" Does the cruise price seem too good to be true? If so, it probably is. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies' prices."
Unpleasant surprises can ruin a cruise vacation. That's why it pays to investigate before you buy. On the internet it can be difficult to tell a legitimate offer from a fraudulent one, so consider these travelers' advisories from information complied from the Federal Trade Commission and other sources.
Be wary of "great deals" and low-priced offers. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies' prices. Don't be pressured into buying. Legitimate businesses don't expect you to make snap decisions.
Ask detailed questions. Find out exactly what the cruise price covers and what it doesn't. Ask about additional charges. Get all the details included in your package. Consider contacting the cruise line directly to verify arrangements. Ask about cancellation policies and refunds. If the company can't give you detailed answers, go somewhere else.
Get all information in writing before you agree to buy. Ask for a copy of the cruise line's own written confirmation. Once you receive the written information, make sure it reflects what you were told over the phone and the terms you agreed to. If the company offers you a great deal but won't give you the details in writing until you have paid, it could be a scam operation. If the company can't give you a copy of the cruise lines own confirmation, go somewhere else.
Don't buy part of the package - the air fare or cruise - separately from the rest. If the deal is not what you expected, it may be difficult to get your money back for the part of the package you purchased.
Don't give your credit card number or bank information over the internet or phone. One easy way for a scam operator to close a deal is to get your credit card number and charge your account. Sometimes fraudulent telemarketers say they need the number for verification purposes only. Don't believe them.
Ask the agent to fax all the necessary documents directly to you.This helps protect your privacy and personal financial information. If the company doesn't take steps to protect your personal information, go somewhere else.
Don't send money by overnight mail. Some scam artists may ask you to send them a check or money order immediately. If you pay with cash or a check, rather than a credit card, you lose your right to dispute fraudulent charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act. If you charged your cruise to a credit card, you may dispute the charges by writing to your credit card issuer at the address provided for billing disputes. If possible, do this as soon as you receive your statement. In any case, the law gives you up to 60 days after the bill's statement date to dispute the charge.
Check out the company before you buy. Contact the Attorney General in your state or where the company is located to see if any complaints have been lodged against the travel firm or the travel provider. Be aware that fraudulent businesses often change their names to avoid detection.
If in doubt, say "no." Trust your instincts. It's less risky to turn down the offer so hang up the phone. Be wary of a salesperson who "pushes" one cruise line,cruise ship or itinerary. That's not a good sign that they are working in your best interest. You may be asked after you book and place a deposit to pay more for port charges, document shipping costs,higher than normal deposits upfront, unreasonable cancellation fees.
That cut-rate cruise offer may not be a bargain after all,especially when dealing with "Cheap" or "Deep Discount" travel brokers who might use bait and switch tactics to get you to buy something you did not want.
Marty Trencher is Editor of Travel News Online and Cruise Direct Online. What's your experience?