Alaska's Glacier bay
Timely Cruise Bargains
A cruise industry insider newsletter pointed out that we are overly focused on 2010 ships like Oasis of the Seas and Norwegian Epic. He recommends looking at 2009 where fantastic ships are selling at unbelievable discounts. These are tough times, but they are deflationary and competitive which means it is to the advantage of people who can afford a cruise to book one now.
He has a very good point. If you have ever wanted to try a luxury cruise line you could hardly find a better time. All together, the world's entire luxury cruise fleet barely equals two megaships from Carnival or Royal Caribbean. In normal times luxury cruises are booked two years in advance because space is limited, itineraries vary (so it is important to get space before it sells out) and the cruises are generally longer which usually requires more planning.
Few people are booking more than six months in advance, and many at the very last minute, in this current economy. The reason is uncertainty, which is understandable. It isn't that the cruise lines are going anywhere, like the stock market I believe we have seen a bottom in cruise prices for awhile. Uncertainty makes the cost of everything go down. Some people wonder why the stock market is going back up, let's just say times are bad but at least we all have a much better picture of how bad they are, therefore we have a bit more certainty and that is enough. The only uncertainty left is how much longer this suffering will last.
Trade Up to Luxury. The Yachts of Seabourn, a luxury cruise line currently with a total capacity of 300 passengers (100 per ship) just reported its strongest week of bookings in history. Now, that also includes reservations for a new 450 passenger ship that debuts this summer, but they also have great incentives to book all of their ships right now.
Silversea Cruises also has very enticing discounts now. This cruise line already includes beverages and gratuities in the cruise fare, so the discounts come in airfare included, two for one cruise fares, lower prices for booking early and special shore excursions included.
Crystal has made itself more competitive by giving each passenger $1000 onboard credit ($2000 per couple) to be used anyway you want. Crystal does not include beverages and gratuities in the cruise fare, so you can use your onboard credit for those things and get a few tours with a credit that large.
Holland America Values. If you don't want to jump up to a luxury cruise line, how about a premium line like Holland America? This is one of my favorite cruise lines, especially the newer ships like the Eurodam. The fleet has ships in three basic categories, the smaller ships were built in the 1990s and include the Statendam, Massdam, Ryndam, Veendam and Zaandam (yes, we call them the "Dam Ships"). These smaller vessels are quiet and roomy, like luxury cruise ships, but they actually sell for less than the newer Holland America ships. Many of their cruises are actually cheaper than mainstream line Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL.
The newer ships include the four "Vista-class ships" which are newer, nicer and the largest in the fleet. Meanwhile the newer and classiest ships include the Rotterdam, Amsterdam and the brand new Eurodam.
You can still grab an incredible bargain to Alaska on the Ryndam, Veendam or Statendam starting at just $399 per person. All three of these sail between Vancouver and Seward Alaska, so you should combine these cruises with an Alaska shore tour if possible. Known as "cruise-tours," these include the cruise and a land trip by motor coach through the Alaskan wilderness, usually to Denali Park, home of the tallest mountain in North America.
If you just want a seven-day roundtrip cruise from Seattle you can catch the Zaandam (smaller ship) or the Amsterdam (bigger) for $599 inside, $1099 balcony.
Holland America has the newer and more active ships going to Alaska as well. These are better for younger people and families who want a classier cruise experience but still a lively ship. The Westerdam and Zuiderdam are more expensive for the lead price, but they have more balconies so those are actually cheaper than the smaller ships. You can get a balcony on a newer, bigger Holland America ship to Alaska for $999 per person, where the small ships cost $1499 pp.
Holland America also has fantastic bargains in Europe this year. Their newest ship, the beautiful Eurodam, is offering 10-night Baltic cruises with balcony cabins at just $1399 pp. This is your year to see Europe; Airfare is also cheaper by as much as 33% according to experts. You sail from Rotterdam to Oslo, Denmark, Berlin (Warnemunde), Estonia, St Petersburg Russia, Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen. This is an amazing price and the best way to see Scandanavia, which is normally very expensive to visit by land (rails, restaurants and hotels).
Timing your Purchase. As far as waiting for lower prices goes, as we reported last week we don't see the incentive. As stated, we are past the uncertainty stage so the people who know value are scooping up bargains right now. This may be even wiser that it appears at first blush. Many economists are predicting this deflationary period will lead to inflation - possibly hyper-inflation. That means prices will be going up for everything - including everything related to travel; airfare, taxis, hotels and cruise fares. And we won't necessarily experience a robust economic recovery before that happens.
So, there is no real indication cruise fares will get cheaper and they could get more expensive before you know it. We have seen prices rising oh-so gradually in the last couple of weeks, but they are still bargains out there.
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