Cruise 101: Landing Great Airfare

In this post, we share top travel tips to make your trip to your cruise affordable and comfortable. We discuss ways to save on business class as well as when it is a good idea to “buy” points to upgrade. You’ll also learn our best tips for using websites to find the best flight deals – and much more. If you’d like to watch the video replay of the webinar that this post is based on, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Hack #1 – Check Cruise Line Websites for Airfare Deals or Special Offers

Nearly all cruise companies offer airfare deals, which you’ll often find under Offers on the cruise line websites. In the slideshow below we show a sampling of just a few offers that were current at this time of this posting.

Hack #2 – Fly During Shoulder Season

Just shifting your travel plans by a few weeks can make a big difference in airfares. For example, in the images below you’ll see where I saved more than 400,000 points by flying to Europe in late March rather than early May. I purchased the late March flights during a flash sale that Delta had last month. We recommend booking with your miles during such flash sales and redepositing the miles later if you find a better fare or should your plans change. Note that many airlines will charge a redeposit fee, but we find the fee is worth it, especially in the scenario below.

Delta had a flash sale for those using points in November.

I booked my flights, knowing that I could redeposit the miles for $150.

Had I booked the same itinerary for a month later, the cost would have been 640,000 miles roundtrip in business class compared to 168,000 miles, quite the savings.

Hack #3 Use Variety in Your Search

We recommend using multiple websites to conduct your searches. One of our favorites is Google Flights. One trick is to base your search on nearby cities. If you find a good price, that may mean driving an hour or two to the airport, but the savings could be significant enough to make it worth your while. Google Flights also allows you to set alerts in case the fare you’re researching drops. I use Hack #2 and Hack #3 in combination. I secure my booking with points, and if the cost of the flight is greatly reduced, say to less than $2,000 roundtrip in business class between North American and Europe, I may redeposit my points and book paying by credit card (using this method, both the flight and payment by credit card accumulate additional points).

Hack #4 – Pick the Day with Cheapest Flights

Some pundits claim that booking on Tuesdays may be the best day for the best rates. That aside, we recommend always arriving at least one day before your cruise departs. In fact, I often add up to one week before my cruise. That gives me time to shake the jet lag and time to enjoy more of Europe than if I were to arrive only one day before my cruise. You may find, as I have, that you can save enough money by booking on non-peak days to pay for your entire week before your cruise. This was the case for me when I searched the cost of business class flights to Europe and learned that by routing through Copenhagen a week early, I could save enough to pay for the entire stay in Scandinavia a week before my cruise from Venice. See  Five Reasons Why We Chose Scandinavia For Our Adriatic Pre-Cruise 

Hack # 5 – Accumulate points

Thinks of points as currency. You can accumulate points through airlines and use those for ticket purchases or upgrades. You can also accumulate points with credit cards, through generous sign-up offers and through purchases. Those points can be transferred to travel partners, such as airlines and hotels, or they can be used to book flights directly from a travel portal that the credit card company operates. Another opportunity to earn points is by shopping through credit card shopping portals. You’ll find that you can sometimes earn as much as 10 points per dollar spent simply by shopping through a credit card portal as opposed to shopping directly from a vendor website. For example, say you’re in the market for an Apple laptop computer – or a new iPhone. By using a credit card shopping portal, you can sometimes earn as much as 10 points for each dollar you spend, meaning that a $1,000 iPhone earns you 10,000 points to be used at a later time for travel.

You can also buy airline points outright, but caution: Only buy airline points when they are on sale. Lifemiles is one of my favorites. It’s the loyalty program for Avianca, a South American Star Alliance carrier. I’ve never flown Avianca, but I fly Star Alliance carries a lot. Think Lufthansa, SAS and United, among others. I use Lifemiles to book business class of Star Alliance carriers between North America and Europe for 63,000 points each way. When Lifemiles points are on sale, meaning up to a 150 percent bonus for each mile purchased, the cost of buying points to fly business class across the Atlantic is not quite $1,000 each way. To learn more about this strategy, see my story Airline Ticket Hacks: Cheap Business Class Tickets To Europe.

Hack #6 – Get a Good Seat

This one is pretty straightforward. For that 8-hour-plus flight to Europe – and the 10-hour-plus flight back, you’ll want to have some degree of comfort. Obviously, business class offers the greatest comfort, and using the strategies outlined here, you’ll find that you can sometimes book business class for not much more than the cost of an economy class ticket. When compared to economy class, business class will give you faster check-in and security clearance, lounge access when traveling internationally, more generous luggage allowances, spacious seats and flat-beds, and better food and drink. You can get a watered-down version of business class in premium economy (or what some airlines call economy plus or economy extra) and often at quite a savings. If all of this is beyond your budget, try to get exit rows or bulkhead seats (but only those with generous legroom – use a site like seatguru.com for seat configurations and advice).

Hack #7 – Protection

In booking your travel, you’ll also want to make sure you insure both your trip and yourself. Insuring your trip means protecting your investment against cancellations, delays, luggage loss and more. Insuring yourself means taking measures to protect you in the event of medical evacuation, injuries or ailments that require hospitalization abroad and more. We’ve written tomes on travel insurance, but my general approach is to use a credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve to protect my travel investment. It covers such things as trip cancellation or interruption, auto rental collision, lost luggage, trip delay and emergency evacuation and transportation. Simply by charging your travel on the card is enough to cover you for these “built-in” benefits. For travel medical and international health insurance, I use GeoBlue. My plan, Trekker Essential, covers me for an entire year of multiple trips for only $200.

Hack #8 – Subscribe to these newsletters

My last tip is to keep yourself informed. Of course, I recommend that you sign up for our newsletters, avidcruiser.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com. To keep abreast of points offers or airline and hotel deals, I also subscribe to MileValue, Loyalty Lobby and Million Mile Secrets.

Replay from our December 2019 webinar, Top Airfare Hacks.

Transcript from December 4, 2019 webinar.

Leigh Strinsky: Hello everyone and welcome to our webinar. We are delighted to be here with you today. We are here to talk about flight hacks for your cruise travel and we’re just delighted to have you here with us. In just a moment. I’ll turn it to Ralph and Britton. But before I do that, I want to touch base with all of you on the technical side of things. I want to first make sure that you can see Ralph’s screen. He’s got his first slide up there and over on the right you should see a photo of Ralph. If you’re not seeing that, you just need to look at the bottom of your monitor and locate the little icon. It’s blue with a little white video camera symbol in it. When you click on that, it brings the screen back up. We also have given you access to a question box and we hope that you will communicate with us through that Q and A box.

If you take your mouse and hovered over the screen, you should see a Q and aA box appear probably down at the bottom. And when you click on that, you will see that you can post questions. We are going to monitor your questions throughout and if you have a technical challenge, just let me know and I will do my best to assist with that right away. The other questions we’re going to monitor some, we may interrupt Ralph and Britton and ask right in the moment. Others, we will hold for the Q and A portion of the webinar at the end.

So the other thing for me to mention is the audio. You can listen today through your computer speakers or the telephone. The choice is yours and you can switch to either down in the audio preferences. It’s also down at the bottom of your screen. Um, but do know that it takes a lot of bandwidth to deliver everything. So the best thing you can do to improve your signal with us is to simply close other programs that are running in the background so that you have a nice strong signal from us.

So that takes care of all of the technical details and we can start our presentation now. Once again, I would like to welcome you to our webinar today, Top Airfare Hacks. We are here today with Ralph Grizzle and Britton Frost of the Avid Cruiser and River Cruise Advisor. And their mission is to empower consumers like you to make informed cruise travel decisions today. Again, the topic top airfare hacks and I can’t wait to hear what Ralph and Britton have to share with us. So Ralph and Britton over to you.

Britton Frost: Thank you so much.

Ralph Grizzle: Yeah, thank you Leigh. And it’s a pleasure to have you to be working with you again. So thanks for helping us out with this webinar. So today we’re going to do a presentation as it says, about Top Airfare Hacks. I want to mention two things before we start: We’re going to publish all of on avidcruiser.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com. It’s not essential that you’re taking notes or anything like that. There will be a replay online by the end of the week. You’ll get those in the next newsletters. So don’t worry about taking notes and then we’ll have articles later on about each of the things we talk about in this webinar. Second thing is, you know we’re experts to some degree but we don’t know everything. So if you have tips just raise your hand or tell us in the chat box and we’ll be very happy to include those and listen to what you have to say as well.

So I’m going to just start off with hack number one and hack number one is, Check the cruise line websites for airfare deals or special offers. We’re going to be coming to you primarily from a river cruise perspective today, but we do have some ocean cruise content as well. So like for example, you can check, Viking’s special offers. You’ll see that they have a free air special and savings on some of their sailings. The same with Regent. Regent’s got a free first-class air offer. Scenic still has its black Friday sales through December 7th. So you might want to take advantage of those. We find that Scenic almost always has an air special, and Emerald as well, which is Scenic’s sister company. They almost always have some sort of air special and Avalon as well. Basically all of the companies will have some sort of air special and that’s always good to look at. And Britton, you might want to talk about how these affect the true per diems on our website. When we look at how much a cruise is going to cost you each day.

Britton Frost: Sure. So if we look at a company like Scenic for example, they’ve had these really aggressive airfare offers recently and because of that, because of the fly free, I mean, it really does. You’re saving roughly a thousand dollars on air to Europe if you’re flying from the U S so that knocks $1,000 off of your cruise fare essentially because you’re going to be paying it regardless. So it does change the price per day because you can take these incentives into account, and then kind of divvy it up that way. I do also want to mention, Ralph said that we’re coming at you from a river cruise standpoint today. We are using river cruise companies as an example and we’re using a recent river Christmas and example, but all of these tips are going to be applicable for, for going on a cruise. Because you know, the, the way the air works is, is the same for both.

Another tip for checking these sites and for looking at the airfare deals offered by certain cruise companies is to set a Google alert. So if you don’t know how to do that, you can kind of figure it out on Google. It’s pretty easy. You can set up an alert for a certain search terms. So let’s say that you were looking at doing a cruise with Avalon Waterways. You could type in something like Avalon Waterways Fly Free. And that way when Avalon posts a page like this where they have fly free from select U S cities on select 2020 European river cruises, as soon as that article posts, you will get an email about it. So that’s kind of just another way to be able to be more on top of it and not have to go back and check every day. Ideally Google should be telling you when these deals come about. And then the other way to do this is to work with a travel agent. And when you partner with a travel agent, they’re aware of all these deals. They’re going to look for airfare, incentives for you through different cruise lines. And maybe you know, that’s something that’s a make or break to you. If you can fly free, that might put another line ahead of one that you were maybe looking at. So there are many ways to kind of check these offers. But going to the cruise line website is the most direct way.

Ralph Grizzle: Yeah. And that’s a good point, Britton, about the Google alerts. I used Google alerts for a lot of different things. Particularly I have a key word cruise. Sometimes Tom Cruise comes up, but I can also specify that the alert not include Tom Cruise. So I get articles every day delivered to my inbox that are about cruises and that keeps me up to date on what’s going on in the cruise industry. As far as Scenic and Emerald and other, you know, free air offers. Actually we’ve calculated those to be as valuable as about $1,600 per person. So that’s $3,200 per cabin. It depends on where you’re coming from. I have found that economy air from Asheville to Europe can be as high as $1,600 in peak season. So those offers are quite valuable.

Hack number two is Fly During Shoulder Season. And this is quite interesting. Delta sent me a special offer like you see here on the screen; they send these occasionally and you can fly for fewer points than you might fly during peak season. And I’ll give you an example. I’m flying to Frankfurt, Germany actually for a cruise out of Strasbourg, France. It’s only two hours away. March 31st of 2020 and I was able to get business class for 84,000 miles each way because Delta had sent out a special that we’re having a flash sale for three days and you can fly to Europe for a reduced number of points. Now let’s take one month later. Had I done this without this special offer, 320,000 miles each way. So by taking into advantage of their special offer, and by flying during the shoulder season, I was able to say a ton of points. I could fly to Europe four times for 320,000 points each way. And this is business class, four times they’re in back for this seat for the number of points that I would have booked with a month later.

Hack number three is use multiple search engines. And my favorite, to start with is Google flights. There are a number of sites that you can use. You know, you can use Kayak, Orbitz, you might have a credit union that you work with or the airline websites. I like to use Google flights and just sort of research, what’s this fair going to cost me? It’ll display all. And I usually, because I’m tall and because I’m 62 now, I like comfort. I like the fly business class. So I’m searching for business class fares and Google helps me a lot with that. I have saved a ton of money using Google Flights, because I do this Pro Tip by using nearby cities in my search. I’m in Asheville, for example, and I can tell Google to search nearby cities, which for me would be Knoxville, Tennessee; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Greenville, South Carolina, and also using multiple cities rather than nonstop. I wrote on Avid Cruiser about a cruise that we did this past June from Venice to Croatia and I saved enough money by routing us to Venice through Copenhagen, saving enough to pay for an entire week to stay in Denmark. Britton, you’ve got some other examples too, I think.

Britton Frost: Yeah.  There are some websites that are known for having cheaper airfare and Skyscanner is one. And then also Skiplagged is one and there has been a little bit of controversy with Skiplagged because it does violate some airlines policies in that it gives you a flight from one point to one point that it might be a connection and then you just don’t take the next flight. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book a longer flight and then get off, which is ridiculous. I know, but it does work. You can get in trouble with the airlines, so make sure that you’re doing your research, but there are a lot of places that you can go and look for reduced airfare. That’s pretty easy to find doing a Google search. I will say that for me, I generally use Kayak. I find that to be the easiest to use and the best for me.

Ralph Grizzle: I’m going to admit it. I did a hidden city thing and basically I was trying to get to Frankfurt, Germany again and Lufthansa had a flight. It was first-class, believe it or not for $850, but it wasn’t to Frankfurt. It was to Vancouver. Now if you know geography at all, you know that Chicago and Vancouver are, you know they’re both in North America. But to get to Vancouver, Lufthansa had to fly to Frankfurt and then back to Vancouver. I don’t know if the flight was mispriced or whatever for $850 for that beautiful first-class where you get pajamas and you have this huge seat and great food and drinks and all this.

The trick is you have to do it with carry-on. I mean you can do it with checked baggage, but then you have to claim to be sick and all this stuff and can you get my luggage to me and all this so it becomes a hassle. So you do it with carry on. And I don’t think the airlines like it, you’re not going to get put in jail or anything like that for. But I sure enjoyed that flight and that big savings there.

Leigh Strinsky: Barbara  says if you don’t show up for a flight on an itinerary, the following flights are canceled. She never advocates it. So yes. You know, that is the word of caution on that for sure, is that your return flight could be canceled if you don’t show up for the other part of that.

Ralph Grizzle: Yep. That’s one of the precautions that we were warning you about. Sometimes the airlines don’t like it. Thanks for that Barbara. Leigh, do we have any other questions at the moment?

Leigh Strinsky: Well, there was one about flash sales. How do you know when the airlines are offering flash sales? For miles.

Ralph Grizzle: We’re going to get to that at the end, but essentially if you are a member of any cruise airline, they’re going to send you these emails and you just have to watch pretty closely. But at the end we’ll have some tips for that. So I’ll just hold that until we get to that slide. Okay, next pick the day that’s cheapest that with the cheapest airfare. And so part of this strategy is we always advise you arrive early for your cruise for a lot of different reasons. First of all, you want to get there with your luggage and you know, the airlines are notorious for misplacing, mis-routing or whatever with your luggage. And if you’re there a few days ahead of time, there’s a good chance that if they do mis-route your luggage, it’s going to catch up with you.

Plus arriving early is a good way to overcome the jet lag and to enjoy the destination that you’re cruising from as well. So we always recommend whether it’s river cruises or ocean cruises to come in early. And I even like to go a week early because I figured, you know, I’m flying over there, I’m making this investment, I love Europe, so I’m just gonna go early and as I showed you a little bit ago, I saved enough money on the business class airfare to pay for a whole week in Scandinavia. So there are ways to do it. Now, some experts tell us that Thursday is the best day to book. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it’s definitely worth looking at. And also with Google and with other websites, you can do a flexible search. You can see what it’s going to cost you with points. If you expand your search parameters or what it’s going to cost you with dollars as well. Anything to add to that Britton? If not, I’ll go to the next slide.

Britton Frost: We’ve been on river cruises and had our bags following us around Europe for a week. So yes, always try to get early. That’s the only little anecdote I can add.

Ralph Grizzle:  Yeah, exactly. Hack number four is accumulate points. And this is a story on the Nomadic Matt site and we did river cruise with Matt before; I think we were on Viking river cruises maybe with him and he’s written this piece in October of 2019: How I earn 1 million frequent flyer miles each year. Well, we earn miles too, but not that much. You know, Matt travels, he’s nomadic, so he travels a bit more than we do. But there are ways to play this points game and one of them is to sign up for credit cards that will award you points. Now, I particularly like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, a card that’s pictured here. And if you scan down, you’ll see the annual fee is $450, which sounds outrageous except for this. You get $300 of that money back as travel credit. So let’s say that you get this card, you charge $300 worth of airfare on it or a hotel or rental car or whatever. Anything that falls within the travel category give you an immediate $300 back. So that annual fee comes down to $150. They also have a whole lot of other benefits. They give you Priority Club membership. So when you’re at the airport, you can use those Priority Club lounges that you see. They will pay for your Global Entry. And I think that’s $100. I strongly advise Global Entry. So what that does is when you get back from Europe, particularly well if you’re a U.S. citizen, you can just sort of bypass the whole immigration process by just scanning in your passport. And you move through immigration much more quickly.

When I signed up for this card, they were giving 100,000 bonus points. So that 100,000 points is worth about a thousand dollars. Or if you leverage it, it will be worth more because you can use it to transfer to airlines and book your business class, air and that sort of thing.

The other tip is to use credit card shopping portals. This was on black Friday, this second image here. I got this email from an American Airlines AAdvantage program. This particular one says Dermstore down here  where you can earn 10 points per mile. So if you buy $100 worth of merchandise, you get 1,000 miles and it’s no different from going directly t dermstore.com. You just enter it through American AAdvantage portal and you click to go over to the store and you use your credit card and you automatically get 10 points per mile. So that’s a good way to earn. Like, especially if you’re buying something big like a, let’s say a laptop computer from Apple, sometimes they’ll have five, 10 points per dollar spent at the Apple store.

So if you’re buying a $3,000 laptop, you can really rack up on the miles that way. And all of these things, they help because they accumulate. And of course you can use the points to upgrade seats or the cabin.

The other strategy that I like and I do a lot is I buy points. And right now as you can see, there’s a bonus with LifeMiles I’ll explain LifeMiles in a moment and its 145 percent bonus. But first of all, you only buy points when they’re on sale. And on black Friday, every airline had points sales. Delta would be the exception, but I saw sales on United, American, Alaska air, which is good for a lot of different airlines, not just Alaska. But LifeMiles are particularly good, because it is a Star Alliance carrier.

LifeMiles is the program for Avianca Airlines. I’ve never flown Avianca. They are a Star Alliance carrier, which means that some members of Star Alliance are relevant to me: United, Lufthansa, SAS for example. You use 63,000 life miles points to book a business class ticket on Lufthansa to Germany to either Frankfurt or Munich. That 63,000 points when they’re on sale will cost you a little less than $1,000. So what this means that you’re flying business class  from the U S to Germany for a little bit less than $1,000 each way. And when you talk about a $2,000 round trip to Europe on Lufthansa in business class, that’s quite a bargain. Oh, one thing I want to say about LifeMiles is they are continuing this sale through December 5th, but you have to sign up for LifeMiles two weeks before. You have to be a member for two weeks before you can actually buy miles. They have these sales about four times a year. So it’s not like you’re missing out if you can’t get it right now.

Hack number five, which kind of goes with what we just talked about is get a good seat where you can get cashews and almonds instead of peanuts. And I could’ve had champagne, but I thought I’d just have a Canada Dry Club Soda there in that picture. And I’m flying American Airlines, it looks like over to Europe. And this was actually back in July when I was meeting Britton for a cruise on AmaMagna. So getting a good seat. I find lots of advantages to fly business class and I think everybody probably wants to fly business class. But you know, you, if you go to a airline website and you look at the cost of business class, it’s, it’s shocking. It looks like a phone number almost instead of a price.

And so with using our strategies, like I just mentioned, you can fly across the Atlantic and back for less than $2,000 using this point strategy. And sometimes I find that the economy, airfare, particularly during peak season, almost be that much. So here you are, you getting a better seat, you’re getting faster check in and security clearance, you’re getting all of these benefits and it doesn’t cost you much more. Now if I didn’t do that, you can always of course upgrade, you know, from economy to premium economy, economy plus or economy extra. All the airlines call them something different but you get a little more leg room at least. Or you can get an exit row.

So we move on to hack number six and that is to protect yourself and also your investment. And again I refer back to this Chase Sapphire Reserve card that cost $450 a year, but they give you all these great benefits and one of them is trip cancellation or interruption protection. We’ve talked to people on both of our sites who have had their trips reimbursed when the cruise lines wouldn’t do it. There is one reader of The Avid Cruiser website who had quite a lot of money reimbursed from the credit card companies and I’m talking like $ 30,000 plus because he was unable to go on a cruise because of a medical condition. The cruise line would not reimburse them, but his credit cards did. You can see it covers up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 trip for your prepaid non-refundable travel expenses.They also include lost luggage and trip delay. I’ve used trip delay myself on the AmaMagna trip I was talking about. So these cards offer a lot of protection. Now there are other ways to do it too. I mentioned credit cards to insure the trip. You can also get trip insurance as well, which is, you know, you may want to look at that. And we do have articles on trip insurance on this site now for health insurance and for medical evacuation too. A lot of times the credit card will cover that medical evacuation. I use GeoBlue and thanks to readers of our websites, I discovered GeoBlue. I haven’t had to use it, I’m knocking on wood, but it seems to be a good program should we need to use it. And others on the site have used it and have had good luck with it.

Britton Frost: And it’s a very, it’s very inexpensive.

Ralph Grizzle: What did you pay, Britton?

Britton Frost:  I’m 24 so my insurance is obviously going to be a little bit lower, but I paid for – you can do it in one of two ways where you can get a single trip or a year-long trip every trip for a year rather. So you have a year coverage or a single trip coverage. And mine for a single trip coverage I think was $16, but it might’ve been $12.

Ralph Grizzle: Yeah, I paid for a year for multiple trips and I think I paid $200 max, you know, for my age 62. So one thing that visitors to our site will see is that we are redesigning both sites, avidcruiser.com and rivercruiseadvisor.com. And we are going to sort of transition to a more guide-oriented content. So what that means is that we will have guides on how to save on airfare, but also more importantly perhaps like what sort of travel insurance should you have. So we’re going to have more articles like this in the future. You’ll see more articles advising you and how to figure out this game, because it is a game.

Hack number seven is subscribe to these newsletters. And of course I’m pushing ours a little bit there. A lot of you do subscribe already, but there are several others that I actually subscribe to. And one is The Points Guy. And earlier someone asked, how do you know about these special points sales? Well here’s how you know: You subscribe to The Points Guy or to Million Mile Secrets or there number of you newsletters that you can subscribe to and they will alert you not only when these specials are going on, but they’ll also tell you when not only when the point specials are going on, but they’ll also let you know the airfare of the day when there’s an airfare, for example, maybe from New York to Paris for a $1,500 round trip in business class. So you’ll see those sorts of things too.

And you’ll also get explanations of this. With the points, is this a good way to use your points? How can I use my points? These sites exist basically by selling you credit cards. So they get a commission for each credit card offer that you sign up for. But they bring you to the site by offering a lot of good content. So I subscribe to a few of these. It can be overwhelming, so I’ve cut mine down to one or two. But they’re very helpful and knowing when the specials are.

Britton Frost: Then on the Avid Cruiser and River Cruise Advisor, in those newsletters, we really do try to let you all know if there are any air incentives. So you know, if, if someone is offering free air that will likely be put on our site and send out in our newsletters.

Ralph Grizzle: So that brings us to the end of this part of the presentation.

Q&A

Leigh Strinsky: If you have questions for us, now would be the time to send those in. Take your mouse and hover over the screen there. And once you do that, you’ll see that you have access to the question box and you can send us questions. Well, what about upgrades? How  likely is it to get a last minute upgrade? At the time that you’re  checking in? Does that still happen? I can remember years ago that was pretty easy. You could pay right there at the boarding counter and get an upgrade. Is that still the case or if things changed?

Ralph Grizzle: Back in the good old days of travel you could just smile at somebody and they might give you an upgrade to Europe, which was amazing. But these days things have tightened up quite a bit and I think it’s very difficult. I’ve seen upgrades being sold at airports for a few hundred dollars or so, which would be a very good value I think. But I never count on it. So I’ll always choose the strategies we’ve outlined, particularly with the points. I use the points a whole lot. I get points through credit card offers or through buying the points. I want to have a confirmed business class seat.

Leigh Strinsky: We just got this question; what are your thoughts on using flight jobbers to save money for business class?

Ralph Grizzle: I don’t know much about them and we would appreciate a little bit more explanation on who they are and what they do. That’d be very helpful.

Leigh Strinsky:  Okay.So the person who asked that question, give us a little bit more on that and we’ll be happy to respond. This next one about AmaWaterways. For advanced planning doing a river cruise in 2021, do you have any idea when they put out their free flight offers and early bird cruise discounts? What about that kind of a strategy? Kind of trying to anticipate when the best deal is going to come out?

Ralph Grizzle: They’re focused on 2020 right now. I would think – I’m just guessing – but I would say by in the spring of this year you might start seeing those offers for 2021.

Britton Frost: Yeah, I would say that generally cruise lines start promoting the sailings or are offering incentives for the sailings of that year. So yeah, January, February, March, maybe you’ll start seeing some deals. But that being said, if you are planning a cruise for 2021, I would go ahead and recommend getting yourself connected with a travel agent right now. If you would like to email us, we can always connect you with one for planning that trip in 2021 because you’re often going to get a better deal on your cruise through a travel agent as well.

Leigh Strinsky: I’m just expanding on that. So just in general, do you think that when you purchase your air through the cruise lines, do you feel like really that’s sort of the best deal? Is it smart to just go ahead and take that or is it worth trying to price shop?

Britton Frost:  I had a couple of people that I talk to and I’m not going to name names, but they had purchased their flights through a cruise line and they actually had a very hard time with it. So I don’t know that’s always the best approach. Now if there is some kind of incentive, yes, that’s probably better.

Leigh Strinsky:  Okay, back to the flight jobber question. So just clarification on that. These are people that buy points and use those points from others to offer discounts on flights.

Ralph Grizzle:  Wow. I don’t know anything about that but that’s interesting. It’s something we’ll definitely look into.

Britton Frost: I want to note, cause we were just talking about this, that Ben has said that they’d been booking their a cruise for 2021 for almost a year now because the best cabins are gone early and that’s true. If you really want your selection of cabin, if you really want to be able to pick, you do need to jump on those early, but that being said, if you want the deals, waiting until the last minute can sometimes be beneficial.

Leigh Strinsky: Do you have a strategy or process for shopping routes that are usually more economical to consider? So is it just something you’ve learned over time or is there a way to kind of look at routes that you wouldn’t normally consider?

Ralph Grizzle: Yeah, well, Google flights makes it very easy for me. So that’s the strategy I use if I’m going to Venice for example. I used to live in the South of Sweden, so I wanted to get back up there, so I just think that I saw that flights were cheap to Copenhagen and I thought, well, wonder how much they would be to go from Copenhagen to Venice. But I just use Google flights and I just plug in different cities. It’s very fast and it very easy to do.

Leigh Strinsky: So with these built-in air offers, will most cruise lines offer you a discount off the fare if you choose not to take their built-in air offer?

Ralph Grizzle: Yes, they will offer, if you don’t take it, they will offer you something back. I forget what the policies are for each cruise line, but yes.

Britton Frost:  And that’s usually laid out in some terms of the they, they might say that and the offer as well.

Leigh Strinsky: Right. Okay. What about using points to upgrade to business with an airfare that is brought through the cruise line.

Ralph Grizzle: It depends, because there’s so many fare types; there’s so many economy fare types and only certain ones are upgradable. So the thing you have to do is if you’re flying Delta, for example, you’ve got to go to Delta’s website and you’ve got to figure out which of the economy fares are upgradable and they’ll have letters with them. Like it might be a Y fare, which I think is full fare, I can’t remember. Or there might be a K fare, T fare, whatever. And then you’ve got to figure out which fare that Viking used to book you. So not all of the fares are upgradable and that’s just some homework you’ve got to do on your own.

Britton Frost: Yeah, and I’m expanding on that a little bit. So we had someone write in that having booked his own travel in advance with the river cruise company. He uses the airline reward points, but he’s noticed several of his fellow cruisers have complained when they use the river cruise company’s airfare, that the cruise line waits till the last minute and you get terrible routings and you arrive exhausted.

Leigh Strinsky: So have you had firsthand experience with that or heard of that?

Britton Frost:  Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. That’s what I was mentioning earlier as well is that when I flew to Budapest last, I was talking to a woman who was going on a river cruise out of Budapest as well and she had a really terrible time with the air fare. We haven’t had that much experience with it personally because we are either booking our own flights or, I mean the cruise line is booking for us, but not the same way that they would book for you.

Ralph Grizzle: Normally I like to be in charge of my air because it can be a miserable experience. And so I would just prefer, and I can do it cheaper too in most cases to book my own air. You know, where we talked about Scenic  having these offers. They’re worth about $1,600. Well, I’ve mentioned over and again in this presentation that for about $2,000 I can fly business class back and forth. So I prefer to do it that way. I want to be in charge and you know, if something happens and the cruise is canceled or whatever, I can always redeposit those points for a fee normally. But I don’t lose the whole cost. I don’t lose everything. So that’s why I prefer to do it myself and, and using points.

I have paid some business class airfares when I can get a really good deal. Normally if I can get it for $2,500 or less, I’ll pay because like I said, with the points, it’s about, it’s about $2,000 round trip. If it’s 2,500 I get the advantage that I also earn points. So when you use points, you don’t earn points. When you buy your ticket for $2,500 and you fly to Europe and back in business class for you, you get premium points. So you, you might collect 10 20,000 or so points when paying. It’s a points game.

Leigh Strinsky: What about consolidators? What consolidators would you recommend for business class?

Ralph Grizzle: I would like somebody to recommend them to us because I’ve heard lots of good things about them. I had been referred to consolidators but I’ve never really found a good value. I can mention one company though, and it’s not a consolidator, but it’s an airline that operates out of New York, out of JFK, I believe. And it’s French, so I can’t pronounce it, but it’s La Compagnie or, or something like that. They have $1,000 sometimes round trip, business class airfare between  New York and Paris. And they just offer these really low cost business class air fares across the Atlantic. So I don’t know about consolidators, but I know that La Compagnie has good values.

Leigh Strinsky: Okay. Well that’s good to know. Thank you. All right, well, so we still got a few more questions. Do you mind if we keep going for a minute?

Britton Frost: Keep going? Yeah, keep going. Okay,

Leigh Strinsky: Good. So there’s a couple of GeoBlue questions. I’ve used GeoBlue myself. And I echo what you said about them. I think they’re great questions here about whether you can use them. The person noted that they thought it was just for business travelers, but they’re traveling for leisure. They’re just wondering if GeoBlue works for business travelers and also if they cover other things besides, health. Do they cover damage luggage?

Britton Frost: I can elaborate a little bit on that because I see that question as well. So no, that’s only a health insurance. If you’re traveling for leisure, you can use GeoBlue. We have a ton of readers who use it. So we travel for business, but I’m fairly certain that you can use it.  We’ve talked to Berkshire Hathaway and also Insure My Trip. And I have had interviews with both of those companies that are on the websites. [You can find these interviews at this link]

Leigh Strinsky: Okay, good. That’s great. Thank you. We have a listener who has your river cruise guidebook, which saved her some money on her 2019 cruise and for which she is very appreciative. Will you be issuing an update or some new coupons. What have you got coming on the horizon?

Ralph Grizzle: Yeah, I had intended to update it this year, 2019. But that book was for 2018, 2019. So I thought, why am I rushing now? The reason I waited so long was I had not cruised on Crystal. I cruised on Crystal Bach in 2000 in October. It was a wonderful experience that’s going to be in the updated version of the book. So we thought, why don’t we just wait until we get the 2021 pricing so we can include the 2021 pricing charts in the book? So all that said, that book will come out. That updated edition will come out in the spring of 2020. We’re working on it now.

Leigh Strinsky: All right, I have something else on you to put on your to do list. Maybe. I know you have produced a really great river cruise comparison spreadsheet. So expanding on that, there is a question about a spreadsheet or a comparison showing which cruise lines offer air, how far in advance, how air is determined, which lines offer insurance and so forth. So any, any thoughts about maybe doing some other comparison sheets?

Ralph Grizzle: We do that to some degree in the pricing chart. So we have all of these pricing comparisons where we derive the true per diem. So we look at everything that is included or is on offer. Are drinks included? Tips? Is airfare included? And if so, what’s it worth? So I think to some degree that accomplishes that, but we will look into that more closely because we know people love comparisons. We love comparisons. So we’ll look at it more closely and maybe we’ll have more work for Britton.

Leigh Strinsky:  Okay. All right. I’m going to stop there with the questions and I’ll turn it back to you and Britton for closing comments and any wrap up that you might like to cover.

Thank you all for attending.

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