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Cruise Agency Marketing Scams

If you do internet searches for the best cruise deals, you will come across many companies that make incredible offers. There is almost always a catch, so when you spot them, this page helps you understand what is going on behind the scenes. If it is a really great deal with no catches, we say go for it. But know the whole picture before you make that reservation.


We should get this one out of the way early, because this really drives us crazy and this is driven by the major cruise lines, not agencies.  Cruise lines have what is known as the “brochure rate” that nobody ever pays.  All of these sales are based on that rate, and when you see combinations of these sales, like “Up to $650 off, plus 30% off and Kids sail free,” it is always based a calculation that will bring the final price to what the normal selling price is, but it sure causes a sense of urgency!

Usually, when you see these deals are valid up to a certain date, you can rest assured that when that date passes you will get an email telling you the offer has been extended.  If they don’t extend it, they will come out with a new sale that has different numbers, but still calculates down to the same relative price.

The Kids Sail Free offers take it a step further.  You will almost always see an asterisk next to that, and if you read the fine print, it will only apply to dates when the kids are normally in school, will be restricted to very young kids, will require two full-fare paying adults in the room, and will always exclude taxes and port fees, which are often half the price of the cruise.  So even when they don’t have this kind of sale, if you do the math, the price is almost always the same.

So how do cruise prices go up and down?

It is actually pretty simple.  Cruise lines will raise or lower the selling price of a cruise.

Agencies Sometimes Pile On:

Up to $1,500 Cash Back!

Several big websites make offers like this, but there is lots of fine print. To begin with, the offer is actually less than what we offer with our CDV Credits. What we offer is a straight amount based on the cruise price. When you read the fine print with these offers, you will generally find terms that border on bait and switch tactics. For example, many companies will offer a rebate of up to $1,500 or more, but in the fine print, the calculation is based on what you spend on the ship, not the price of your cruise.

For example, they may say you get a $500 rebate on an $8,000 cruise. But in the fine print, it explains that it is a maximum of $500 based on your cruise price, and the payout amount is based on how much you spend with the cruise line in onboard purchases like drinks, spa, and specialty dining. Next, you have to go on the cruise and spend the money. If you spend $250 onboard instead of $500, you will only be entitled to the $250, but not until you send the company a detailed invoice from the cruise line proving what you spent, and then wait up to two months for the credit to your card.

They bank that most people will not spend up to their limit, and will either neglect to submit for the refund in time after the cruise or make some mistake that invalidates the offer. CDV doesn’t care what you spend on board. We just give you the credit for our tours straight up.

Up to $1,500 On Board Credit or a Prepaid Credit Card!

This is less of a scam, and more of a veiled rebate of a part of the commission they will receive. The amount of the on board credit will depend on which cruise line you are sailing with and how much your base cruise fare is (the total price minus any airfare, port charges, expenses, taxes, and fees). It is higher on cruise lines that offer a higher commission, and lower on others. For example, on a $4,000 Carnival cruise, they may offer up to $150. Additionally, they will only add it to your cruise on the day of your embarkation, because that is when they know they will get their full commission.

If you really want this offer, we will give you a choice:  We can offer it as well, but we need to do it with the same restrictions and same level of service they provide.  If you want us to match an offer like that, we need to see it and make sure it is legitimate. If we believe is not legitimate, we will tell you why and you can decide if you are willing to take the gamble.

or, quite simply, we offer two types of service:  Booking Only, or Full Service.  Our Booking Only service actually offers roughly the same credit these companies do, with better service and fewer restrictions.  You can read about the options here.

Free Pre-Paid Gratuities!

When you see these offers, unless they are a direct cruise line offer,  they will always apply to select cabins, select sailings, and select cruise lines. You will find that the vast majority will not qualify. Additionally, they will not be combinable with any cashback or onboard credit offers. This is very similar to how the onboard credit offers work. We are happy to match these under the same terms, because it makes no difference to us if we give you an onboard credit or take care of your gratuities under the same terms the others do. In other words, the math works out the same. Similarly, we would also not be able to combine it with the CDV Credit offer. That said, we do have access to many special fares that do include pre-paid gratuities already, and we will always include the CDV credit on those.

Book now, Pay Later!

Some websites will boast an offer like this. It is run by a financial institution that works with many companies in the travel business. They will waive the deposit up to $500 only if it is non-refundable, and allow you to pay over time. They actually are not giving you much of anything you cannot simply do with your credit card, and yes… a fee is associated when it is all said and done. It is a great sales tactic, but it is nothing more than that.

In fact, we can make the exact same offer.. Click here to see it.  There you go.  That is it.  All of the booking agencies that make this offer are simply connecting you to Uplift.  You may as well just use your credit card.  It is just marketing!

We have the best prices you will find!

No, it doesn’t work that way. Often (not always) the prices will be better than going direct to the cruise line because there are several large consortiums that block out large numbers of cabins on thousands of cruise departures when they are first made available, and that tends to be when the best pricing is offered. Then, if the cruise line lowers the price below what they blocked, they can move their block of cabins to the lower rate. But generally, cruise prices go up over time, so if we block out space early, we have a lower rate. These consortia also get little added value perks on these sailings they block out, and any agency affiliated with them has access to them. This is where you see some companies make huge claims like “$8 Billion in Buying Power.Yeah, we have that too, because we are also affiliated with the largest consortium with the most buying power and most of the blocked rooms. But nobody has super secret access to special pricing beyond that.

110% Best Price Guarantee!

Some offer an ironclad 110% Best Price Guarantee. If you find it within 48 hours, they will beat it with this incredible 110% Guarantee. Here is the thing: It is 110% of the difference. This means that excluding added value, like onboard credit, taxes, port fees, etc. if someone can find you a better price, they will offer you a discount of 10% of the difference. So if you book a cruise with them for $5,000, and you go to another company that says they will give it to you for $4,900, you would need to show them the offer. First thing, you would need to prove that the base cruise price is $4,900, which it will not be, because the other company will have applied an advance rebate for you. It also needs to be for the exact same cabin category on the exact sailing. But even if you did find that better price, it will be because the cruise line lowered the price between the time you booked and the time you checked with the other company… in that 48-hour window. In that case, all they are doing is moving your cruise to the new, lower rate that is now available and giving you $10 of credit. Who wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice $10 in such an incredibly rare situation? But, it allows them to make a lofty-sounding guarantee!  We would rather spend our time helping people than making worthless offers that sound good.

Exclusive Last-Minute Specials!

There is a great myth out there that some have access to elusive last-minute pricing on cruises. While it is true that some cruises offer last-minute specials to fill unsold space, it is not true that one company has special access to this. The cruise lines all publish their late-booking specials (if there are any) to every agency that has books with them, and it is the same across the board.

Some websites will only give you those “last-minute specials” once you give them your contact info so they can start sending you daily marketing emails. It is tempting, but good luck getting off their list, and good luck finding any truly exclusive specials.

The reality is this:  If you want last minute specials, just click here whenever you want to check, and they will pop up.

The Bottom Line

CDV is all about transparency and relationships. We don’t play these games, because they all really boil down to the same thing. There is a fixed amount of commissionable sales that they are willing to sacrifice to make all kinds of offers look too good to be true.

But at the end of the day no matter which offer you take, you are actually paying the same and they are actually making the same. But they can give you a sense of urgency and try to make you feel like you are getting a great deal.

We structured the CDV Credit differently. We are actually sacrificing a greater portion of that commission, but we make part of it up because you will be using that credit on our vacations. It gives us the added benefit because we get to foster more of a relationship with our guests. We keep it straightforward and simple. If you want the immediate gratification of one of their offers, sure… we can match them. But we will be extremely direct in explaining the pros and cons.

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Why Always Book with CDV:
Choose a free bonus offer:

Book cruises with CDV and you can get credit of up to $10,000 for each cruise to use toward any CDV land vacation!  Click here for more info.

If you don’t want the CDV credit offer, we can alternatively offer you  an exclusive bonus offer in addition to any qualifying offers from cruise lines.  This is in addition to all qualifying national offers and promotions from the cruise line.

The amount is based on your base cruise fare:

$5,000 – $6,999 = $200 Credit
$7,000 – $9,999 = $300 Credit
$10,000 – $14,999 = $500 Credit
$15,000 – $19,999 = $750 Credit
$20,000 & Up = $1,000 Credit

This offer is valid for new individual cruise bookings only. It is based per stateroom cruise price, minus included airfare, port charges, expenses, taxes, fees, NCF Charges, and travel protection. It is not valid for cancelled or rebooked cruises. This offer cannot be combined with our CDV Tour Credit or other CDV-Specific Offer, other  credits, discounts, or promotional offers that are not part of the cruise line’s national or promotional programs.

The special and exclusive CDV offers can always be combined all with current qualifying national promotions offered by the cruise line, as well as full credit toward cruise line status.

CDV Culinary Tours
We directly operate the highest-rated culinary, cooking, wine, and experiential small-group tours in Europe! And any cruise booking you do with us gives you credit toward our tours.

Get up to $10,000 credit or more when you book with CDV

Book cruises with CDV and you automatically get credit of up to $10,000 for each cruise to use toward any CDV land vacation!

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