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It’s always exceedingly tough to figure out whether much-hyped cruise deals are really bargains because cruise rates are usually measured against inflated brochure prices that hardly anyone actually pays.

Now Cruise Critic, a unit of TripAdvisor, has launched a dynamic Price Drop tool that ignores brochure rates and compares cruise prices with the highest published rates over the previous seven days.

Interestingly, the concept for the Price Drop tool was developed by CruiseWise, which TripAdvisor acquired in May 2013. The tool was redesigned and integrated into Cruise Critic this month.

Travelers can search deals by cruise line, month, destination, length of the sailing, cabin type and price drop percentage, and can also monitor price drops by subscribing to a Cruise Critic weekly email for updates.

Thus if you search for 6-9 night Carnival Cruise Lines’ sailings to the Caribbean in February 2014 with  2014 oceanview cabins, you’ll see the highest published rates six or seven days ago and price drops on the Carnival Conquest (10%), Carnival Sunshine (6%), the Carnival Liberty (6%), and the Carnival Legend (5%).

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If you want to check the rates and book the cruise, the Check Price button takes you to, where you can book the cruise online or call a toll-free number to speak with an Expedia agent.

There is at least one other cruise-drop service available from, but it looks fairly tedious to use and the price-monitoring involves a fee.

Price Drop is a big move for Cruise Critic, which is well-respected for its active cruiser community and ship reviews, and now branches out a bit with its toe in the water as a cruise retailer, or at least a lead generator.

Photo Credit: The MSC Divina arrives in her new home port of Miami on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013. Walter Michot / Miami Herald/MCT