Year of the Mediterranean - 2012

| 06.12.12

We have been saying it for years, but it just keeps getting better and better. This is the year to take a Mediterranean cruise.

Stromboli volcano in the Mediterranean Sea is just one of the wonders in this part of the world

If you are a regular cruiser but haven't noticed the prices of Mediterranean cruises you don't know what you are missing. You can pick almost any cruise line you want and find extraordinary deals this year. Of course, we all know what you are just about to ask. "What about the airfare?"

Consider this - October is one of the nicer months to visit the Mediterranean because the weather has cooled and the tourist trade has thinned out; making much easier for you to get the best seats on tours and beds in hotels. But even better, as I peruse Priceline right now for roundtrip air tickets from JFK to Barcelona, I am seeing roundtrip tickets as low as $756 per person.

The average temperature in northern Italy in October is 72 degrees (far, 22 C.) - indicating the even more southerly destinations, such as the Greek Isles and Egypt we mention below, will be very comfortable, even in October. Granted, it is more likely to rain in the autumn than during the summer, but, the cooler weather, lower prices and less crowding more than makes up for a little liquid sunshine.

What kinds of cruise prices are we seeing? Does "extraordinary" sound good?

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Celebrity Bargains

Take an 11-night cruise on the beautiful Celebrity Silhouette in a veranda stateroom for just $1099 per person sailing Oct. 23 sailing from Venice to Rome. Or opt for the 10-night cruise on sister ship Equinox for just $999 per person (Oct. 5) sailing roundtrip from Rome to the Greek Isles.

Princess Hot Deals

Some of the best Mediterranean cruises I have ever taken have been on Princess ships because the line does such a spectacular job in shore excursions - rated among the top at excursion planning and execution for years. Princess ships go to the ports you really want to see - not the sleepy little towns where all the shops are closed, or the places that sound more exotic than they are in reality (St. Tropez for example).

I have sailed in the Med on two different Princess ships that each averaged over 110,000-tons (large by cruise ship standards in Europe) but you would hardly know the difference between these and a ship half the size; Princess makes everyone feel special with comfortable staterooms and a wide variety of dining options including 24-hour service in the Lido buffet area.

There is a 12-night cruise sailing out of Rome on October 27 that sails to Alexandria, Egypt, where you stay overnight for plenty of time to see the pyramids at Giza and the archeological highlights of Cairo, then it is on to Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens and then two full days in Venice so you can really see the city of love. Prices for a balcony cabin, just $1799 per person, but for the best bargains opt for an inside cabin, starting at just $899 per person on most summer cruises in the Med on Princess.

How do these bargains sound to you? Tell us in the European Cruise Forums

Holland America Steals

Perhaps you are a fan of Holland America, and who isn't? Be absolutely sure to register with the web site to see the best prices. There is a 10-day Roman Empire cruise starting at just $599 per person (inside) and just an unbelievable $799 per person for a veranda stateroom. This is the July 17th cruise on the Noordam roundtrip Rome to Dubrovnik, Corfu, Katakolon, Santorini, Ephesus, Athens, and Sicily.

Granted, airfare will be higher in July, but how much higher? Not as bad as you probably think. Priceline is showing me air tickets from JFK to Barcelona in July for $955 per person. In addition, Holland America is including air credits as high as $500 person on many European cruises.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Even more amazing bargains come to us from Norwegian Cruise Line. Consider the Norwegian Spirit sailing a 12-day cruise from Barcelona to Venice including Florence, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Ephesus and Athens starting at just $599 person, available July through October with balcony cabins just $1399.

Or take a nine-day cruise to the Baltic Sea to visit Copenhagen, Berlin, Estonia, St Petersburg, Helsinki and Stockholm on Norwegian Jade; July through September, starting at just $649 inside and $1249 balcony.

Getting back to our October Med cruises; when airfare is just $756, you can grab a 10-day Eastern Med cruise sailing Oct. 31 from Rome to Athens, Ephesus and Alexandria, Egypt (two days in port) for $599 inside or $1099 balcony.

Have you ever been to the Holy Land? Comment on this article here in the European Cruise Forums

Saving the best for last is the highly recommended 11-day Holy Land cruise sailing Oct. 20 from Rome on Norwegian Jade. Sail to Alanya (Turkey), Cypress, Haifa and Ashdod (both in Israel) and then sail on to Port Said and Alexandria, Egypt. See the wonders of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, then on to the land of the Pharaohs. Balcony cabins are sold out on this cruise already, but you can get an oceanview for $1049 or a beautiful suite for just $2499 per person. In a normal year that would be the price of a standard balcony cabin.

It seems like we say it every year - but it just keeps getting better and better. If you do not go to Europe when the prices are this low, will you go when the economy returns to normal and a cruise is three times more expensive?

One last ship to mention - Carnival Breeze still has some amazing bargains as the only Carnival ship in Europe this summer. Be sure to check out our CruiseMates cruise sailing June 26 from Barcelona on a 14-day cruise to Italy and France starting as low as $899 per person.

And be sure to read the other articles in CruiseMates about Mediterranean cruises available right now. Just go to our home page.

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