Trip Coach: June 21, 2005 Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach! Because of the high volume of questions, Budget Travel editors will be answering your questions throughout the afternoon. So apologies in advance if we don't answer your question this week--and check back next week for another Trip Coach! Budget Travel Tuesday, Jun 28, 2005, 12:01 PM Budget Travel LLC, 2016
 

TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: June 21, 2005

Budget Travel Editors: Welcome to this week's Trip Coach! Because of the high volume of questions, Budget Travel editors will be answering your questions throughout the afternoon. So apologies in advance if we don't answer your question this week--and check back next week for another Trip Coach!

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Windsor, Ontario: I'm a cruiseaholic and part of the excitement has always been finding a great deal which until recently has been fairly easy. I know that travel agents are no longer allowed to advertise discounts for most cruise lines unless they are sanctioned by the cruise line but if you call a wholesaler for a quote, can they give you a discount as long as it's not advertised? I've tried the cruise auctions and find that their prices are usually higher than the advertised prices.

Budget Travel Editors: You're right on two accounts. Travel agents can no longer advertise discounted rates on most cruise lines (rebates, as their called), but travel agents can still give you a hush-hush discount off the price that's officially sanctioned by the cruise line. As long as a travel agent isn't advertising the price, the cruise lines leave the agency alone. The discounts will vary depending on who you're travel agent is; some will stick to the official price. A good agent will give a good client either a discounted rate or some kind of perk as a thanks for their business. The perks may be on-board credits at the casino or the pay-extra restaurant, free or discounted excursions, free or discounted airfare, etc. But it's generally up to the customer to shop around and see which travel agent will give them the best deal. If all your agent is offering is the same price as if booking through the cruise line directly, turn the tables and ask him or her straight up: Why should I book with you? What can you do for me? The more you know about how the market works, the better your chances of getting a deal. That's how the game works these days.

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Rochester Hills, MI: I would like to plan a trip to the Sacramento,CA? What is the cheapest airline to fly in SAC from DTW? What special things should I try to do while visiting friends?

Budget Travel Editors: Northwest's hub is in Detroit, so you'll probably get more convenient flights to Sacramento. But for low fare carriers, America West and Frontier both fly from Detroit directly to Sacramento. You might also want to consider flying to Oakland, which is about 2 hours away from Sacrament, if you find a cheaper flight. Sacramento is old gold-mining territory, and there are lots of cool ghost towns in the foothills around town. In particular, the towns of Auburn (530-885-5616), Grass Valley/Nevada City (800-655-4667), and Placerville (800-457-6279) are good bets all within a short drive. If you're up for active adventure, there's terrific rafting 45 minutes outside of Sacramento on the South Fork of the American River. W.E.T. River trip is a reputable outfitter that runs full-day trips with lunch (888/723-8938, raftwet.com). In town, Sacramento has all sorts of state capital-related activities, including a tour of the 1877 governor's mansion, now a museum--sadly, an Arnold sighting is unlikely as he and Maria don't actually live in the historic site (parks.ca.gov/?page_id=498) Also, there's the California State History Museum, which includes everything from old surfing magazines to state archives (1020 O St., Sacramento, 916/653-7524)

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Biloxi, MS: My wife, our adult daughter and I want to go on a Mediterranean cruise next year. We all want to be in the same cabin. We would like a cruise of about 10 or 11 days. What do you suggest? We would like for air fare to be included.

Budget Travel Editors: There are so many choices, from itineraries that focus on short hops along the coastlines of one or two countries to ones that crisscross the Med from end to end. It all depends on your personal taste. Why don't you start by poking around websites like CruiseMates (cruisemates.com) and Cruise Critic (cruisecritic.com)? You'll find destination guides, ship reviews (including cabin sizes and configurations), and sample itineraries to help you narrow your search. Once you find the itinerary, ship, and departure date you prefer, shop around for the best value. Try Cruise Compete (cruisecompete.com). If you'd like the advice of an experienced consolidator, contact a company like GalaxSea Cruises (800/662-5450, cruisestar.com) or CruiseBrothers.com (800/827-7779, cruisebrothers.com).
A note about pricing: The Med cruising season runs April/May to October. For the best rates, look for a sailing early or late in the season, not one in June, July, or August. Flights are generally not packaged with cruises, and even if they were, you'd probably be better off looking for the lowest airfare on your own. Book flights early to get the best deal and remember that you'll want to pad a few days on land at the beginning and end of the cruise. (At the very least, tack on a day or two at the beginning so that you won't miss the boat if anything happens to delay your international flight.)

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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