We found these top bargains to the summer destinations of Alaska, Bermuda and Europe for 2009.
Europe This region is especially interesting in 2009 because right now we don't have a clear idea of what cruise prices will be. We have prices, but they could change depending on the price of fuel, which has a big effect on the airfare to get there and the ships you will cruise on. The dollar-to-euro conversion rate is another factor -- and it has been shifting in the dollar's favor lately.
In any case, the best "value for money" deals we are seeing right now are on the premium ships of Holland America, Celebrity and Princess Cruises.
For Princess, the best deal we see is on the newish 113,000-ton, 3,080-passenger Crown Princess' 12-night cruise from Lisbon to Seville, Barcelona, Marseille, Malta, and Sicily, ending in Rome. Current prices start at $1,685, or $2,180 balcony.
But the most interesting cruise we see is on the smaller (684-passenger, 30,000-ton) Royal Princess from Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) to Sorrento; Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt; Haifa and Ashdod, Israel; Patmos and Athens, Greece, priced from $2,782, or $3,487 balcony.
At Holland America, the Noordam appears to have some of the best prices all season long. We see a 10-night East Mediterranean cruise roundtrip from Rome to Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Thira, Kusadasi, Athens/Piraeus and Messina priced from $944, or $1,864 balcony.
For Celebrity, the Summit appears to have some of the best pricing for summer 2009. We see a 12-night East Mediterranean cruise from Venice to Split, Athens/Piraeus, Thira, Naples, Rome/Civitavecchia, Livorno, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Barcelona. But for that same itinerary, try the brand new Celebrity Solstice. It is almost an identical routing and time frame, but on one of the world's newest and most beautiful ships. From Rome to Messina, Athens/Piraeus, Mykonos, Kusadasi, Rhodes, Thira, Naples and back to Rome we see prices from $1,899 inside and $2,098 balcony.
Summing Up The bottom line for pricing for cruises in summer 2009 is that more than 60 days out (say, before March 1 for the first cruise in May) it can be hard to find bargains.
The cruise lines that traditionally offer the most European sailings -- Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and most of the luxury lines -- are not currently cutting their prices. They are waiting to see what happens with the economy. Most of their customers are well-heeled and retired, and do not seem to be as badly affected by this economic downturn as most people.
There are so many variables for Europe this year. The cruise lines realize savings in euro-based expenses over there, but according to Alan Buckelew, CEO of Princess in a recent interview, the lines also get much of their revenue in euros, so any savings is offset.
However, the exchange rate benefits U.S. citizens when we go on pre-cruise stays, take shore excursions and buy souvenirs.
For Alaska and Bermuda, prices will tend to drop mostly for people willing to wait until the last minute -- i.e., once the cruise line has some idea how much empty space it has on any given ship about 60 days out. At this point (late autumn 2008) we still have not seen any major discounts.
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