CruiseMates Newsletter

Summer 2008 Cruise Pricing
by Paul Motter

If you were thinking the soft economy might mean cruise bargains now, we don't see them yet but we aren't counting them out. So far, the usual summer vacation cruise options seem to have plenty of demand, and prices are on par with previous years in both Europe and Alaska.

On the other hand, based upon my years of watching pricing week after week, I see an abundance of availability for Alaska cruises, which leads me the believe we could see lower prices soon. Why would cruise prices still be as high now? Because cruise bookings have remained strong over the last year, and cruisers typically book cruises three to twelve months in advance. Prices are still under the influence of bookings made up to a year ago.

So, while there has been a slight slowdown in cruise bookings in the last month, it has not yet triggered any discounts on summer cruises. Whether or not we will see substantially lower prices depends on the near-term economy. If the economy gets softer and more people have to scrimp and save for a summer vacation then we may see discounts soon, but if the promised rebate checks appear soon, gasoline gets cheaper and credit loosens with lower interest rates, the demand for summer vacations could remain as strong as ever.

Right now, the best rates on 7-night Alaska cruises in a balcony cabin are on the Carnival Spirit for about $1099 per person. This is a cruise I would recommend booking right now because Carnival Spirit is a "right-sized" ship; a newer ship with spacious and comfortable veranda cabins, and not a crowded mega-ship. Built in 2001, it is only 88,000-tons and carries 2124 passengers. It has an abundance of balcony cabins and plenty of onboard diversions like great entertainment, alternative dining and active nightlife. This is the lowest price balcony cabin in Alaska right now, and it isn't likely to go any lower.

  Be Sure to Check Out CruiseMates' Royal Caribbean Bargains Just for you!  

If you prefer Royal Caribbean, we suggest Serenade of the Seas for $1299 for a balcony cabin, rather than Rhapsody which is an older and smaller ship at $1599. Serenade is also a newer (2003) "right-sized" ship (90,000-tons for 2100 berths), which means you get the comfort of a modern cruise ship without the long lines of a mega-ship. Rhapsody is 78,000-tons for 2000 berths, built in 1997.

A balcony cabin on premium lines Holland America or Celebrity will also cost you about $1599 per person. Typically, we recommend balcony cabins in Alaska because there is plenty of scenery to see along the cruise, especially when cruising through the inside passage. However, if you are bargain hunting you can cruise inside cabins on premium lines Holland America or Princess for about $699 pp, about the same as Carnival and less than Royal Caribbean or Celebrity.

There is talk that airfare may scare away some cruisers this summer, but right now we do not see it as being as high as we were led to believe. Roundtrip from JFK to Vancouver, for an Alaska cruise, is currently priced as low as $650 per person for July. LAX to Vancouver is $493. If you are thinking about a European cruise, JFK to London is $821, LAX to London is $1086.

Right now, European cruises are selling more briskly than Alaska, and there are fewer sailings and cabins available. We found 913 sailings in Europe this summer, compared to 2529 in Alaska. So with all of the capacity available in Alaska, why haven't the prices dropped? We suspect they will.

The difference is that the last minute bargains in Europe will be on older ships and for inside cabins. If you want a balcony cabin in Europe you had best book it now as they are selling out. In Alaska, however, we predict pricing will get softer for all staterom categories soon, so we recommend monitoring prices through April to see if they go lower.

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new feature articles

Seasonal Family Cruises for 2008
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R Family Vacations
Rosie O'Donnell and family offer chartered cruises especially for gay and lesbian couples with kids and their extended families. blue arrows

Travel Scams: How to Avoid Them
What to do when a telemarketer says, "Congratulations, Grand Prize Winner! You've won a Free Cruise!" blue arrows

Understanding Cruise Costs
The basic components that make up a cruise fare, and what you should expect to pay. blue arrows

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Carnival Inspiration by Ashley Abbott: The renovations were noticeable and were amazing! Honestly, with the renovations I wouldn't hesitate to pick a Fantasy class over a Conquest class any day!
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