Norwegian Epic will sail from Barcelona this summer
"Book Your Cruises Now!"
Every once in awhile we put our readers on notice to "book your cruises now," usually when we see indications that cruise prices are about to go higher. We are issuing one of these notices today, especially for summer vacation cruises. This especially applies to European cruises where overseas competition and higher airfares are expected to become a big factor soon.
Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) just announced it is raising all of its cruise prices, across the board, by 10% as of April 1st. The main reason the line gives is strong demand, especially for its summer cruises, and it generally holds true that if one cruise line sees strong demand then so do the other lines.
Another reason why NCL may want to raise prices now is rising fuel costs, which are already at levels we have not seen since the last time most cruise lines imposed fuel surcharges in 2008. Those surcharges have not yet materialized for most U.S.-market cruise lines (they are already in place for many British and European lines), but we feel they may be close. However, a cruise line can also opt to just raise cruise fares instead of imposing surcharges.
If fuel prices are rising for cruise lines, the same is also true for the airlines, so it also makes sense to book early so you can save on airfare.
Where Should You Cruise this Summer?
We are seeing indications that Alaska prices are higher because so many ships were pulled from the region during the tax disputes of 2010. Those disputes were largely resolved, but not before most cruise lines already made plans to redeploy ships to other regions for the 2011 summer season.
European sales are currently not as robust, and we are seeing some European cruise prices dropping almost exactly three months out. This tends to happen because final payments, beyond the original deposit, are usually due about 75 to 90 days before the sail date. In uncertain economic times (and these times certainly qualify) more people who have made deposits decide not to take the cruise and let their reservations go. Suddenly, ships have more cabins available closer to the sail date which leads to lower prices.
However, U.S. cruisers hoping to see Europe this year need to understand that demand could pick up very soon as more and more Europeans and other foreigners are booking those European cruises, even on ships where English is the primary language. That means Americans are competing with Brits and Europeans for the same cruise deals and Europeans are far more likely to book a last minute cruise in the region due to easy access to the ships. This means demand for European cruises may pick up as the season gets closer. In addition, don't forget that airfare will also very likely go higher. More of a concern for you than the Europeans.
A Troubling Trend
Already in 2011 we have seen two different "lifestyle" cruise charters raided by authorities looking for drugs. The first incident happened January 12 on the "Jam Cruise" - a regular yearly event that was in its ninth season. Before the cruise started on the MSC Poesia an amalgam of law enforcement officials including the DEA, the Customs and Border Patrol, The U.S. Marshals Service and the Broward County Sheriff's Office, "raided" the ship and made some fifteen busts for drugs ranging from marijuana to psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, Ecstasy and prescription pills.
A month later, the "world's largest gay cruise" booked on the Allure of the Seas, the "world's largest cruise ship," was also raided by a similar group of law enforcement officials who witnesses describe as going from room to room searching for drugs, including requiring some guests to open their safes - according to witnesses on the ship. The searches were said to be "random," but they led to one person in possession of 140 Ecstasy pills, three grams of methamphetamine and almost $50,000 in cash. He was arrested in St. Thomas after another cruiser who was busted identified the source of the drugs he had in his possession.
Now, it seems to me that both of these busts amount to "profiling" certain types of cruisers; gays or rock music fans. Meanwhile, there have been two large busts of crewmembers smuggling large amounts of hard drugs like heroin and cocaine onboard other cruise ships already in 2011.
All of these stories are sad, but I have to say that I am not surprised that certain lifestyle cruises had some recreational drug use onboard, and I do not care for the random searches targeting casual users. Had they been in their homes or cars they could have refused those random searches.
But I am really sad that crewmembers have used cruise ships to mule large shipments of hard drugs and I am glad they were caught. I am far more concerned with catching the organized crime figures than the casual users.
Discuss the Feds Raid Jam Fest Cruise here: Feds Raid Jam Fest Cruise Embarkation - 15 Arrested.
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