2.12.2008 
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Princess 7-night Alaska
Coral Princess one-way Whittier to Vancouver; Glacier bay, Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan. Balcony just $999 pp.
•  AMERICA'S VACATION CENTER: 1-800-753-1176
CruiseMates says: this is a great price for a veranda cabin in Alaska. Act now.
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Celebrity from $249!
Newly re-styled Celebrity Century 4-night cruise just $249 pp. 5-nights for $299.
•  iCruise.com: 1-888-icruise
CruiseMates says: A steal for a cruise on a premium cruise line.
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Royal Caribbean Trans-Atlantic!
Bargains on repositioning cruises: Navigator 14-nights from $449 pp. Voyager 13-nights from $449.
•  CRUISES-N-MORE: 1-800-733-2048
CruiseMates says: Oceanview and Balconies on sale, too.
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You Deserve a Balcony!
7-nt Caribbean Princess: East Caribbean RT Ft Lauderdale: Balcony: $984 pp
•  BUYCRUISES: 1-800-510-1786
CruiseMates says: Great price for a veranda cabin!
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European Cruise bargain
From $1,049 - 12 Night Mediterranean, round-trip Civitavecchia/Rome aboard Carnival Freedom
•  CRUISEMARKETPLACE: 1-800-826-4333
CruiseMates says: fleet-wide Princess cruise sale.
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Vacations to Go
Save Up To 75% On Cruises. Age 55+ Rates, Group Rates, Military Rates, and more.
•  VACATIONSTOGO.COM: 1-800-338-4962
CruiseMates says: consistently one of the most popular travel agencies.
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Carnival Wednesday Sale
Select 3 to 5-night cruises in March as low as $249 per person with free insurance or pre-paid gratuities with balcony or suite.
•  CRUISEVALUE: 1-800-231-7447
CruiseMates says: Book Imagination or Inspiration for the Evolutions of Fun upgrades.
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Celebrity Solstice
A CruiseMates group cruise on a brand new class of Celebrity Ship from $880 per person. Don't miss this exciting ship debut!
•  CRUISEPLANNERS: 1-800-561-0802
CruiseMates says: The first of the new decade ships - Celebrity Solstice is a must-see!
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Carnival Imagination from $249
Newly re-styled Carnival Imagination: Waterpark, Adults' "Serenity" Area, coffee bar, sushi bar, new teens center, A Bargain!
•  CRUISEMAGIC: 1-800-474-5678
CruiseMates says: These re-styled Carnival ships are the best value in Caribbean getaways.
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Carnival Conquest from $549
Galveston to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Save up to $400 with AVC
•  AMERICA'S VACATION CENTER: 1-800-753-1176
CruiseMates says: Balcony cabins are just $819 per person!
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Bermuda Discounts
Sail on NCL Majesty; Charleston or Baltimore to Bermuda from $559 pp!
•  CRUISES-N-MORE: 1-800-733-2048
CruiseMates says: Oceanview $599. Bonus Gifts with each cruise.
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Cunard Transatlantic Journey
The Legendary Queen Mary 2- NY to Southampton 6-nt Transatlantic Cruise from: $899
•  BUYCRUISES: 1-800-510-1786
CruiseMates says: A classic journey on a classic ship!
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Queen Mary 2
10 Night Southern Caribbean cruise on Queen Mary 2 from Ft Lauderdale from $1524 per person
•  Cruise & Tours Unlimited: 1-800-935-2727
CruiseMates says: A classic ship at a bargain price.
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Celebrity Caribbean
Celebrity, 7 Night Cruises to Caribbean for 2008 starting at just $699!
•  CRUISEVALUE: 1-800-231-7447
CruiseMates says: Includes Free Insurance or Prepaid Gratuities!
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up to 75% off cruises
Alaska, Europe, Mexico, Caribbean, Transatlantic and more! Best Price Guarantee for 3nt., 7nt. and 10+nt. Cruises!
•  My Cruise Getaway: 1-800-408-1143
CruiseMates says: Call 1-800-408-1143 for details
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You can access all of these specials above - or go to CruiseMates' Cruise Bargains for even more!
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Valentine's Day is Near

By PAUL MOTTER

Valentine's Day is just two days away, so a nice romantic gesture would be to enter Carnival's "Read My Valentine" contest. All you have to do is write a story about anything romantic concerning you and yours. It can be about how you met, or a story about the two of you on a Carnival cruise, although the Carnival cruise element is NOT a requirement to enter the contest.

The Carnival contest closes on February 14th, so the cruise prize they award will be for a later date. The prize is a four-day Western Caribbean cruise in the Owner's Suite (!) on either Carnival Imagination or Inspiration.

Two weeks ago we gave you a listing of cruises leaving this week which you could use to celebrate Valentine's day. Just to give a little insight into how the cruise booking process works, as these ships filled up the prices also went higher, so if you are looking to book a last minute cruise on any of these ships now, in almost every case there is still availability, but only a few ships and saildates are still the same price as before (Carnival Paradise, Majesty of the Seas).

But the lesson here is that as the number of available cabins goes down, the more the cruise fare goes up. Just like airlines. The idea that you can sail "stand-by" or that truly last minute bargains exist is not really true. Almost every ship sails very close to full these days, especially on anything like a holiday, and so it pays to plan ahead.

Changes in Hawaii

NCL-America just announced that it is reducing its fleet in Hawaii, not by just the expected one ship, but by two. As of May 11, this year, there will only be one ship sailing under the U.S. flag in the Hawaiian Islands; Pride of America. This was the second ship introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, but the first ship purpose-built for cruising in Hawaii.

The announcement that they would reduce the fleet to one ship came as a complete surprise; even though we have all known for over a year now that they would move the third NCL-America ship, Pride of Hawaii, out of the region. They are re-flagging it as a non U.S.-flag vessel and it will sail in Europe under the name Norwegian Jade.

The newly announced re-deployment will be the oldest ship Pride of Aloha, which was once the Norwegian Sky. It was allowed to be re-flagged as a U.S. ship under an exemption by congress to the PVSA Cabotage laws, despite the fact that it was not built in the Unted States. The ship will go to NCL co-owners, Star Cruises in Asia.

In a related announcement by NCL, the much older (non-NCL) ship that used to carry passengers in Hawaii under the cruise line American Hawaii Cruises, the Independence, will also be sent to Asia, but for what purpose is yet to be determined. It is an older liner and might just be broken up for scrap. NCL acquired the ship as part of the complex deal it made with the U.S. Government to rescue the "Project America" shipbuilding and flagging initiative that was started in 2000 and floundered after 9/11.

While we still give NCL a lot of credit for what it has done in Hawaii, it appears that sometimes even the best efforts and intentions are not enough to make an enterprise profitable. The cost of supporting a crew within the mandates of U.S. maritime law has proven to have a limiting effect on the scale of the product. There are ships that operate under the U.S. flag, but they tend to be only small, elite yacht-like vessels with a small crew and a premium price.

Meanwhile, in the statement regarding the changes in Hawaii, NCL backs off from the strictest interpretation of the proposed changes to the cabotage laws now under consideration by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency. NCL President Veitch states, "we project a continued improvement in this one-ship operation as the unique nature of Hawai`i, from a cabotage standpoint, is clarified and restored." The key being that he states that NCL considers Hawaii to have "a unique nature" as far as cabotage is concerned. The opinion that the proposed cabotage changes should only affect Hawaii are now being distinctly clarified by NCL.

There is fear in many U.S. ports that the proposed changes will apply to all U.S. cruising regions, and not just Hawaii. It was NCL who initiated the possible changes in the cabotage laws by complaining to the CBP about foreign-flagged vessels entering Hawaii waters. NCL still wants restriction in Hawaii, but has now clarified they want Hawaii to be considered a unique destination, and that far-reaching changes in the cabotage laws should not affect other cruising regions.