Q – As we have learned,carefully reading (and enjoying) the information you have put together, what you see is not always what you get when you book a cruise. We are trying to figure out whether or not we should choose Windstar, Azamara, or Oceania. From your reviews, we are leaning toward Azamara, but are noticing that Oceania is offering “Free Air” and Azamara isn’t. Windstar seems not to have an air program at all and we’ve kind of ruled it out. We’re dealing with one of the online agencies, Expedia, and they are pushing Oceania. Just want you to sign off on the decision. The Free air seems to us to be a reason to tilt us in that direction.
A – It is hard to counsel you without many more specifics. If you have had an extensive interview with the agent you are working with, and feel that she knows you well, her advice might be worth something. Her personal cruise experience and expertise should weigh heavy on any recommendation. That said, we would suggest that you take similar cabin types and divide the total cost without air by the number of nights you will spend aboard the ship. This is the formula most pros use but few consumers seem aware of it. Once you get a per diem cost without including air, you will be in a position to compare value. Is Oceania’s Free Air really free or is Oceania simply smarter at marketing their cruises? And then there’s the ethical question – if you can buy a cruise without air for a significantly lower price than a cruise with “Free Air”, just how free is the air? Oceania has generally creative itineraries and superior cuisine than either Azamara or Windstar. They are all in a unique category of cruise – neither luxury or mass market. Let’s call them premium. The fact is you likely will not go wrong on any of your three final choices. If you trust your consultant, we would suggest that you consider her advice carefully.
Whatever happens – put it in perspective: You are about to make a $10,000 – $20,000 decision based on the influence of someone on the internet who may or may not have taken the time to talk to you several times in an attempt to know you well.