It’s a buyer’s market in the cruise world

If there was ever a time when we need bargains in travel, this is it.
Most consumers are practicing some economic belt-tightening; we are buying less and buying smarter. That’s why www.CruiseCompete.com could be your salvation.
The Web site allows consumers to select a cruise, then receive multiple, competing quotes from independent travel agents. It’s a time-saver and a money-saver. Travel agencies pay a fee to join CruiseCompete.com, but the service is free to consumers.
You can compare prices without endless searching. Prices and information are sent anonymously through the Web site.
“Now is a great time to look for deals,” said Heidi Allison of Rochester, Mich., chief marketing officer and co-founder of the site. “What people can save now is all over the map. It depends on the date of sailing, how soon you go, the time of year — whether it’s during a holiday period — and the destination. Consumers sign up and we’re the matchmakers.”
That wasn’t the case just a few weeks ago as CruiseCompete.com celebrated its fifth anniversary. Business was brisk; agents were selling luxury cruises like 29-day trips from Copenhagen to Fort Lauderdale and 66-day trips to Australia and the Orient.
Then the repercussions from the mortgage meltdown and bank failures hit, and we’ve been feeling the fallout ever since.
So, “it’s a buyer’s market,” Allison said. Agents have already purchased blocks of cabins on the ships and “there is a ton of space right now. They will lower the rates so the ships will go out full.”

I told you…
In case anyone should accuse me of whining in my last column about the challenging hiking in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, here’s an e-mail I received after returning home. It’s from Faye Casey of Fairfield, N.Y., one of my fellow hikers.
My trainer and his wife went to the Adirondacks the week we left. I asked how his vacation was and he said “not so great.”
They went hiking and were 30 minutes out on the trail when she slipped — basically did a split. I believe she was trying to climb up a rock (had one foot up, one down) and broke her leg in two places.
And she is about four months pregnant.
He propped her against a log, wrapped all the clothing they had around her and hightailed it down the trail. First house he came to after the trailhead had people at home, fortunately. They called the search/rescue team and drove him back to the trailhead.
Search/rescue brought in about 25 people. They splinted her leg, put her in a litter which attached to their backpacks (four of them), and carried her off the trail. Now she’s is in a full leg cast!

Get Away to Monterey Bay
Here’s a holiday gift idea: Give an experience and get a deal. Between Dec. 14 and Jan. 31, two can spend one night at the Hotel Pacific, boutique lodging adjacent to old Monterey, and take a three-hour whale-watching expedition — all for $220 Sunday through Thursday, or $240 Friday or Saturday. A marine biologist narrates. (Sorry, no pregnant women on the boat.) Package includes complimentary continental breakfast and afternoon wine and tea. Call (800) 554-5542 and visit www.hotelpacific.com.

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