Most people think of Costco as a place to buy cheap food items and other merchandise in bulk, and while this is undoubtedly the company’s primary function, Costco also offers cruises, which we will call – what else? – Costco cruises. There is no Costco cruise line or Costco cruise ship, so the company doesn’t exactly “offer” cruises, at least not directly. Rather, the company facilitates the purchasing of, and makes arrangements for, the cruise vacations of members who book directly with Costco. Thus, Costco, or technically the subsidiary Costco Travel (wholly owned by Costco Wholesale Corporation), is a travel agency that Costco members can take advantage of. Below we provide a brief overview and guide to Costco cruises, which is really fairly simple.
Although Costco is known for its cheap prices, you won’t necessarily get a steeply discounted cruise simple by booking with Costco Travel. We compared a couple of randomly selected cruises offered by both Costco and a cruise line and found that they were the same price. However, when you deal directly with Costco, you essentially have access to a free travel agency and its expertise. They can help you plan your vacation, as well as put together a vacation package (with flight tickets, rental cars, and so on) that can definitely save you money. Moreover, if you are an Executive Member (as opposed to the standard Gold Star Member), there are a number of extras that come with certain cruises. You might get a room upgrade or on-board credit, for instance. Finally, the Costco Travel website always has some “hot deals” on offer, and these deals are indeed “hot”. For instance, they are offering a “buy one ticket get the second half off” deal at the moment with Royal Caribbean, and on select sailings with Celebrity Cruises you can get up to $1,000 of on-board credit. So, not every cruise booked through Costco is an incredible deal, but discounts can be found, and in any case you have the support of what is essentially a large travel agency.
As for how to set up and book a Costco cruise, you basically do it just as you would using a deal aggregation site (like Travelocity) or booking directly with the cruise line itself. If you go to the cruise section of the Costco Travel website, there is search a tool which allows you to set the criteria of your vacation, like the cruise line you want to sail with, and the destination to which you want to travel. All these criteria can be left blank except for your departure date (although even this can be expanded to a period of three months), so you are able to check out the full range of offerings if you don’t have anything specific in mind.
The range of cruise options offered by Costco is extremely broad – you can basically go anywhere in the world, and you can sail with 12 different cruise lines – so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a cruise to fit what you are looking for. The one notable gap in Costco’s offerings is that there are no Carnival cruises, which doesn’t necessarily matter (unless you are a die-hard Carnival fan), but it is, as we said, notable because Carnival Cruise Line controls 21 percent of the cruise industry in terms of numbers of passengers, making it the largest cruise line in the world. (You can book with a cruise line owned by Carnival, however, like Princess and Holland America, so the entire Carnival universe isn’t cutoff to you.)
To recap, Costco cruises are merely cruises that you book through Costco Travel. You can find great deals through the service and get help from the Costco “travel agency” when making your arrangements, another couple of perks of being a Costco member, but not every cruise is discounted, and you may end up just using the online system by yourself. This is easy, however, as Costco Travel essentially operates like any other site you use to book cruises. If you are a Costco member, it is definitely worth checking out the site if you are planning a cruise vacation.