I am planning a trip for this upcoming January, but have never sailed with Carnival. I had previously been on a Royal Caribbean cruise(when I was younger), but the attractions and such don't really interest me enough to spend the extra money. Are there any really good sites to get a deal on the cruise? I've been looking around google and have found a few, but am weary because I haven't heard of them before.
Also, when should I book? Is it best to book flight and cruise together, or could I book a cruise now and wait a few months for airfare. I'm looking to go early to mid January, to avoid school vacations.
Carnival offers excellent value, and a relaxed onboard atmosphere, and their food is at least as good as other mass market lines... so I think you'll enjoy the experience.
If you're doing a regular Caribbean or Mexican Riviera cruise, rather than a repositioning cruise, I'd book the air portion on your own, not with Carnival. You'll save money, and can choose your own flights.
As to when to book... Carnival does offer an Early Saver rate, which guarantees you the lowest price... if the price of your cruise happens to drop before you sail you get the reduction.
However, there are some penalties involved for changes if something happens.
I wouldn't book strictly "online". Any agents you check can offer you better pricing responding to telephone or emal requests for quotes.
I would either book with a local travel agent (such as AAA Travel) or you can call Carnival directly to book with one of their agents. I would never trust an online site to make all the arrangements and such.
Depending on where you are flying from, since it is January, you may want to arrive the day before your cruise, in case of a snow storm etc, which may delay your flight, remember that if you book your own flight, and it is delayed or cancelled, Carnival will not hold the ship or make alternate travel arrangements.
Another good time to miss the school crowd is mid to late April, as college finals are being given, and schools are winding down.
We always use our travel agent. She always finds us the best hotels, airfare and cruises. She is great and the prices are comparable to the so called discount dot coms, (be careful of the discount dot coms and getting a refund if you need them). Be sure to use all of the discounts that available to you, (prior cruiser, military, AAA, seniors and more). Also make sure that you purchase Cruise & Travel Insurance. Last year, I booked a supprise cruise for my wife's Birthday. A few months prior to sailing, she had a terrable accident and had to cancel that cruise. I purchased "Travel Guard" Insurance as part of our cruise package and was able to receive all of our money back...even non refundable Air Line tickets.
I heard that the cruise lines stopped selling the airfare, they were too expensive anyway.
Also make sure that you book early, book your cruise at least six months early, (we always book at least one year or so in advance). That way you will usually receive the "Early Saver" discount, which is usually half off the normal price. The earlier you book, the more discounted rooms/ staterooms are available to you, (discounted rooms a numbered to very few).
Also January is a great time to cruise. The cruise lines usually offer even more discounted cruises for this time of year. January is the cruise lines slow time of year so you should be able to get a better bargan. So see your travel agent.
We love anything assocated with crusing and traveling. We are retired U.S. Navy...and loving it, "Been there...done that"! (almost).
MS Carnival Glory 11/2010
MS Carnival Liberty 11/2007
MS Carnival Spirit 10/2006
MS Carnival Victory 12/2005
MS Star Princess 12/2002
MS Carnival Victory 12/2000
USS Bristol County, LST 1198, 1980-1982
USS Turner Joy, DD951, 1973-1978
I love to sail in January - its usually easier on the wallet and less crowded. I'm in Boston so I always go at least 1 day before in case of storms.
I book my airfare to FL first (since I know which week I'll be sailing), then I book a last minute cheap-o cruise. I alway seem to find a decent cabin - not too fussy about that anyway. And with Miami and Ft. Lauderdale so close - you can choose ships / flights from either city.
When it comes to vacation - I'd rather travel on the cheap side and more often rather than booking the best of the best and going less often. I guess it depends on personal preference and how comfortable you are booking something last minute.
If booking early and booking early saver rates make sure you know the details of booking that rate.
You can't cancel a booking without losing $50pp and having your deposit held by the cruiseline for up to 2 years for you to rebook.
Unless you rebook at the same time as you cancel you will need to put down another deposit and the amount Carnival has from your previous cruise will be deducted from the balance due after you pay your new deposit.
You also can't change names of any pax and there is a $50pp for certain changes.
Good luck with air, its really getting bad. We have been looking for 4 weeks for our cruises in Dec and Jan and they are out of sight compared to last year. Guess we will have to pay the price before they go up some more.
Unless you live VERY close to to the port, I strongly advise going the day before. Last fall we sailed out of San Diego. Due to parking issues (long story) my husband missed the plane. They put him on the next plane out, but it had 2 layovers and he made the ship by the skin of his teeth. He got there with only minutes to spare. You just never know what will happen. We are going on the Ecstasy next week. Even though we are 5 hours from Galveston, we are going down the day before. That way we don't have to leave at dawn and won't be exhausted and stressed out when we embark.
Something I've found recently is an android and iphone app for kayak. The really cool thing about it is that it updates 3 times a day with the lowest possible airfare for the flight I'm looking for and for those dates. It checks travelocity, expedia, etc. It also tells you the trend of the price (like right now bos->mia is rising)