Travel Q&A: Booking Last-minute Cruises with Brokers; Getting to Union Station for an Early Train
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Q. All cruise brokers say they're the biggest and cheapest. Which one really does the most business with the cruise lines? We can only travel last-minute -- say, a week before sail date. Would the cruise line give us the lowest price for unsold cabins, or is it better to deal with a broker?
C.E. Preston, Bethesda
A. When buying a cruise, as with any other form of travel, it's wise to heed the words of that great philosopher, Smokey Robinson's mama: You better shop around.
That's because, despite the claims, no one cruise agency is the "biggest and cheapest." In fact, most offer pretty much the same prices, said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of the independent review Web site Cruise Critic (http:/
As for last-minute deals, alas, they're not what they used to be.
Cruise lines have been extremely aggressive about filling ships, Brown said, so there aren't many cabins left unsold, and "it's a bit like buying tag-sale stuff." You may wind up with an inconvenient routing or a crummy cabin. The absolute "last minute" to book a cruise is about two weeks before the sailing date, Brown said.
In addition to consulting cruise discounters such as Cruises.com, Cruises Only (http:/
We are taking a trip on Amtrak, leaving from Washington's Union Station. We were planning to park at the station, but since we'd be leaving the car for 12 days, the cost would be more than $200. How can we get to the station at a more reasonable cost? We must be there by 5:30 a.m.
Elizabeth Jackson, Ashburn
You were doing okay until you got to the 5:30 a.m. part. Theoretically, you could take a Loudoun County commuter bus from the Dulles North Transit Center (where there's a park-and-ride lot) to the Union Station area for $8 one way ($7 with a SmarTrip card), but the first departure isn't until 5:37 a.m. You could also take a cab to the West Falls Church Metro station, but the first train doesn't depart until 5:07 a.m., arriving at Union Station at 5:45.
Your best bet, short of getting a friend to drive you, is a taxi or limousine service. Limos 4 Less (877-566-4577, http:/
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