Luxury Cruise Bargains

| Tuesday, 05 Mar. 2013

The luxury cruise line incentive offerings during this economic downturn makes them competitive with mainstream cruise lines.

Who has never heard the advice "Buying retail is for suckers?" While it isn't the most delicate phrasing, there is a grain of truth to it in the current economic climate.

Looking over the incentives currently offered by top-of-the-line luxury operators like Silversea, Crystal, Seabourn and Cunard, I started thinking about the significance of their deals, and I decided to call Brad Ball of Silversea Cruises.

Silversea is offering free airfare on many of its 2009 cruises, even to Europe and South America. "For example," I said to Brad, "I see a seven-night Baltic Sea cruise that starts in Stockholm, spends three full days in St. Petersburg, Russia -- my favorite destination port in the world -- and ends in Copenhagen. The cruise fare starts at $5,176 per person -- including airfare, alcohol and gratuities."

"That's right," he said. "We think it is a really great offer."

It is a really great offer, but more significantly, those incentives make Silversea competitive with many mainstream cruise lines. If you are a veteran cruiser who has yet to try the best luxury cruise lines, next year could be your best opportunity yet.

Luxury lines like Silversea, Regent and Seabourn are different from the mainstream ones -- even premium cruise lines like Celebrity, Holland America and Princess -- because their pricing is all-inclusive. This means all alcoholic beverages are free, including cocktails and wine with dinner. No tipping is ever required, not even those niggling 15% service charges you usually see on every bill. Nor do you hand out cash-filled envelopes at the end of the cruise to everyone you came into contact with (and some that you didn't).

On luxury cruise lines, you enjoy the best cuisine in a single-seating restaurant small enough to qualify as a specialty dining spot on a mainstream cruise ship.

Let's Do the Math When I started thinking about the money to be saved with the free airfare, I realized it might be cheaper to take a luxury cruise than a mainstream one.

However, "No one in the travel business knows how much airfare to Europe will be next summer," I said to Brad. "How do you gauge that?"

"That is correct," he said. "In fact, the airlines have cut back their capacity a great deal. There are fewer flights going everywhere, and they are giving fewer and fewer incentives, even to companies like cruise lines who buy in bulk."

So how much does Silversea estimate a roundtrip ticket to Europe might cost next summer?

"We are guessing it could be about $1,800 to $2,000 per person," Brad said. That is close to what we paid a few years ago. So I believe he is right, although if you book now you can get it for a little less.

Another benefit: Generous accommodations on luxury vessels. On Silversea, for instance, the minimum sized cabin is the Vista Suite -- "It's 240 sq. ft. and comes with a walk-in closet, a seating area with a couch and two chairs separate from the bed and a full bathroom including a tub," Brad said.

So I am looking at a seven-night Baltic cruise in this suite at $5,176 per person -- but if you deduct the cost of airfare, it comes closer to $3,200 per person. This is for the luxury cruise line Silversea.

Continue Article >> Luxury Cruise Bargains (Part 2)

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