THE BLOG
11/19/2012 07:01 am ET | Updated Jan 19, 2013

Turkey Season Travel Deals Are All Stuffing And No Meat

Thanksgiving week inaugurates the beginning of "Vegetable Season." Try and get anything done between Thanksgiving and New Years! Everywhere you look, stores are offering "Black Friday" followed by "Cyber Monday" deals and discounts. It's amazing how hard it is to reach anyone as everyone is on vacation or in holiday mode.

Most major cruise lines have joined the fray over the years in order not to be left out of offering their version of perceived discounts. Many of these cruise sales are offering the same mundane enticements that they've been offering all year. Like holiday card makers that invent holidays to encourage card purchases, cruise lines don't like missing out on a chance to hold a sale even if there's really no true value to their offers.

I strongly recommended consumers make their cruise buying decisions based on merit not hype. The turkey season deals tend to offer lots of stuffing and no meat. Many deals offer meager shipboard credits and reduced deposits to disguise higher cruise prices. There are so many cruise ships from many different cruise lines sailing to countless destinations around the world.

The coupon booklets dangled by certain lines, for the most part, often don't include any valuable discounts and certainly not to the degree offered. Should you book your cruise because of a coupon book full of worthless offers? I think not! Value, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder.

To help guide you through the world of cruises, here are my top five tips for booking your cruise:

#1: Research online but don't book online. There are many discounts, including specials for seniors, military and residents of certain states, etc., that may not be available if booked online. Better ships and cabin categories may be available.

#2: Use a travel agent. There isn't one advantage to booking directly with a cruise line. You'll never receive the professional and, most importantly, objective advice that an experienced cruise agent can provide. A true cruise specialist will be able to match you with the best ship and deal. They should have also already experienced your desired ship. If not, find another agent!

#3: Be flexible with your dates. Cruise prices may vary by sailing date. If possible, check a few dates before and after your desired sailing date to ensure maximum savings.

#4: Book early. Don't wait. Book your cruise as soon as possible. Some of the most desired specialty itineraries such as Europe and Alaska require you to book in advance to avoid paying higher air and cruise fares. The difference can easily be thousands of dollars. Families needing cabins that can accommodate more than two passengers become harder to find and higher priced. Cruise lines often enact two passenger restrictions requiring purchase of multiple cabins, thus increasing the cruise price.

#5: Consider travel insurance. A cruise is an investment of money and time and should be protected. Besides providing protection against cancellation, policies also cover interruption and travel delay, and are worth serious consideration.

Purchasing travel insurance isn't necessary on most cruises until final payment time because there is no risk up until that point. Consult your cruise travel agent for specific details. Insurance can be purchased through the cruise lines or separate, third party companies. Consider both options because prices for similar coverage may differ significantly. Accidents are never planned. One hiccup can ruin your cruise or cost you significant amount of money so strongly consider travel insurance!

Buying a cruise is like buying a car. It's an investment not only of money but also your time. You'll be on these ships for three to seven nights or longer, so you need to make the right decisions. Do your research and these can be vacations of a lifetime that can be repeated over and over to your dream destinations. Why not save a few bucks along the way, too?

From somewhere out on the seven seas, I'm Stewart Chiron, The Cruise Guy®, and I approve your vacation!