If there’s a cruise in your future, there’s no better time than now to take it.
With the economy sputtering, cruise lines are slashing fares, reducing some as much as 60 percent. Other deals are out there as well – free upgrades, free or reduced airfares, cheaper pre- and post-cruise tours and onboard credits among them.
Add to that the debut this year of nine major ships to the world passenger fleet and 18 smaller river vessels, and you have more choices than ever.
Reduced fares are found across the board, but some are truly astounding. In Alaska, normally a premium-rate destination, unheard-of rates below $400a person for a seven-day cruise have been seen. In Europe, rates not only are much lower, but some lines are throwing in such perks as free round-trip flights and hotel stays on certain sailings. Onboard credits as high as $1,000 a room have been offered by some luxury lines.
Every cruise line is offering good deals. Prices of examples below are per person, double occupancy, unless otherwise stated. Lowest fares usually are for late spring or early fall sailings. All terms are subject to change without notice.
Free hotel stays
Costa Cruises is offering two free hotel night stays pre- or post-cruise for travelers who purchase a 7- to 12-night Mediterranean cruise with air. From New York, the price begins at $1,652 for cruise, round-trip air, and stays at either the Laguna Palace Mestre in Venice, Hotel Claridge in Rome or Hotel Bristol Palace in Savona, including transfers. The package is valid Sept. 1-Nov. 30 and must be booked by May 31.
Seabourn offers savings of 40 to 65 percent off on its ships making seven-night cruises in the Mediterranean this summer and early fall. Discounted all-inclusive prices starting at $2,999. Silversea Cruises, also all-inclusive, is offering up to 50 percent savings plus other perks for booking by May 31. For example, fares for Silver Shadow’s July 20, 12-day Alaska cruise round-trip from San Francisco start at $4,747, plus a $1,000 spending credit and free economy transportation from 75 gateways. Promo code: WWSBC500.
Children 17 and younger sail free when sharing a cabin with two full-fare adults on all MSC Cruises. Boomers and seniors save up to 60 percent on European cruises, including on the new MSC Splendida. Rates start at $599, one person in stateroom must be 50 or older. Third and fourth persons in stateroom, if older than 17, pay $199 each.
Baltic for less
A 14-night Scandinavia/Russia cruise on Celebrity Cruises’ Constellation is offered at starting prices of $899, less than $65 a day. The ship visits eight Baltic destinations on four round-trip departures May-August from Harwich, England.
Several cruise lines are offering cruises northward from New York, Philadelphia or Boston to destinations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Among the deals: Norwegian Cruise Lines’ 10-night voyage from New York on Norwegian Jewel in early fall starting at $499. Nine nights on Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas in early fall starting at $679. Carnival’s Carnival Triumph has a four-night trip for $269, five nights for $369, in early June.
Alaska on sale
Cruises here are priced at all-time lows. Celebrity has a seven-night Seward-Vancouver cruise June 5 starting at $369. Norwegian’s seven-night cruises start at $349 for inside cabin, $579 for balcony. Princess offers seven-night Vancouver-Whittier cruises starting at $399. Holland America offers cruise tours at 50 percent off, so a cruise tour combining a seven-night Inside Passage sailing with a five-night land segment starts at $949.
Casing the Caribbean
Carnival Cruise Lines is offering Early Saver deals of up to $200 off on Caribbean cruises from Florida, with discounted rates starting at $399 for a seven-night cruise. The line also has launched a Cash Back promotion for most of its three- to eight-night cruises. The option comes in the form of a shipboard credit with the unused portion returned to passenger in the form of a check. The option (fare code OCB) – is capacity controlled and applies only to certain stateroom categories.
NCL’s Norwegian Gem offers one-week cruises out of Barcelona, visiting ports in the western Mediterranean starting at $599, with third and fourth passengers in same cabin at $199 each. Ports include Valetta, Rome, Livorno and Cannes.
Many lines offer this kind of one-way voyage, moving a ship from one region to another at the beginning or end of a season. Princess has an 18-night sailing on the Emerald Princess from Copenhagen to Fort Lauderdale Sept. 23 starting at $1,195. Ports of call include Oslo, Scotland, Dublin, Belfast, Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland.
Among the nine large new ships coming on line this year will be the world’s biggest liner, Royal Caribbean’s 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas, as well as the first two new luxury ships built in some years. Some of the new vessels will stay in Europe to operate cruises in the Mediterranean and Baltic seas, but several will cruise in North American waters.
Here’s what you can expect on three new ships that will cruise in North America, plus a sampling of deals offered by various cruise lines.
OASIS OF THE SEAS
DEBUT Dec. 1
ITINERARY Weekly Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
FARES From $729 for 7-day sailings
INFO Royal Caribbean’s highly anticipated passenger ship will be a third bigger than the largest now afloat. It will inaugurate a host of innovations at sea – first is a series of onboard “neighborhoods.” One is Central Park, open to the sky and featuring lush grounds with flower gardens and canopy trees. Another is Boardwalk, inspired by the seaside piers of yesteryear. The ship also will boast the first zipline at sea, the first amphitheater at sea and a handcrafted carousel, also a seagoing first.
DEBUT Oct. 3
ITINERARY 12-day Europe cruises in October, then New York-Bahamas sailings in November followed by one-week Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Fla., in December and beyond.
FARES From $439 for 7-day Caribbean sailings
INFO This ship, the largest Carnival Cruise Lines has ever built, will offer a new concept in entertainment called the Ocean Plaza, an indoor-outdoor cafe with live music. It also will offer the most elaborate children’s area at sea, a large aqua park and “scenic whirlpools” that extend over the ship’s beam.
DEBUT June 24
ITINERARY Mediterranean sailings until Nov. 14; then various Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale through December. Embarks on its maiden world cruise in January.
FARES From $4,499 for 14-day maiden Nov. 14 Caribbean sailing.
INFO Seabourn’s vessel, the first new luxury ship to be built in six years, will have granite bathrooms with separate baths and showers in staterooms. The ship will introduce The Colonnade, an indoor-outdoor restaurant in open-kitchen style, and a new area called Seabourn Square, where passengers can relax in a living-room atmosphere that includes a library, upscale shops, an outdoor terrace and a coffee bar.
2009’s MAJOR NEW SHIPS
AIDAluna, AIDA 2,030 passengers
Carnival Dream, Carnival 3,652 passengers
Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity 2,850 passengers
Costa Luminosa, Costa 2,260 passengers
Costa Pacifica, Costa 3,004 passengers
MSC Splendida, MSC 3,887 passengers
Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean 5,400
Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn 450 passengers
Silver Spirit, Silversea 540 passengers