Web sites help students find deals on Spring Break cruises
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 16:02
Spring Break is fewer than three weeks away, which means going out, sleeping in and getting a head start on that summer tan. And what better way to welcome the spring season than aboard a luxurious cruise ship on the sparkling waters of the Caribbean?
Such an excursion can accommodate even the thrifty student budget, thanks to the creation of companies such as CruiseCrazies.com, a Web site dedicated to finding the best cruise deals.
How about a four-night trip to Mexico for $209? Or perhaps you would rather spend those four nights in the Caribbean for a mere $249.
The Web site, dubbed "the Friendliest Cruise Community on the Net," is the work of UCF alumnus Jason Taub, who graduated in May. As an accounting major, Taub knows the value of the hard-earned dollar.
His site facilitates all things cruise, from finding the best cruise deals and island activities to cruise reviews and tips on what to pack.
Though cruises can be ultra-pricey, there are several tactics employed by the travel savvy to secure very reasonable deals, making a Spring Break cruise a viable option for students traveling on a budget. In fact, student status can actually work to your advantage, as many companies offer generous student discounts.
Timing is everything. When booking a cruise, thoughtful timing is imperative. The best deals are offered three to six months in advance and a week or two before departure. Last-minute deals are ideal for spontaneous Spring Break trips. Larger companies such as Expedia and Travelocity offer some of the best deals when trying to fill their last few openings.
Many smaller, third-party Web sites competing with larger companies also offer greatly reduced rates. Cruise411.com has a low-price guarantee: Find a cruise at a lower rate, and they promise to match it.
Another useful resource is CruiseCompete.com. As the name implies, it's a site where travel agents compete for business. After you place an anonymous ad for your cruise of choice, agents begin competing to offer you the best deal.
Location is also a determining factor in the price of a cruise. Florida's location makes the Caribbean and Eastern Mexico affordable destinations, while Alaskan and Hawaiian cruises are going to carry steeper prices.
Taub, who has been on more than 20 cruises, said that the nearby Bahamas are the most economically friendly.
In the world of cruising, certain companies cater to different crowds. UCF senior Brendan Richmond, who is president of the Student Cruise Association at the Rosen campus, said the Carnival cruise line is the most student friendly.
"If you're looking for an adventure," Richmond said. "Carnival's called the 'Fun Ship' for a reason."
Carnival calls itself "The World's Most Popular Cruise Vacation" and was voted "Best Value" by the World Cruise and Ocean Liner Society. It has also earned the titles of "Best Value for the Money," "Best Party Line" and "Best Shore Excursions" in Porthole Cruise Magazine's 2006 Readers' Choice Awards. Whichever line you choose, be sure to subscribe to their e-mail list; many companies send discounted promotional offers to their members.
There is power in numbers. Most sites offer discounts to groups, and the larger the group, the better the savings. UCF senior Vikki Richardson is heading to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Mexico on a seven-night cruise with a group of her friends for Spring Break at a specially discounted group rate. For smaller groups, rooms are booked on a double-occupancy basis and additional passengers are given significantly reduced rates.
Also, talk to an agent. The savings obtained through hiring a travel agent will almost certainly cover the cost of his services. Agents have special deals with cruise companies that enable them to offer special deals and incentives. Many agencies offer on-board credit and complimentary upgrades for your patronage.
Whether you are looking for a few days of excitement or a week-long escape, going on a cruise is a feasible option for the cost-conscious student seeking something out of the ordinary; all it takes is a little patience, a little perseverance and a lot of Dramamine.