.p. $393 p.p.
Places you   will visit in a week 1 4 to 6 4 to 6 4 to 6 4 to 6 4 to 6
Breakfast $30 p.p. included included included included included
Lunch $30 p.p. included included included included included
Dinner $83 p.p. included included included included included
Shows $125 p.p. included included included included included
Evening club   entrance fees $30 p.p. included included included included included
Room service $$$ additional n/a included included included included
estimated   beverage costs $44 p.p. mostly   included included $44 p.p. included included
Snacks $20 p.p. included included included included included
Bottled water, soft drinks, specialty coffees and teas additional included included included included included
Beer additional included included additional included included
Wine additional included included additional included included
Cocktails additional additional included additional included included
Tours additional included $100 p.p. $100 p.p. included $100 p.p.
Gratuities additional $15 p.p. included included   on most voyages included included
Specialty   restaurants additional included additional included included included
Price per person / per day $450 -$500 +++ $414 $508 + $479 + $757 $493 +
Estimated   beverage cost is based on 4 alcoholic drinks at an avg. of $9 each, and 4   sodas at $2 each
River   cruise based on AmaDolce on April 13-Tulip cruise
Azamara   based on oceanview on Quest on April 30-Med cruise
Oceania   based on oceanview on Insignia on May 15-Med cruise
Regent   based on balcony on May 12-Med cruise

Concerned about being “nickel and dimed” on a cruise.

Concerned about being “nickel and dimed” all during your cruise – well, you don’t have to be! That’s up to you. There are several fantastic upscale cruise lines out there that include all the gratuities, wine, beer, cocktails, specialty restaurants, shuttles, shore excursions and much more. A lot of people however look at the small picture (or price) instead of the big one. Folks will focus on the cheaper mass market cruise prices that we’ve all heardImage about on TV and then when I tell them these prices they get shell-shocked. But wait just a minute, if you take all the gratuities, the larger and fancier cabin, more attentive service, beer, wine, cocktails, bottled water, specialty coffees, daily restocked fridge in your cabin, specialty restaurants, shore excursions and more you will come out very close to the price on these premium and deluxe lines.  However, you will still more than likely pay a little bit more for these premium lines but the level of service, the quality of the food, the ambiance and elegance of the ship are all worth it. The food really is FANTASTIC, service is impeccable, and you can totally enjoy yourself daily without constantly worrying about how much you’re spending and adding to your cruise bill. You also won’t have the crowds, or have to fight for a chair at the pool or have 800 kids running all over the ship. Doesn’t this sound more elegant, relaxing, carefree and upscale to you? Don’t you deserve to take a cruise of this quality?