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It's not as easy as it looks. I called at the end of August to book an early November weekend cruise. The rep told me that my preferred sail date was only available if I upgraded to a package with a two-night pre-cruise stay at their hotel in Florida. There was no availability for my booking inside cabin, cruise-only until December when I was not free.

I tried again a few weeks later, and was able to book myself and a friend on the January 20, , Saturday-to-Monday cruise. It was not clear -- despite the huge price difference with or without transport. I wouldn't receive an exact cabin number until three weeks before the cruise. The other surprise was that I would need to pick up my cruise documents at Royal Seas' Welcome Center at the Ramada in Fort Lauderdale, nearly 50 miles away from the cruise port. But what if we're flying into West Palm Beach, I asked? The rep assured me I could call to get the documents sent to the port where I could pick them up.

It was unclear why they didn't have everyone's documents at the port or sent to their homes or email addresses. A month or so before my cruise, a Royal Seas rep called me to confirm my sailing. We got cut off, and she never called back. I assumed I was confirmed. Fifteen days before my cruise, I get an email from Royal Seas: "We have made attempts to contact you regarding your upcoming travel dates.

The Grand Celebration has changed it's [sic] itinerary so unfortunately your cruise dates are no longer available. I have my travel companion call the cruise line. After an hour on hold, she's told the cruise line has "commandeered the ship" say what? We did not want option A. Look up reviews of the Balearia -- aka "the Vomit Comet" -- on our sister site TripAdvisor, and you'll see why. I spent a total of three hours on hold, including two at one stretch, and never reached anyone.

On Tuesday, I found a different number and got through. This rep said I could switch to the two-night hotel stay no mention of ferry or rebook on another sail date. When pressed, he said I could cancel but wouldn't help with airline change fees. I asked to speak to a supervisor. She said she was very sorry, that there was nothing they could do as the ship had been chartered.

I did confirm with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line that the ship was indeed chartered, though the rep there said that usually charters are booked months -- not weeks -- in advance. When I pressed her, she ultimately gave me the contact information for her compliance department who would review and hopefully help refund airline change fees. So, we canceled. All that was an ordeal — and then it got weird. The following day, the supervisor called me back to say that she felt so bad for my situation that she pulled some strings and got us back on the cruise.

What about the charter, I ask, and she says there were a few rooms still available likely because I stuck with the inside cabin. What about all the travel plans I just canceled? Try to change them back, she urged, stressing how she just went out on a limb for me. One day she told me she couldn't help; the next, she laid on the guilt when I balked at spending more time on the phone rejiggering travel plans. So, I called back and canceled, guilt trip be damned. Or did I? A few days before my cruise should have departed, I got a confirmation email from Royal Seas about picking up my cruise docs.

I hope it was a clerical error because I did not have the energy to call back. Now I'm waiting to hear back from the compliance department, and watching my credit card for the refund. My experience with Royal Seas Cruises was definitely sketchy and full of hassles. I expect I'll eventually get a refund, though I'm not sure about the reimbursement of my airline change fees. I fully expect that it will take several more phone calls before I see any money.

Before you write off Royal Seas as a total scam, however, look at the company's Yelp reviews; some people actually do get a cruise out of the deal. There are many complaints -- about the high-pressure sales tactics I encountered, bait and switch with hotels, forced timeshare presentations, cruise cancellations and high fees when people don't book their cruise in the allotted 18 months and want to extend the offer. But at least with Royal Seas, no one is reporting their credit card number stolen or that they put down the deposit and never received the voucher to book.

Though there could be other scams out there that do these things. For what it's worth, the Better Business Bureau rates the company as an F, says it's not BBB accredited and mentions the cruise scam at the top of the page. In this case, the actual scam seems to be the bait and switch tactics, unhelpful customer service, hidden fees and requirements and the difficulty of obtaining a refund for canceled cruises. It's not a phishing scam, but you have a high probability of not getting the vacation you thought you were booking.

Cruise newbies are rightfully confused about companies like Royal Seas Cruises. While the line implies it's the cruise line for the Grand Celebration ship, it's not; its name often makes people think it's Royal Caribbean, and many of the positive BBB reviews are from folks posting in the wrong place. After its fall FEMA charter, the ship got a refresh in dry dock, including a new adults-only area, a larger casino and a coffee and juice bar.

The cruises are popular enough that the line has purchased a second ship from Costa Cruises , to be named Grand Classica, scheduled to debut in April Cruise Critic readers rate Grand Celebration 3 out of 5 stars -- remember, it is a smaller, older ship -- and have reviewed it times. Bahamas Paradise turned down our request for an interview, but a spokeswoman for the line said, "I can tell you that Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line and Royal Seas Cruises are two totally separate, unrelated and independent companies.

Customer Questions & Answers

Royal Seas Cruises is a wholesaler and sells Bahamas Paradise Cruises, as they also sell other cruise lines. Booking through Bahamas Paradise is the legit way to go, but as you can see, you'll be paying a lot more. Then again, I never got to cruise. You will never get something for nothing, and only you know how much risk or time you are willing to take to get a vacation for cheap.

If you're tempted by a free cruise deal, here are a few ways you can protect yourself from being scammed:. When you see a free cruise offer from a company like Royal Seas, look them up online before you give them your money. This is especially easy if you sign up for the deal online and there's a few days' lag time before they call you. A quick look at Yelp and the BBB website can provide a ton of information. If you have a ship name, you can look it up on Cruise Critic to see which company actually owns and operates it.

You can also read both editor and reader reviews of ships to see if the experience is the dream cruise you're envisioning. In addition, Florida's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services FDACS , which protects against unethical travel sellers, requires all nonexempt travel sellers to register with the department; you can call them to find out if the company you're dealing with is registered or has any complaints levied.

FDACS also advises that consumers "never give out credit card or checking account numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call and are certain of the company's credentials. You can ask for a number to call them back, but they might not give it. Royal Seas would not, and would not honor their deal if I hung up and called later. Know how your credit card company handles fraudulent charges, and document everything said to you on a call if you plan on taking the risk. Never give your credit card number for any purpose such as verifying your identity other than making a specific purchase.

Be skeptical of hard sells and offers that sound too good to be true. An amazing deal that is only available if you book right now likely has strings attached or a hidden agenda. Ask the name of the cruise ship and cruise line; if they won't tell you, hang up immediately. Ask the company if it can show you credentials or prove it's legit.

Ask about additional fees you might be required to pay, restrictions on dates of travel or requirements like attending timeshare pitches a common occurrence with free travel offers.

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Ask how and when you'll receive travel vouchers or be able to book your cruise. Ask about penalties for canceling, transferring the booking to another person, switching travel dates or extending the expiration date of your voucher. If anything sounds suspicious or if your questions are not being answered to your satisfaction, ask to speak to a supervisor or higher-up. So, yes, you can use your Airbnb coupon anywhere there is an Airbnb listing available.

Having your own space to recharge is crucial to your sanity on long term trips. Often times, getting an awesome Airbnb apartment or Airstream trailer like the one below is cheaper than booking a private room in a hostel. Plus, you have you own kitchen and bathroom… which eliminates worst aspects of staying in hostels filthy bathrooms, appalling communal kitchen spaces, etc totally from your travel experience. Airbnb has opened up a whole new world of accommodation options to backpackers. Now, in just about every single country one can find unique, affordable places to crash.

You can probably guess where this apartment is…. Longterm rentals are a great way to stretch your travel bucks further and can actually work out cheaper than staying in a hostel since hostels very rarely have any kind of long term discount available. Many people do not know about these secret Airbnb tricks. As I mentioned above, when you start getting into the territory of one months stays, you can score even bigger discounts. If you are a digital nomad who works out of a string of different apartments throughout the year, then long term Airbnb rentals are a gift from the backpacker gods.

Seriously, in the old days, finding a long term apartment rental in Vietnam or Paris or Mexico City was complicated, involved lots of paperwork, and required you to speak the local language if you had any hope of getting a good deal. Thankfully those days are behind us and now digital nomads and long-term travelers can easily rent Airbnb apartments for months at time with just a few clicks.

Ah the 21st century. Working from a sick Airbnb rental in Thailand. You heard about these epic castles, windmills, and tree houses offered on Airbnb. The question is, how does one find them in a vast ocean of bland apartment listings? It use to be that Airbnb did not offer a way to search for specific types of unique property listings. If you did find an awesome treehouse or hobbit cabin to stay in, it was because one simply lucked out.

Perhaps one of the best arguments for using the Airbnb platform is the wide variety of unusual and interesting accommodation options on offer. Most backpackers I know would prefer to stay in an sick treehouse over a hotel room any day of the week… It was finding your way to the sick treehouse that was the issue…. Now, things have changed at it is now easier than ever to discover that perfect vintage boat, quirky treehouse, simple bush hut, stunning lighthouse, haunted train car, etc that you have always dreamed about staying in.

Charles Ponzi

Once you decide on a specific region or city you can use the filter function to search for the specific property type you are interested in. What is your dream accommodation? Only one way to find out… start searching! Honestly, there may be no better way to use your Airbnb coupon than staying in a river-side tipi for a couple of nights. Finding unique accommodation is easy now thanks to the Airbnb filter function…. If there is one thing that I have learned over the course of my travels it is this: you never know the answer to a question until you ask.

So when you have used up your Airbnb coupon, then what? Is the discount party over? Not necessarily…. As far as Airbnb hosts are concerned, you do have the option to straight up ask for a discount directly from them. When you are looking over a particular listing or property, you can send the host a message directly, before you actually are required to book or pay.

In all likelihood, the host will prefer to give you a little discount rather than totally missing out on your business, especially if you are traveling during the low backpacker season of any given country.

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I am traveling around your beautiful country and a few nights at your place is exactly what I need to recharge my batteries. I am wondering if it would be possible for you to give me a small discount towards my stay at your place as I am a backpacker with a slightly limited budget… Thanks so much in advance! Tell the host you have been hitchhiking and maybe they will take give you a tasty discount….

If you have money to invest, you might seriously consider setting up an Airbnb empire — a lot of people are making a fortune. Have an awesome spot like this back home? Become an Airbnb Host! Now, in destinations all over the world you can book an Airbnb Experience, which actually has little to do with Airbnb apart from the company being a sort of third party platform to connect interested parties with any given activity. There is literally an Airbnb Experience activity for every traveler. Think skydiving in New Zealand, paragliding in Colombia, wine tasting in Bordeaux, temple exploring in India; the options are endless.

If you have done a bit of traveling before, then you know that not all accommodation is created equal. On occasion, you end up booking a lousy Airbnb apartment and it really leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

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At this point, I have stayed at dozens of different Airbnb apartments and there have only been one or two in all of that time that were straight up bad and uncomfortable. Here are some of my top tips and things to consider when preparing to use your hard-earned credit gained through using our Airbnb discount code.

I know that it can tempting to book the first awesome-looking place you see straight out of the gate, though this approach can cause to miss hidden gems lurking a few rows below. Likewise, different Airbnb listings offer vastly different amenities. It is always worth checking out if the apartment has wifi, a parking spot if you have a rental car , a place to cook if you want to cook , comes with clean towels, toilet paper most should! In terms of price comparison, certain Airbnb hosts charge ridiculous cleaning fees which can quickly double or triple the actual cost per night.

We live in a review-based world, which means if people have had terrible experiences at a certain Airbnb apartment, the whole world can now know about it. You can get a pretty good idea of what to expect from a place by reading the reviews. I have dodged more than a few bullets by taking one extra minute to read the reviews of a place I was just about to book. Seriously, take the time to read the reviews and you will save your self the trouble of landing in a terrible apartment or a great apartment operated by a terrible host. At the same time, if any given property has 50 awesome reviews and one long, ranting, angry review, it is likely to be the case of one exceptionally sensitive person having one exceptionally bad day.

People seem to leave long, rambling, emotional reviews not because the apartment they stayed at was horrible, but because the individual who left the review is in fact horrible. This is not always the case of course, but it is important to filter for those sort of reviews anyhow.

Read the reviews so you know exactly what you are getting into…. This tip is pretty self explanatory, but alas I will elaborate. Thanks to Airbnb, backpackers now have the opportunity to actually stay in the kinds of places that once were only fantastical abstractions. Tree houses, yurt camps, adobe huts, castles, windmills, boats, old train cars, school buses, planes, igloos, farm stays, hobbit houses, futuristic bubble domes, submarines not really submarines, just making sure you are still paying attention rank among some of the coolest Airbnb options to lay your head.

You can always stay in some generic apartment building? But when will you get the chance to stay in an epic windmill overlooking a sea of tulips again? Over the course of the last several years, I have been extremely fortunate t0 stay at some truly epic Airbnb rentals. The places that I have stayed at have ranged from modest, simple apartments in major cities and drafty wooden beach shacks, to luxurious penthouses and fit-for-a-king villas on the edge of some distant jungle. Below, I have assembled a few of my favorite Airbnb, which if given the chance, you should totally stay at some of these places too!

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Because Lebanon is seriously lacking in budget hostels, I opted to stay in Airbnb apartments across the whole country. I actually found the Airbnb places to be way cheaper than the hotels. This particular apartment was located off one of the most beautiful streets I found in Lebanon. For a little extra cash, the host served up the most amazing breakfast spread I have found anywhere. Seriously, it was enough food for 10 people we were only two.