Finding Deals for 2006

| Jan 30, 2006

There's no doubt that 2006 cruises are already heavily booked. And they're going at higher tariffs than in recent years. That's certainly good for the cruise lines, but not so good for bargain hunters. However, there are still lots of good deals for anyone who's seriously looking for them -- especially those who can be flexible in terms of itinerary and sailing dates.

Listed below is just a sampling of what I came up with over the last couple of weeks. Most fares are going to be capacity-controlled (i.e., only a limited number of cabins are available at those prices) and they may have cutoff dates. But they are available.

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Check with your travel agent and see what's still out there. A travel agent has easy access to discount information and may even have special deals not offered publicly. Or, if you're interested in a specific line, go to its website and see what specials they're offering.

Here are some ideas:

AMERICAN CRUISE LINES: American Cruise Lines' popular Lobsterfest cruises to selected New England islands, its Maine Coast & Harbor departures, and the line's new Crabfest cruises on select Chesapeake Bay departures this spring are all being offered with early bird discounts. Guests can save $400 per stateroom on all departures and itineraries if they book six months in advance.

CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES Carnival frequently offers capacity controlled deals based on cruise-only pricing. For example, the lowest rates for four- and five-night Sensation sailings from Port Canaveral start at $349 (category 4A, 3/23-10/19/06); Carnival Legend eight-night sailings from New York start at $599 (category 4A; 4/26-10/11/06).

CRYSTAL CRUISES Crystal Cruises has waived the usual 25% single supplement for its category E outside staterooms, offering single travelers an exceptional value for a Big Band themed transatlantic voyage on Crystal Symphony departing April 29. The luxury line is also adding extra Ambassador Hosts to serve as dancing and dining partners. Further, travelers can save 15% off all stateroom and suite categories for reservations made by February 15, 2006. Cruise fares start at just $1,929 for single occupancy accommodations. Crystal also designates about a dozen sailings a year as the Value Collection, with substantial savings.

HOLLAND AMERICA Through February 28, 2006, guests can obtain up to a seven-category upgrade on select sailings. For example, guests can book an ocean-view outside stateroom for the price of an inside, or a Deluxe Verandah stateroom for the price of an outside cabin. Upgrades range from one to seven categories, a value of up to approximately $300 per person, depending on the cruise. Each week through the end of February, Holland America Line will post and update the list of applicable sailings for stateroom upgrades on its website.

MSC MSC Cruises is offering a special family plan rate on the February 11 and 25 sailings of MSC Opera. The rate of $395 per person (cruise only, plus fees of $41) is based on four passengers in an inside stateroom. The third and fourth persons do not have to be children. For triple occupancy, the rate is $429 each.

NORWEGIAN COASTAL VOYAGES Three of NCV's Independent Vacations are on sale to early birds - those booking by March 1 receive reductions of $95 to $515 per person on the 12-day "Highlights of Norway," 13-day "Norwegian Holiday" and 17-day "Grand Norway" cruises. The three all-Norway packages are designed for independent travelers who prefer the flexibility of doing their own sightseeing and dining in major cities, but appreciate the convenience and cost savings of air-inclusive cruise tours. Normal pricing, ranging from $2,865 to $5,330 per person, double, is reduced to $2,660 to $4,975.

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE/NCL AMERICA NCL has upgrades galore through Feb. 28 as part of a program called Sale of All Sales; some offer 'meta-category upgrades'� inside to outside, outside to balcony, balcony to mini-suite. This is available on the new Pride of Hawaii. For select sailings through the Sale of All Sales promotion, guests can also receive an on-board credit if they book a balcony cabin.

OCEANIA CRUISES Oceania is offering free airfare and 2-for-1 cruises on all winter 2006-2007 sailings to the Caribbean, Asia and South America. Additionally, the same deal is still available on a limited number of staterooms for 10- to 16-day sailings in Europe this summer.

PETER DEILMANN CRUISES Value season departure dates are offered on nine river vessels, affording guests significant savings of 20 to 25 percent vs. main season prices. To realize these savings, guests need to book the first four or last four departures of the season (March -October). Peter Deilmann Cruises' spring Mediterranean and European sailings on the MS Deutschland are offered with free airfare and 10 percent cruise discounts.

RADISSON SEVEN SEAS Radisson is offering guests the unspoiled wilderness of Alaska aboard the luxurious all-suite/balcony Seven Seas Mariner with free roundtrip air from 86 North American gateways on six voyages. The seven-night itineraries, which depart May 24 and 31, June 7, August 30, and September 6 and 13, ply the Pacific Northwest coastline between Whittier (Anchorage) and Vancouver. On select Europe sailings this summer, guests can take $1,000 off the cruise fare, get free round-trip air or buy into a low-cost business class upgrade.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN Royal Caribbean has a variety of capacity controlled deals available: for a five-night Caribbean itinerary departing February 13 on Splendour of the Seas, an inside cabin starts at $319 per person based on double occupancy. For a seven-night Europe/Mediterranean itinerary departing June 3, 10, 17 or 24 on Voyager of the Seas, inside cabins start at $1,049 per person based on double occupancy. For a seven-night Europe/Mediterranean itinerary departing October 7, 14, 21, 28 or November 4 onboard Voyager of the Seas, an inside cabin starts at $949 per person based on double occupancy

SILVERSEA CRUISES Silversea is offering savings of at least 30% on the following: Silver Cloud departing March 9 on a 14-day "South America Explorer" from Rio de Janeiro to Barbados, with fares starting at $4,422 per person (50% savings); Silver Shadow departing April 9 on an eight-day "Accent on Vietnam" voyage from Hong Kong to Bangkok, with fares starting at $2,967 per person (40% savings); Silver Whisper departing April 13 on a seven-day "Caribbean Sojourn" roundtrip from San Juan, with fares starting at $2,621 per person (30% savings).

STAR CLIPPERS Guests sailing aboard Star Flyer in the Far East through March 2006 have the option of taking a discount off their cruise or adding pre- and post-cruise land tours to their sea journey. For example, on the seven-day round-trip Phuket, Thailand sailings, guests can save $500 per person off the cruise fare or take a free four-night "Vibrant City" Bangkok land tour and two-night "Phuket Fantasea" land package (a $670 per person, double value). On seven-night sailings between Phuket and Singapore, guests can save $500 per person off the cruise fare or take a free four-night "Vibrant City" Bangkok land tour and two-night "Lion City" Singapore land package (a $620 per person, double value).

WINDSTAR CRUISES Windstar has some great deals on back-to-back cruises this spring. For example: Wind Surf has 14-day cruises for the price of a seven-day fare on Lisbon/Malaga/Marseille April 23-May 7; Malaga/Marseille/Rome April 30 - May 14; and Marseille/Rome/Nice May 7 - 21. The savings are off Windstar's ASAP rates that will be offered again once Early Booking Incentive rates are discontinued.

THE YACHTS OF SEABOURN Seabourn Legend will combine two shorter sailings into a spectacular Mediterranean Panorama voyage between Lisbon and Monte Carlo departing May 5, 2006. The 16-day combination voyage is offered at a special savings of 50% off the fares of the segment voyages. Guests will also enjoy two complimentary Exclusively Seabourn shoreside events, at Palma de Mallorca and Sorrento.

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