person in a cruise ship deck chairBy generating a competitive bidding process, which provides consumers with the lowest prices, employs the shopping strategy we prefer.

Here’s how works in theory: You provide info on the cruise you want—including the cruise line, ship, sailing date, and room category—and it sends your trip to hundreds of participating travel agents who each bid for your business.

But here’s how it works in reality: Because nearly all cruise lines now have uniform pricing policies (which means they require all sellers, including websites and travel agencies, to charge the same rates), you’ll get very similar prices from everyone. On the other hand, by using CruiseCompete you can uncover savings or upgrades you might not otherwise get via a traditional booking option, for example, a $200 on-board credit or a cabin upgrade. And some agents sweeten their proposals by offering to rebate customers a share of their commissions. Because a $200 credit or free upgrade is better than no credit and no upgrade, you may as well give this site a shot.

Before using CruiseCompete, we advise you first to settle on the exact trip you want to take and narrow down to at most a few options the cabin you want. Otherwise the site will generate a dozen or more price quotes from travel agents with each bidding on different itineraries and cabins, making it difficult to choose.