Should I book now or wait, that is my question ??? What should I do ???

I have been asked this question so many times during my 22-year career in this business that I decided to write an article on it and to save it as a resource for each time I get asked this question.

Should I book now my vacation now or wait for a deal? While nothing in life is guaranteed except death and taxes what I am about to tell you is a given fact that you can take to the bank 80-90% of the time. Those are excellent winning odds, even in Las Vegas.

If you book in advance you will always get the cruise lines version of their “book early” discount. Most of the time as the ship is empty early in the booking process they will offer the bigger discounts. As the ship begins to fill up the discount they offer you will start to decrease. Most people think the cruise lines lowball the prices right before the cruise. WRONG !!!!!  It doesn’t work that way.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you wait closer to the sail date to book your cruise and there happens to be some kind of promotion going on be prepared NOT to get something that you were really hoping for. More than likely the dining time you really want will be on a waitlist. You might want a balcony, but there isn’t any left so now you have to suffice with just a window cabin, or an interior cabin. More than likely the last cabins available on the ship will be by the staircase, elevator, the front or back of the ship, next to the pantry area or under some very noisy and busy public area. So, while you may have saved a few bucks on your cruise you can now stay up even later at night since you won’t be able to get a good night sleep in your noisy cabin. On the flip side if you book early you will get the early booking discount, and will get to choose your specific deck and cabin, and will even have your choice of dining times.

Let’s do some math. Say I book a cruise a year in advance and my balcony cabin is $1,000 per person. With 2 people in the room that would be $2,000. Now 3 months before the cruise they come up with a Texas resident, a senior or a military promotion. You are so happy that you decided to wait and book this cruise now instead of doing it a year in advance like I did. You’re super excited because you got a deal by waiting and I did not. They are offering 30% off the first passenger and a $50 onboard credit per cabin. What you fail to realize is that your balcony price because you waited so long to book this cruise has increased to $1,300 per person or $2,600 for 2 people, and with a 30% discount off the first person (-$390) that brings it down to $2,210. And even if you take off the $50 of onboard credit that takes your price down to $2,160. You’re feeling proud of yourself because you took advantage of a good promotion and brought your $2,600 cruise down to $2,160. When I booked the cruise, there was no promotion except the basic early booking promotion and I paid $2,000. So, you ended up paying $2,160 and I paid $2,000. Let me ask you a question, “who paid less?”. And again, I got the dinner time I wanted and you are more than likely going to get waitlisted for what you want and probably won’t even get it. I also have a great cabin location right in the center of the ship in a nice and quiet area. Because you waited to book your cruise everyone else beat you to the prime cabin locations. Your choices now are probably underneath the cafeteria which has a crew working above your head 24 hours a day making noise, underneath the noisy pool area, or underneath the disco with loud music echoing through your walls until 3am.

If you book in advance you will also get to split up the deposit and final payment date helping you to spread out your payments and budget for your vacation. If you book within 3-4 months of departure you will have to come up with the full amount all at once.

This philosophy not only applies to cruises, it applies to all vacations including all those great all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean. I will bet you money that any smart shopper will want the cheapest, shortest, and most direct airline schedule to begin and end their vacation with. Once the wise folks buy these seats up you will be left with the longer and more expensive flights.

So, there you have it.

Steve Rice
The Cruise Butler

The “10 Commandments of Travel”


Due to all the bad advise that I constantly hear I have developed a new set of the “10 Commandments”. Please use this as a travel resource when booking your next vacation. Trust me……you will have a better overall experience and your money will go farther.

The Cruise Butler




Traveling to Europe – Money hints and suggestions


  • When traveling to Europe I would bring the equivalent of $100 per day, per couple in local currency. This amount will keep you out of trouble and more than likely you will even have some leftover Euro’s which you can exchange back into USD when you get back into the USA. This money can be used for a cheap cab fare, a tip, a cold beer, a small souvenir, a sandwich and soda somewhere or an admission to a venue, subway fare, etc. Anything over $20 per person I tend to just put in on my credit card.
  • Travelers Checks are almost a thing of the past and are considered “old school” by many.
  • American Express is NOT widely used in Europe. You might find some locations but they are limited.
  • I would suggest taking 2-3 credit cards with you, and different types, such as Discover, MasterCard, or Visa.
  • If you plan on using your credit cards at ATM’s for money withdrawals make sure you have a PIN number to do so.
  • Advise your bank and/or credit card companies that you will be traveling to Europe during this time so they don’t cancel your card due to suspicious activity while you are in the middle of your vacation. That really adds unnecessary frustration to your trip.
  • The best locations that I’ve found for money exchange are the money exchange companies located at the international airport terminals. From my experience they have the best exchange rate around and they will even buy back your unused Euro’s from you when arriving back into the U.S.

I hope that helps with your planning.

What type of cruise line should I choose ?

February 11, 2014 at 10:47pm

by Steve Rice; The Cruise Butler

Choosing a cruise line to travel on is just like choosing a hotel chain to stay at. With hotels you have many inexpensive options, mid-range options and high end hotels to choose from. Well the cruise lines are no different. Some are very inexpensive, some are mid-range and others are on the high side. But it’s important to note just like with the hotels you get what you pay for! Even though the higher priced cruise lines will cost you more upfront they include a lot more than the mass market cruise lines do. Many times gratuities, specialty restaurants, wine, beer, sodas, bottled water, internet, alcoholic beverages, champagne breakfasts, gourmet coffees, teas, even shore excursions and more will be included. The majority of the inexpensive to mid-range cruise lines you will charge you more for all these extras.

If you are looking for a smaller ship with fewer passengers onboard then I would encourage you to consider one of these options. The mid-size to large sized ships can hold up to 3-6 thousand people. These smaller ships typically hold just between 120-1200 people.

Another huge benefit of these smaller cruise lines is that they can generally increase your sightseeing time in port. This maximizes your vacation time. Thinks about it, how long do you think it takes to board 200-500 people compared to boarding 3-6 thousand people?

Avalon SuitesSmaller ships like river cruises dock in the heart of town and you’re within walking distance to all the sightseeing attractions. Many other ships will drop anchor right in a cove of a gorgeous beach versus docking in a large and busy commercial dock area where it might take you over 30 minutes in a cab (another expense) just to get to a nice beach. Some smaller ships will even stay in port overnight giving you a whole new perspective of the town you’re in.

There really aren’t any cruise lines that are adult-only, but these smaller more upscale cruise lines don’t cater to children so you will find very few if any of them onboard.

So while these smaller cruise lines cost more their benefits and the over-all positive cruise experience far out ways the extra cost.

We are always here to help and guide you in planning your next great adventure. So why not give us a call and book your next cruise with us.

The Cruise Butler – 830-981-2445 – 

“Me” versus “the internet”

With almost 18 years in this business I offer much more than just quoting a price. A trained monkey can point out a price on a computer screen to you. With all the years that I have been in this business, the 70+ cruises I have been on with all different lines, and all the destinations I have traveled to, you will get much more than that from me.

Do you want to book your vacation with someone who sits behind a desk and has never been to the location that you are interested in? Or with a person who has never been on the cruise line or the ship you are considering spending your valuable money on?Image  Or do you want to deal with someone that spends their own time, money and effort to travel to these destinations to learn all about them?

Go to the customer service tab on our home page and spend some time reading our “clients testimonials” and “qualifications”. After you do you won’t ask me what can you do for me that the internet can’t do?

Choosing the right all-inclusive resort for you.

COE trip 2012 108

Azuls Five Resort

Many, many times I have people ask me to find them a deal at a cheap all inclusive resort. Most of those people come back unhappy. Instead of looking for the best price at any all inclusive resort, what you need to do is concentrate on a good value on a resort that’s right for you.

We just returned from a trip to the Mayan Riviera where I was awarded a trip for winning a national sales award. During this stay we had the opportunity to visit 6 different resorts. Each one of these were a different size. Some were small and intimate and some were huge. Some had a great beach while others had coral. Some had an active nightlife while others were very tranquil at night. And while all these resorts included tips, food and drinks, some had okay food, while others had fabulous food and restaurant options. And lastly some resorts were adult only while others catered to families.

So again qualifying your needs and desires will help us in choosing the right resort for you. It probably wont be the cheapest deal for you, but it will be the one that caters to the majority of your desires.