I just did a quote and this was the best available for the hubby, me, & our 2 boys on 9/28:
Sub Total: $291.20
**Estimated Tax: $109.27
Estimated Total: $400.47 (US Dollar)
But then, underneath all this in red text it says:
Please note: Must have one adult 21 years or older in each room. Energy surcharge: 13.95 per person per night. Housekeeping gratuities: 5.00 per person per night These are additional charges not included in nightly estimated total and must be paid directly at the hotel. Groups are for Five or more rooms and require a 2nt stay. For groups please contact 1-800-417-6738 Ext 24. Persons 16 and older are charged as adults. 3rd/4th person charged 40.00 per night + tax and service charges.
The bold italicized part says that the Estimated Total ($400.47) does not include the additional surcharge & housekeeping gratuities. I read on Cruise Critic where people were totally miffed at having to pay the fees because they never even set foot in the room.
Also, I think the "value" in booking at CS vs. thru DCL depends on the group. Numbers of people and ages of kids makes a difference. See the bottom part where they say 16 year olds are charged as adults? Then they say 3rd and 4th person is charged $40 per night + tax and service charges. They don't say that the $40 is reduced for kids under 16. To be safe I'll calculate the 3rd/4th person fees for both boys. That adds $117.90. So now my total would be looking like this:
$400.47 Estimated Total + $37.90 (energy surcharge & housekeeping gratuities for hubby & me) + $117.90 ($40 adult fee, energy surcharge, & housekeeping gratuity x 2 for my 3rd/4th people) = $556.27
I still have to pay for our transportation each way. $4 per person plus tip to driver = $20 x 2 trips coming & going = $40
DCL's excursion includes lunch. Each of us got a burger, fries, & drink. The drink is free refills. I recall making a mental note that each meal was about $15 so that adds another $60 to the bottom line.
Now we're up to $656.27.
I booked thru DCL for $169 x 4 = $676. The total savings is $19.73. I didn't like risking booking an advanced purchase rate then have something happen that prevented us from getting into the port on the day I booked. I just wasn't that overly impressed with the savings when I weighed everything out.
Again, the savings is different for each person's group size & composition. It also depends on the rates you can get. A friend of mine got a killer military rate a while back so it really made it worthwhile for her family. There's a lot of factors and each person would have to crunch their numbers.
My big thing is those red print fees/charges. I would be hopping mad if that got sprung on me when I got there. I think it's kinda crappy for them to not include these in the estimated total. Doesn't feel right to me. That's the part I'm always hoping people are catching.