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Video: Set sail with these 5 cruise deals

  1. Transcript of: Set sail with these 5 cruise deals

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Back now at 8:46. And this morning on TODAY'S TRAVEL , the best cruise deals. According to the Cruise Lines International Association , more than 14 million passengers took to the open seas last year alone. Well, Nilou Motamed , who is the features director for Travel Leisure , is here to give us some bargains that you might want to take advantage of. And you say, Nilou -- good morning -- right now is a good time. Why?

    Ms. NILOU MOTAMED (Features Editor, Travel Leisure Magazine): It is an amazing time because at Travel Leisure we are seeing unprecedented deals when it comes to cruises. Whether it's affordable cruise lines or luxury cruise lines , we have never seen prices that are this low.

    CURRY: In fact, you say for families there are some deals in which the children actually get bookings for free.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Not only do they get to travel for free, for example, on MSC Cruises , seven-day cruise that goes -- leaves from New England and goes all the way to Canada , but they actually get all their entertainment for free as well. So whether they're doing mini Olympics , whether they're doing treasure hunts, whether you're going on shore excursions and they're staying and being taken care of, basically free babysitting, all of that is available and the parents only pay $86 a night.

    CURRY: Eighty-six dollars a night.

    Ms. MOTAMED: And so you're going to be seeing all of the beautiful fall foliage.

    CURRY: Even if you bring five kids, seven kids.

    Ms. MOTAMED: They don't have a limit. Yeah.

    CURRY: Oh, that's interesting. OK, if you're not bringing the kids, you say you might want to consider going to the Mediterranean, which sounds expensive.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Well, a lot of people this summer have felt like between the air fares and the cost of the euro they couldn't make it to the Mediterranean. A great alternative is taking a cruise. I love this Norwegian Cruise Line deal. Seven days, classic Mediterranean, for $71 a day. Now these are some of the best places in the Mediterranean, you start in Venice , you go up to Croatia , you go to Slovenia , which is very up and coming, and then you scoot down to Sicily , to Naples , have some pizza, land in Rome . Again, $71 a day.

    CURRY: You make that sound so good.

    Ms. MOTAMED: What's -- I mean, how can -- how can you not?

    CURRY: But to have that opportunity, do you have to, like, book three months in advance or something?

    Ms. MOTAMED: These are -- these are trips that are available now for the fall.

    CURRY: Really?

    Ms. MOTAMED: Yeah.

    CURRY: So you could book them today, you'd get them in a couple of weeks?

    Ms. MOTAMED: Yes. Well, in a a month.

    CURRY: Oh -- oh, in a month, OK, a month. OK, OK.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Which is -- we still have summer, we still have summer. Although if you want something for September 4th ...

    CURRY: Uh-huh .

    Ms. MOTAMED: ...I have something in Alaska .

    CURRY: Oh.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Alaska is super popular as a destination with cruisers specifically because all the natural beauty is something that you can't see unless you're on a cruise ship . So why not take Holland America as a weeklong Alaska cruise? For $86 a day you're going to be seeing glaciers, you're going to be seeing icebergs, you're going to be seeing whales and bald eagles. And again, all your meals are included. So you're really -- once you get on the ship, there's not a lot of money that you're going to have to spend beyond.

    CURRY: Lots of cruise lines out there...

    Ms. MOTAMED: Mm-hmm.

    CURRY: ...how do you -- how do we know how to pick them?

    Ms. MOTAMED: Well, the key is reading Travel Leisure , that's the first step.

    CURRY: Shameless self-promotion!

    Ms. MOTAMED: And watching this segment. Right now you really can't lose, if you go on any cruise line 's Web site you're going to find great deals. For example, Cunard ; now the Queen Mary II when it was built in 2004 cost a billion dollars to build. This is -- at the time was the largest ship sailing. And the Queen Mary II is beautiful, I mean it's kind of that old-fashioned luxury.

    Ms. MOTAMED: You have a steward for your stateroom.

    CURRY: Mm.

    Ms. MOTAMED: You have 24-hour complimentary in-room meals. You -- really the kind of pampering you kind of expect on the Queen Mary , $99 a day.

    CURRY: OK. We have one more thing, I think.

    Ms. MOTAMED: Yes, one more.

    CURRY: Which is a deal that's crazy. This is basically a 12-day Caribbean cruise that normally would cost $9,000 per person that now is reduced to $3,000 per person. I mean, obviously this is out of the league for a lot of people, but what do you get for that kind of money?

    Ms. MOTAMED: When you break it down, the fact that Crystal Cruises , a cruise line that Travel Leisure readers have voted for 16 years as the number one cruise line in the world is discounting 67 percent on this 12-day cruise to the Caribbean , you get all of your accommodations, you get your food, you get -- you get your entertainment and not -- you get $500 a person onboard credit to use at the spa, to use in the boutiques, to use on excursions.

    Ms. MOTAMED: When you do the math, it's $250 a day plus this $500 credit. It's an unbelievable deal and you'll be in Aruba , you'll be riding horses, you'll be in the Caymans playing with stingrays.

    CURRY: Nilou Motamed , thank you. I'm in a dream state now. Coming up next, a live performance from Italian Andrea Bocelli . But first, this is TODAY on NBC .

Image: Cruise ship
Courtesy of Crystal Cruises
Booking a shoulder-season cruise is one of many ways to navigate great deals.
updated 8/4/2011 10:50:24 AM ET 2011-08-04T14:50:24

Keep an eye on excess inventory
“Home in on a line that has lots of ships in one destination — such as Holland America or Princess in Alaska — and you’ll often get a deal,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of cruisecritic.com. Other examples include MSC, Costa Cruises and Royal Caribbean in the Mediterranean and Carnival in the Caribbean.

New ships mean new deals
This tip is true even in the luxury market, where value options have been historically harder to score. By June, Seabourn will have launched three ships in three years — debuts that have come with great discounts. (The line is offering two seven-day Mediterranean cruises aboard the new Quest this summer starting at $3,499 per person — a savings of up to 50 percent off brochure rates.) Other ships to check out: Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas.

Book during “wave season” for freebies
The period from January through March, when cruise lines try to entice Americans to book their summer vacations, remains a good time to score deals — especially at the beginning and end of the season. “Cruise lines prefer that you commit at the beginning of the year in order to have inventory control,” Brown explains. “So they throw in free airfare, onboard credits and cabin upgrades. They used to offer one of these things; now many lines give away all three.”

But book early if your dates are not flexible
That said, people who must travel during the most popular weeks of the year (winter vacation, spring break) should make arrangements as soon as possible instead of waiting for wave season. Certain types of staterooms, especially adjoining and family cabins, are snapped up quickly.

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Determine the price of what’s included
While high-end cruise companies are more likely to cleave tightly to published rates, they still offer good value when you factor in the airfare, transfers, alcohol, and extras that you’d pay for on other cruise lines. (See “Great all-inclusive cruises” for more details.)

Skip the “run of the ship” option
Many cruise lines offer deals for a “run of the ship” booking, which guarantees a cabin, but not always a particular type. Sometimes this pays off with an unexpected upgrade on a quiet sailing, but more often than not the gamble isn’t worth the risk. T+L A-List travel agent and cruise specialist Ruth Turpin concurs: “You’ll simply get what the cruise line assigns, and this can sometimes be dreadful.” The takeaway: Pay for the cabin you want.

Consider shoulder-season cruises
If you hit the Mediterranean in April, May or September, not only will you beat the heat and crowds but you’ll also find lower rates. Likewise, consider the Caribbean in early April. But be mindful of weather issues. Shoulder season in Alaska can mean temperatures that make it too chilly to hang out on deck all day spotting the whales, a key experience in that region.

Stay in a cabin built for one
Single travelers tired of having to pay a supplement for sailing solo finally have a reprieve. Last year, Norwegian Cruise Line introduced pioneering singles-only cabins on the Epic (see “T+L design awards 2011” for more): priced as low as $899 for a one-week sailing, they’re as much as 18 percent less than you’d pay for a double stateroom with a supplement. The idea is taking off, Brown says: P&O has recently added singles cabins to its new ship, Azura.

More From Travel+Leisure

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Explainer: New cruise ships sailing into 2011

  • Image: Allure of the Seas
    Roni Lehti  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Allure of the Seas

    Looks like it’s full speed ahead for the cruise industry. With Allure of the Seas now in Fort Lauderdale, Disney Dream set to debut and a half-dozen other new ships on the way, the rough seas of the recession are growing calmer by the day.

    That’s good news for cruisers, says Stewart Chiron, aka The Cruise Guy. “The fact that these ships are coming out during difficult times is a testament to the industry’s resilience,” he said. “A lot of people who wouldn’t have taken a cruise before are now considering one.”

    First-timer or not, here’s a look at eight new additions to the fleet:

  • Allure of the Seas

    Image: Allure of the Seas' zipline
    Rob Lovitt

    Allure embarked on her inaugural cruise on Dec. 5, and she shares the title of world’s biggest cruise ship with its twin Oasis of the Seas, but adds a few new amenities. In addition to the zip line and skating rink, the surf machines and climbing walls, you’ll also find a 3-D theater, the first Romero Britto store at sea and two new restaurants, including a Mexican cantina and Brazilian steakhouse. Get some sleep before you go, suggests Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief at CruiseCritic.com, or be prepared to swing by another new onboard amenity: the first Starbucks at sea.

  • Marina

    Image: Oceania Marina

    A Lalique grand staircase, a hands-on culinary arts center co-sponsored by Bon Appétit and a trio of owners’ suites with Ralph Lauren furnishings — Marina has all the makings of an ultra-premium experience, but with a surprisingly “egalitarian” ambience. As Oceania’s first purpose-built ship (launching Jan. 22), Marina is significantly larger than its siblings (65,000 tons vs. 30,000), carries more passengers (1,258 vs. 684) and features several new restaurants, including Jacques, the first eatery anywhere to bear the name of famed French chef Jacques Pépin. “[Marina] will be an intriguing hybrid of luxury and mid-market pricing,” said Spencer Brown. “It’s a category that’s never existed before.”

  • Disney Dream

    Image: Disney Dream

    It’s been 11 years since Disney launched a new cruise ship and Mickey’s minions have clearly gone all out. Launching on Jan. 26, the ship will carry 2,500 passengers (4,000 with all beds filled) on fantasy-filled cruises between Port Canaveral and the Bahamas. Among the innovations: The Enchanted Garden restaurant, where the decor changes from day to night; inside cabins with virtual portholes with underwater scenes, and the AquaDuck, a 750-foot “watercoaster” that winds up, down and around the ship’s upper decks. “Dream is the Oasis of 2011,” said Spencer Brown. “It’s going to be different than everything that’s come before it.”

  • L’Austral

    Image: L'Austral
    Erick Larrieu  /  L'Austral

    Having opened a U.S. office just this year, the French cruise line Compagnie du Ponant is probably still unfamiliar to many American cruisers. That may change with the arrival of the line’s fifth ship, L’Austral, a 132-cabin mega-yacht that will launch on April 27. Not surprisingly, the onboard amenities — two restaurants, plus a spa, theater, lounge and library — will provide more than a soupçon of French flair even as the ship’s itineraries take her far beyond the Côte d’Azur. After spending the summer in the Mediterranean, the ship will sail on to Africa, Antarctica and other exotic ports of call.

  • Carnival Magic

    Image: Carnival Magic

    The latest addition to the Carnival fleet manages a neat trick: Although it’s a carbon copy of Carnival Dream, this 130,000-ton, 3,690-passenger ship tweaks the Fun Ship formula with several new amenities. Get a workout on the first ropes course at sea; cool off in a waterpark featuring a 500-gallon dump bucket, then retire to the RedFrog Pub for private-label beers and Caribbean-flavored snacks or Cucina del Capitano for hand-made pastas and select Italian wines. Launching on May 1, “Magic is perfect for entry-level or first-time cruisers,” said Dwain Wall, senior vice president/general manager for CruiseOne and Cruises Inc.

  • Seabourn Quest

    Image: Seabourn Odyssey
    Copyright 2009 Michel Verdure

    As the sister ship to the Odyssey (pictured) and Sojourn, Seabourn Quest joins a fleet that Chiron calls “quite possibly the nicest cruise ships on the planet.” Like her predecessors, the ship features a two-deck spa, four restaurants and 225 suite-style cabins, 90 percent of which have private balconies. The result: a yacht-like experience without upper-crust fustiness that draws younger cruisers than other ultra-luxury lines. You can join them on a three-day pre-inaugural cruise from Monte Carlo on June 9, a 14-day maiden voyage from Barcelona on June 20 or, if you’re feeling flush, a 109-day world cruise starting Jan. 5, 2012.

  • Costa Favolosa

    Image: Costa Favoloso
    Matteo Piazza  /  Courtesy of Costa Cruises

    The name is Italian for fairy tale; the decor is modeled after an enchanted castle, and the ambience is Carnival Fun Ship (Costa’s parent company) meets the Continent. Launching on July 4, the 3,000-passenger ship offers several of Costa’s signature Concordia-class amenities, including a Grand Prix driving simulator, 4-D cinema (3-D, plus physical effects) and two-level pool deck with a glass roof and movie screen. New additions, including verandah suites with Jacuzzi tubs, a teen entertainment area and a water park for little cruisers, should only add to la dolce vita.

  • Celebrity Silhouette

    Image: Celebrity Eclipse
    Simon Brooke-Webb  /  Celebrity

    Details are still sketchy on Celebrity’s newest ship, but the fourth vessel in the line’s innovative Solstice class will replicate the most popular amenities of her predecessors, including a glass-blowing studio, recreation area with real grass and Qsine, the eclectic, iPad-menu-equipped restaurant that debuted on Eclipse (pictured). “It’ll be like a floating boutique hotel,” said Chiron of the 2,850-passenger ship, which will begin sailing Mediterranean and Holy Land itineraries on July 23. Those who prefer more tropical itineraries will have to wait until next fall when the ship will start offering 12-night Caribbean cruises from Bayonne, N.J.


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