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Press Release Source: CruiseMates, Inc.

Time for a Cruise? Remember These Tips for Shopping Online
Friday February 6, 12:27 pm ET

NEW YORK, Feb. 6 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- More travelers than ever are using the Internet to research and buy their trips -- but booking a cruise vacation is not the same as reserving an airline seat or hotel room, according to Anne Campbell, editor of CruiseMates.

This is the cruise industry's "Wave Season," the time of year when major lines are inundated with bookings for the months ahead. Industry executives predict that in 2004, Wave Season cruise bookings will show a return to pre-9/11 levels, and that trend is also reflected in visitor traffic to CruiseMates ( http://www.cruisemates.com/ ), the online cruise consumer magazine.

A record 162,999 unique visitors consulted CruiseMates during January 2004, according to CruiseMates' publisher Paul Motter -- an increase of 60% over the previous month. "Not only are people using the Internet to research cruises more than ever before, they are also booking substantially more cruises online," Motter said. While CruiseMates itself does not sell cruises, many online cruise agencies promote their services there.

With hundreds of travel agents selling cruises on the Internet at attractive prices, CruiseMates editor Anne Campbell offers these tips on shopping for and/or buying a cruise on the Internet.

     *  Only book a cruise online if you are an experienced cruiser and feel
        comfortable making your own arrangements.

     *  Booking a cruise online is faster, gives you instant access to all
        available inventory, and can save you money, since many established
        cruise agencies now offer a discount for booking online.

     *  Although it is possible to go directly to a cruise line's Web site to
        book, there is no price advantage compared to using an online cruise
        agency, and you might even pay more for the same cruise.  Many well-
        established cruise agencies now offer online booking capability, and
        in addition to a possible discount for booking online, you also gain
        the advantages a full-service cruise agency provides, such as air and
        hotel arrangements if you need them.

     *  Customer support varies considerably among online cruise agencies.
        Look for a toll-free number prominently displayed on the agency's Web
        site, so you'll know a travel agent will be on hand in case you need
        to contact them later.  Be wary of online agencies that will
        communicate only by email.

     *  Look for well-established online agencies that belong to professional
        organizations like Cruise Lines International Assn. (CLIA) and/or the
        American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).  The agencies offering
        services in CruiseMates' online cruise shopping mall, Cruise Bazaar,
        are all well-established cruise-only agencies, among the biggest and
        best in the nation.

     *  The Internet lets you compare prices from a number of travel agents.
        But remember that pricing for cruises is as volatile as it is for
        airline seats.  When price-shopping, be aware that the low lead price
        you see promoted for a particular ship or cruise is usually for an
        inside cabin, i.e., one with no windows.

     *  Suites and cabins with balconies almost always sell out first, so make
        sure you don't wait too long to book if your heart is set on one of
        these premium categories.  When you find a price that you consider
        attractive, book it soon, because it may not be available for long.

For people who have never cruised before, Campbell recommends the following:

     *  Do not book online.  Consult a cruise travel professional.

     *  Never shop by price alone.  A ship you don't love is never a bargain.
        Do your research first, and find the particular vessels that come
        closest to meeting your own interests and lifestyle (CruiseMates can
        help with its thoroughly researched ship reviews).  Then look at
        itineraries and prices for those ships.

     *  Once you've narrowed down the field, have a full-service cruise agency
        make the booking for you.  A cruise cabin isn't an airline seat:
        Cabins come in many categories that vary in location, size and
        amenities.  There are many other arrangements to be made that may be
        confusing to the novice; dinner reservations, transfers, air travel,
        etc.

CruiseMates is an Interactive Cruise Guide -- not a travel agency.

Recommended by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and ABC-TV's "The View."

Contact: Paul Motter, President, CruiseMates, Inc. www.CruiseMates.com. 602-279-4356



Source: CruiseMates, Inc.

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