Deposit, when to put it down.

When to Put Down that Deposit on Your Next Cruise


The best cruise prices come when you book in advance!  This is especially true when you book 12 to 24 months in advance.  I recently sat down with a business development manager of a huge cruise line, which I am not going to name, but our agency does sell their cruises.  We talked about the newest promotions coming out and I told her that I felt like her company always had promotions going on and I asked if they were finding a decrease in overall cruise sales.  She informed me that their sales have been better than ever because of their promotions.   She explained that many years ago, the business model for cruise lines was to have “fire sales” close to departure dates to fill cabins.  You would be able to get the best deals IF you waited until the last minute.


That was a big risk for cruise lines because if people couldn’t take last minute vacations, those cabins would remain unfilled.  About two years ago, a new CEO came into the company and wanted to get rid of the “fire sales.”  Instead, they wanted to put into place the “incentive” for people to book early.  The earlier they book, the more they save because every so many months, we are going to increase the pricing slightly. 


Not only will they increase the pricing slightly, but they will put out promotions that are combinable with each other.  For example, if you wanted to take an Alaskan Cruise with a cruise tour, you can take advantage of the buy one get one 50% off on the cruise and the $250 off the cruise tour portion.  If there is a flash sale of an onboard credit or beverage package, you can stack promotions on top of each other.  The best part is that if you put down a deposit 12 to 18 months prior to the cruise departure date, you are getting the better value for your cruise than the person who booked last minute. 


This all sounds good and made sense to me, but I really wanted to see the numbers for myself.  I pulled a couple of reservations that our agency made last year and the clients were sailing this year.  I looked at the promotions they were under and the current promotions available.  When I recreated their bookings, the clients would be paying at least a $100/person more if they booked this month compared to what they booked last year!  That is if their cabin category was still available.  One group we had booked, that entire cabin category was sold out.  It was good that they booked the cabins they wanted when they did!


If you are thinking about taking a cruise next year, especially if it is an Alaskan cruise, I would recommend that you call our agency today.  We can help you determine which itinerary will be best for you, and make sure that you get the cabin category you want.  Most deposits for cruise lines are fully refundable up until 90 days prior to departure for a 7-night cruise, so put down the deposit just to secure your space. 


Fill out the form below to get started planning your next European Vacation.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!


All Fun Must Come to an End :(

It seems like each cruise line has their own “private island” where they make a stop for you to enjoy various water activities, light shopping, heavy eating, and/or a relaxing day at the beach.  We stopped at Royal Caribbean’s Coco Cay.  Unlike Nassau, we had to take a tender from the ship to the island.  I have taken many tenders on my various cruises and I have to say they are not my favorite.  Either you are one of the first people to get on the tender that you end up sitting there waiting for it to fill or you are the last people to get on and are stuck on the top deck with the sun beating down on you.  We were the former.  Coco Cay is only a mile long island that offered many activities from beach volleyball, scuba, snorkeling, kayaking, beach spa treatments, and a floating, bouncy area for the kids or brave adults.  We opted to kayak and snorkel.  I am so glad that we choose the kayaking tour.  We had a great tour guide who was from South Africa.  She was one of a handful of people who lived on the island for a contractual period of time and even though this sounds like a fun experience it apparently can feel like Gilligan’s island and buying personal products can be difficult, i.e. deodorant.


The kayaking tour was an hour and a half.  I am happy to report that we had calm waters that day so it was very easy to paddle.  Now when I am on the beach and I look out into the water and see the various shades of blues, I have always assumed that the really dark areas were deep.  This is not the case at all.  The darker blue areas actually had more seaweed growing there than the lighter blue areas but in either case we could get out of the kayak and stand in the water.  This was convenient when we found a conch along the way and got out to examine it.  We also encountered several sting rays with a wing span the length of our kayak, and I also got to hold a sea cucumber, which is nothing more than a big squashy blob with hundreds of tiny legs.   I highly recommend the kayaking adventure because you get to see a lot of the island when you are out on the water and you also get to see a lot of sea creatures in the safety of the kayak.  No sharks, but our tour guide was hoping so badly to see one as they were her favorite creatures.



Now as I had said earlier, we had booked the kayaking and snorkeling tour.  Thinking this would be one activity we were surprised to hear that the snorkeling portion was on our own.  Now snorkeling is not my favorite activity.  A lot of energy and muscles are used that I personally don’t use on a daily basis but when in paradise act like you are in paradise.  The area they have enclosed for the snorkeling is really nice.  There is a natural reef and several man made reefs that they put in for fun.  When looking at this area on the beach it didn’t seem too large but half way through I was exhausted.  I had to take several breaks on the floating islands they have for us weak people.  The good news is there are three lifeguard stations around the area in case you get to tired to make it back to shore or get stung by a jellyfish.  If you are interested in snorkeling then I recommend do it in halves.  Surprisingly, these two activities with lunch made the day go by so fast.  Before we knew it we were back on the tender.


We had one last excursion to take the next day it was the Kennedy Space Center.  Unfortunately when we got back to our room the excursion had been cancelled due to lack of interest.  We were also told to set up a transfer at the Customer Service desk and when we got down there around 6pm they told us that they were not handling transfers anymore and we would have to do it once we got off the ship.  This was a bit confusing but the next day we opted for early departure from the ship and decided instead to rent a car.  When you get off the ship there are several buses for transfers to the airport and you can pay them right there or you can go a little further down the way to pick up a shuttle for any of the major car rental companies.  We rented a car from Enterprise and took our own tour of the Kennedy Space Center.  I absolutely loved the Kennedy Space center.  Their motorcoach tour was amazing or maybe it was the fact that our bus driver was amazing.  He was a retired engineer from NASA and knew his way around the island.  Our 10 minute tour turned into a private 40 minute motorcoach tour of areas I don’t think we were supposed to go to.  We actually drove behind the launch pad where the shuttles took off and saw one of the ground plates.



 Now Florida is notorious for their thunderstorms and this day was no different.  As the storm clouds started to roll in we decided to head back to Orlando to grab some lunch in Downtown Disney.  I did have a plan to eat lunch in Downtown Disney at their new restaurant the Boathouse then do some shopping at the Disney store for the girls.  Unfortunately the rain had other plans for us.  We opted to eat at Bongos café since that was the closest to the parking garage.  In all the years that I have been going to Disney, this was the first time eating at Bongos.  I remember when it first opened it was so hard to get a reservation and they would have live entertainment at night.  The food was really good and the atmosphere makes you feel like you are in a Cuban restaurant.  With the rain beating down as hard it was we decided to call it a day and head to the airport to return our rental car and get through airport security.


My overall impression of Royal Caribbean was good.  I can’t say that I had a great experience because I didn’t get WOW’d.  I am still going to take a vacation on one of their Oasis class and Quantum class ships and I am sure that I will be over the moon WOW’d.  But, Enchantment of the Seas was a good weekend getaway cruise which if that is what someone is looking for then I would recommend this cruise.  Nassau has changed a lot since I was there last and I felt comfortable and safe doing my own thing instead of booking a tour.  There is still a lot for me to see there so I wouldn’t mind going back some day.   Either way, it was a great weekend with the hubby with lots of rest and relaxation.


Fill out the form below to get started planning your next European Vacation.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

Weekend Getaway: Enchantment of the Seas

Well, we made it to the port and I breathed a huge sigh of relief!  Luggage taken by attendants, carry-on in hand, time to get through security.

If you have never taken a cruise before, security is very much like the airport security.  You have to present a government issued photo identification, passports preferred, and your cruise information.  You have to put your carry-on luggage through an X-ray machine and walk through the metal detectors.  You have to check in with cruise terminal personnel who will again verify all of your information, take your photo, and give you your cruise identification cards.  These cards act as your identification to get on and off the ship, cabin entry card, your ship money, and casino points card.  A.K.A. a cruise credit card.


People rate airports so I have to give my two cents on the cruise terminal.  The second cruise I was on was out of Miami back in 2006.  At the time, I wasn’t impressed with their cruise terminal at all.  I felt rushed, no direction, people wall to wall, and I felt it was tiny.  When we took a cruise out of Barcelona, I was impressed.  Spacious, open, very well light, people directing you, everything was clean, and bathrooms were around every corner, which is good if you have to wait to board.  I have to say I was equally impressed by Port Canaveral’s newer cruise port terminal.   Very much like Barcelona’s cruise terminal and there were personnel everywhere to answer questions and direct you.  Total time from when we entered the doors of the terminal to the time we stepped foot on the ship was 15 minutes.  Very quick!


So after we received our cruise cards we were able to board the ship.  If the ship is not ready for you to board, then you wait in the waiting area and they will call you by group numbers.  I understand that everyone is excited for their cruise so checking in early can cause back-ups but the down side is you may have to wait to board.  If you haven’t checked in online a few days before departure, then you will have to fill out paperwork.  To fill out paperwork you must get there earlier than 90 to 120 minutes before departure or you may not be able to board.  Lucky for us they were ready for us to board immediately.





Before you even get on the ship there are still a few more things you can do.  Get professional pictures taken, buy beverage packages, make reservations at the specialty restaurants, get security bands for your kids, and get more information on the Royal Caribbean brand.  We opted for the pictures as you don’t have to pay for them unless you like them.


Our first steps onto the ship lead us to the grand atrium area.  You see people sitting in chairs with their luggage that they didn’t give to the attendants, and the bar is already full.  We decided to start walking around the ship to become more familiar with where things were located.  Being a travel consultant I wanted to get some good pictures of the ship without too many people in them.  For an almost 20 year old ship, I was surprised how nicely kept it was.  I didn’t see too much wear and tear considering they do three night Bahama cruises back to back. The ship had plenty of lounges, bars, elevators, huge main dining room with upper level seating, two cafes for additional dining options, a specialty restaurant, a very spacious casino, large theater, spa, fitness center, rock wall climb, trampoline jumps, and several pools and Jacuzzis including an adult only pool and children’s splash area.  There was way more than enough to keep us occupied on a three night cruise.


In the customer service area they had their cruise planner (daily printed schedule of activities) which highlights what will be going on during the day.  Since we really aren’t pool people and we couldn’t get into our cabin until 1:30pm, we opted to do another activity, planning our shopping in Nassau.  They had a shopping concierge on the ship who gave tips as to what to buy in Nassau and where to buy it.  It was a very interesting lecture and we were able to set up our shopping game plan within that timeframe.  I highly recommend reading the cruise planner daily.  They have some interesting activities from basketball games, to charity events, Bingo, lectures, art auctions, wine and liquor tastings, dancing, and show times.


I must say I was so happy with the amount of activities that they offered that we almost forget that we could finally get into our cabin.  For a three night cruise I, personally, didn’t think that we needed a balcony.  I also didn’t want to be at the bottom of the boat.  There are a few select rooms on the upper decks called the Panoramic Ocean view.  They cost slightly more than just an ocean view but you get a floor to ceiling window.  I had seen these rooms on a ship inspection that I had done a few years ago and have wanted to stay in one since.  I do have to say that I was disappointed with how dirty the cabin was.  There were crumbs all over the carpet, the bathroom shower was grimy, the sink clogged, the toilet was not clean but we won’t get descriptive about that, and the window had an oil film on the outside of it.  The only thing that was clean was the bed.  A phone call to housekeeping and most of the stuff was cleaned up very quickly.


After our Bingo Loss we are onto to Nassau!


Fill out the form below to get started planning your next European Vacation.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!

Weekend Getaway to the Bahamas.

I am excited to report that I recently took a 3-night Bahamas cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas.  This was my first Royal Caribbean experience.  Why did I choose Royal to take my cruise?  My client’s suggestion.  Even though it is my job to give my clients my suggestions on travel and travel suppliers, I also listen to my client’s and get their feedback of which suppliers they like.  Royal has been consistently reviewed by my client’s as a great experience and highly recommended.  When something comes highly recommended you tend to what to try it.


I took my husband with on this familiarization trip and we decided to leave a night early.  Our ship didn’t require us to embark until Friday so we thought it would be fun to go down Thursday night and maybe get dinner at Downtown Disney.  Unfortunately for us, there were thunderstorms up and down the east coast which made for a very bumpy plane ride.  It is also hard to walk around Downtown Disney when it is raining so we opted to eat near the hotel.  I normally don’t say this when in Orlando but the rain actually ended up being a good thing because even though our hotel had shuttles to the Disney theme parks, it did not have one to take us to Downtown Disney.  Yes, Downtown Disney is part of the Walt Disney World Resort and even though this hotel was a Disney partnered hotel, they just didn’t offer a shuttle there.  We found a Giordano’s Chicago Pizzeria in the shopping plaza right next to the hotel.  We ate at the original one in Chicago and we loved their pizza.  Their pizza was also great in Orlando!

After a great night’s sleep, we woke up to beautiful weather.  Since we stayed in Orlando for the night we needed a way to get to Port Canaveral so I decided to book us a private transfer through Viator.  I really like this company because they offer transfers, tours, long weekend getaways, etc. all over the world and the pricing isn’t too expensive.  We ended up having Mear’s motocoach company which is Disney’s go to motorcoach company.  Our driver was on time and the car they chose for us was a Lincoln SUV.  The car was clean, spacious, very high end amenities, comfortable, and didn’t smell.  Our driver was great!  He was from Venezuela and talked with us the whole way to the cruise port which was about an hour drive.


Now, it has been 15 years since I took a cruise out of Port Canaveral.  I had no idea what to expect.  Once we came over the bridge and got our first glimpse of several ships, excitement rushed over me and then panic.  There were three cruise ships that we saw:  Disney Dream, Carnival, and what I believed to be MSC but we couldn’t read the name.  No Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas!  Now Royal has their signature blue anchor on their ship’s stacks.  No fourth ship and no blue anchor, time to panic!  We had the right day, we were there five hours before the ship was supposed to leave dock, but where is it?  Our driver took us to the Carnival cruise line terminal.  He pops the trunk and gets ready to let us out figuring that the ship had to be close by.  Well, when 3000 plus people are trying to get on one ship, you can image how hectic it is with everyone trying to get their luggage onto carts, and unpacking their cars.  This is where I take after my mother, but I demanded that he ask where the Royal Caribbean ship was.  He asked one of the luggage attendants about Royal Caribbean and the guy told him no this is Carnival.  The driver asked again where the Royal Caribbean ship is located, the luggage guy said at the new port just down the road.  Feeling relieved, the driver got back into the car and look confused.  We started off to the new port and within a few minutes we could see a single ship off in the distance.  Hope!  Blue anchor on the stacks, Enchantment of the Seas on the bow, and people unloading their luggage. Whew, we made it!


Now with all of my travels, one thing that I have learned is to listen to my instincts.  If you feel like something is wrong then something is wrong!  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and demand answers if you have too.  When I don’t listen to my instincts I have lost a whole large box of souvenirs, almost didn’t eat for 9 hours, and slept on a mattress that was about 100 years old.  We learn from our mistakes so I wasn’t about to make the mistake of being left at a port where I didn’t see our ship.


It was nice that our driver admitted that he didn’t know this was here and apologized, but I was still a little upset feeling like he was just going to leave us a the Carnival Cruise line terminal.  There would have been no way for us to walk to the Royal Caribbean terminal as it was about one mile away.  Even though the driver had learned something new that day, I would highly recommend this company as they showed up on time, did get us there on time, and the car was clean and didn’t smell.


Now, we did pay for the transfer up front but tip is not included in the pricing.  For a transfer service I typically recommend 10% to 15% of the net rate, taxes not included.  Since the driver had a nice clean car that didn’t smell, was personable, got us to the correct terminal, and took out our luggage for us, I felt that 15% was well earned.



We Made It!

Fill out the form below to get started planning your next European Vacation.  Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs. 

When you book your vacation with a member of the Life is Better Traveling Team, you are supporting local families and business.  Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the past 4 years, we have become an AMAZING travel agency due to your support!