Article from Arthur Frommer's BudgetTravel:

For Discounted Cruises Fifteen Top Cruise Brokers (or "Cruise Consolidators")

Here, the potential for savings is even greater than it is for airfares. In its use of discount "consolidators," the aviation industry is a "piker" by comparison to the cruise lines.

TODAY, IN THE world of cruises, a mammoth number of berths and cabins are heavily discounted when sold by the nearly 80 large consolidators that in turn receive discounts from the cruise lines. One cruiseship executive, in a recent appearance before a group of travel agents, actually told them to use the cruise prices set forth in his company's catalogue as "only reference points"-meaning, the prices from which discounts were given!

If you were to be seated for the evening meal at an eight-person table aboard one of the major cruiseships, you'd probably find that three of your table-mates had each paid $1,900 for their cruise, while two others had paid $1,600, and three had paid $1,200. And yet all were occupying exactly the same category of cabin, and receiving precisely the same shipboard privileges.

In the field of cruising, only the chump pays full price.

In the field of cruising, only the chump pays full price. We hate to use such vulgar language, but there's no other way to capture the current chaos in the pricing of cruises. Consolidators get discounts, large consortiums of travel agencies get discounts, large chain agencies get discounts, and only the chump pays full price.

Frequently, you yourself may be able to find the companies offering these under-the-counter discounts by simply looking for firms that have a maritime term in their titles-they will either identify themselves as a company selling nothing other than cruises ("ABC Cruises"), or else call themselves "Ship Ahoy" or "Anchors Aweigh," or by some other cloying term. Chances are that such specialists in the cruise activity will also be sources of discounted prices.

But to be sure of obtaining the sharpest discount from the most experienced of cruise consolidators (they sometimes call themselves "cruise brokers"), you may find the following 15 representative companies useful:

The Cruise Guy (800.700.3881, This Web site by cruise expert, Stewart Chiron, lists the top cruise deals every week - "a small sample of a huge inventory of possible discounts," Chiron says. The Web site has been up since 1995 and is now part of The Leisure Pros travel group. Booking cruises online as well as discount hotel and airfare deals through links are also available.

2005 Newsweek, Inc.



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