Cruises to

November 14, 2008

Here's our top recommendations for cruises to Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii and Mexico.

Cruises to Mexico Beginning with 2009, there has never been a better time for cruises to the Mexican Riviera. This will be the first year that we have mega-ships sailing out of California to Mexico. These two ships are too large to transverse the Panama Canal, so they both need to cruise to South America's Cape Horn to get here.

The first to arrive is Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas which makes its first seven day cruise on February 22, sailing roundtrip from Los Angeles to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. This 138,000-ton mega-ship for 3114 passengers of the Voyager class offers plenty of fun for families especially. There is a large Royal Promenade, rock-climbing walls, an ice skating rink and alternative dining venues.

The second to arrive is the 113,000-ton, 3006 passenger Carnival Splendor on March 31, 2009. It will make one 5-day cruise just to get on schedule, and thereafter will offer seven day cruises to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas from Long Beach.

If you are not a family, you will probably prefer a smaller, classic cruise on the many premium ships going to Mexico at incredibly good prices. One of the most interesting is the 10-day cruise on Holland America's MS Ryndam. This ship cruises to Cabo San Lucas and visits small ports in the Sea of Cortes like Loreto, La Paz, Topolobampo, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta from San Diego roundtrip. The Sea of Cortes is known for an abundance of wildlife including blue whales -- the world's largest mammals -- sea lions, dolphins, etc.

As a general rule, 7-day cruises will get you to Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan. If you want to add in Acapulco you need at least eight days.

We are seeing great bargains if you book less than 90 days before the cruise date: I see 7-day cruises on NCL Star beginning at $369 pp, Sapphire Princess at 389 pp, and the beautiful Holland America Oosterdam at $429 pp. Each of these ships even offers Balcony cabins for about $650.

Summing Up There is a lot of uncertainly in the cruise market these days, however it is mostly limited to sail dates less than 90 days away. The reason is the cruise lines prefer to sell as many cabins as they can at a higher rate, and only drop the prices when they need to fill up the ship. Especially for cruises to Alaska and Bermuda, the prices will tend to drop mostly only for the people who are willing to wait until the last minute -- once the cruise line has some visibility into how much empty space they have on any given ship.

If you have the time and money, the bargains you may see are a rare occurrence in the cruise industry. In most cases a ship will fully sell out well before the final sail date with no discounts. In good times we always recommend booking early rather than late for the best prices and cabin selection. This change to lower last-minute prices is a rarity and obviously a result of our economy scaring consumers away from high dollar purchases.

When pricing cruises more than 60 days out it can be harder to find bargains. One example is the cruise lines who tend to offer the most cruises to Europe; Princess, Holland America, Celebrity and most of the luxury lines are not yet cutting their prices. Most of their customers are well heeled and retired, and do not seem to be as badly affected by this economic downturn as younger people, so they are waiting to see what happens. As passengers, we also get the benefit of a better exchange rate when going on pre-cruise visits, shore excursions and buying souvenirs.

Back to Top of Article >> Cruises to Alaska, Bermuda, Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii and Mexico (Part 1)

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