Book Costa and stay free at Planet Hollywood

Throughout March, guests who book a European cruise with Costa will automatically receive a two-night complimentary stay at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, based on availability from Sunday through Thursday. The offer is valid on all FIT sailings booked in March 2009 on seven- to 14-night Europe sailings that depart in 2009. Continue reading “Book Costa and stay free at Planet Hollywood”

Regent expands free air and shore excursions offers

rengent-logoEarlier today, Regent Seven Seas Cruises announced they are expanding their free air, two-for-one savings and free unlimited shore excursions packages for the remainder of the year. Cruise fares on 38 voyages in 2009 have been lowered, while the number of cruises now featuring Free Unlimited Shore Excursions has increased from 35 to 58. There are now 36 departures that feature a combination of all three special offers. Continue reading “Regent expands free air and shore excursions offers”

Cruise Guide: Blushing brides beam aboard Star Flyer

Star Flyer, one of three vessels in the Star Clipper’s fleet, features a host of Tahiti itineraries in 2009. Image courtesy Star Clippers
Star Flyer, one of three vessels in the Star Clipper’s fleet, features a host of Tahiti itineraries in 2009. Image courtesy Star Clippers

By Michael Coleman

cruiseguideheadersmallCost-conscious honeymooners take note: Your ship has come in.

Star Flyer, one of three ships in the Star Clipper’s fleet, not only will be offering the beauty and romance of Tahiti in 2009, but lucky brides will now receive 50 percent off the cruise fare. Continue reading “Cruise Guide: Blushing brides beam aboard Star Flyer”

Cruise Guide: Alaska, celebrities top cruise travel agenda

Holland America’s Oosterdam navigates the icy waters near Hubbard Glacier, Alaska.
Holland America’s Oosterdam navigates the icy waters near Hubbard Glacier, Alaska.

cruiseguideheadersmallBy Michael Coleman

Holland America Line is offering 50 percent off on a host of Alaska itineraries while ultra-luxury Silversea Cruises has added a pair of guest speakers – celebrated broadcast journalist Ted Koppel and award-winning actor John Lithgow – to highlight future voyages.

Continue reading “Cruise Guide: Alaska, celebrities top cruise travel agenda”

Cruise Guide: Cruise lines catch big wave

By Michael Coleman

Wave Season may mean little to the average consumer but chances are youve recently noticed a host of cruise-related advertising extolling the virtues of a high seas adventure in 2008.

This is the time of year when cruise lines, eager to fill berths, pump up the advertising volume to attract your vacation dollar. More Alaska, Caribbean and Mediterranean voyages are purchased now through the end of February – Wave Season – than at any time of the year.

As such, the incentives for cruise-savvy consumers – like many of the catchy print ads, TV images and jingles – could not be better.

Up first, the luxury lines.  

Crystal Cruises features 10 percent savings on new bookings of all verandah and non-verandah staterooms and five percent savings for penthouse accommodations on virtually all of Crystal Serenity’s Mediterranean cruises this summer. 

Cunard Line is offering onboard credits of up to $300, plus a waiver of deposits for second guests on select Queen Mary 2 sailings and Queen Victoria maiden European voyages. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering shipboard credits of up to $500 per suite in addition to normal published offers for new guests of Regent. The offer applies to sailings in Europe, the Mediterranean, Alaska and Tahiti.

Rounding out the luxury category are Seabourn and Silversea. Seabourn is offering two-for-one business class airfare from 38 North American gateways, plus savings of up to 40 per cent for cruises of nine to 15 days in Europe aboard Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend. Silversea is offering 40 per cent savings on cruise-only fares for a host of voyages worldwide as part of the line’s “Silver Sailings” program.

Premium/deluxe lines Celebrity, Holland America and Azamara are into the act. Celebrity is offering onboard credits of $50 to $200 per stateroom, based on the length of voyage, on cruises in Alaska, the Caribbean and Europe. Holland America features savings of up to $450 off brochure rates plus upgrades for as little as $100 depending on the sailing. The promotion applies to the company’s eight ships offering select 2008 Alaska departures. Azamara features onboard credits valued at $300 to $800 on any 2008 Europe sailings booked at an ocean view or higher stateroom category.

The mass-market lines are also offering discounts to entice consumers and typically spend the most on advertising to attract both first-time and repeat cruisers. Carnival has unveiled special rates of $249 to $339 per person on select departure dates for three- to five-day voyages on Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration, both with new Serenity adults-only decks and Carnival Waterworks aqua parks.

Princess has unveiled a special “Alaska Wilderness Sale” with savings of $200 per couple plus a $200 onboard credit on Princess cruise tours. And, Royal Caribbean is offering onboard credits of up to $200 per stateroom on select 2008 Alaska sailings/tours.

Cruise Guide: No-frills easyCruise gaining in popularity

By Mike Coleman

It was only a matter of time before a no-frills cruise line arrived on the global scene, but the staying power of upstart easyCruise has surprised even the most ardent skeptics.

Launched in 2005, easyCruise itineraries were designed to open the world’s chic, off-the-beaten-path destinations to the budget-conscious traveler. Discounted fares and unrivaled early morning departures have since become hallmarks of the easyCruise experience.

“Since easyCruise launched two years ago, we have offered an affordable way to see intriguing places that are difficult to reach, except by sea,” said Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, chairman of the Greek-based company. “It is clear that staying in port until the early morning hours has broad appeal, because many travelers also want to experience the local nightlife.”

A typical fare includes a cabin and port charges. Onboard meals, drinks, spa treatments, shore excursions and even housekeeping services are extra, as is the cost of getting to and from the ship.

The concept has worked so well, in fact, that the line will triple its capacity in 2008, with the addition of a 540-passenger vessel, easyCruise Life, in April.

The ship will offer a seven-night itinerary that visits Turkey, calling at Bodrum, one of the country’s most popular resorts. The line will also showcase six different Greek Islands: Syros, Samos, Kalymnos, Kos, Paros and Mykonos, a jet-set mecca. Passengers can choose to join the cruise in Piraeus (Athens) on Saturdays or in Bodrum on Mondays.

Seven-night cruise fares start from $143 per person, based on double occupancy. Cabins are equipped with a private bathroom and shower, fresh linens and towels upon arrival.

Look also for an onboard spa, innovative fusionOn6 (a combination restaurant/discotheque), broad teak sundecks, a large outdoor swimming pool and hot tub.

Guests can also choose from a range of accommodations, among them: 23 panoramic suites, 14 superior doubles, all of which feature picture windows; 76 oceanview standard twin cabins, 45 oceanview standard quad cabins and 112 interior standard twins.

The 12,711-ton easyCruise Life is three times the size of her yacht-like sister-ship, the 232-passenger easyCruise One (4,011 tons).

This fall and next spring look for easyCruise One to be deployed on a seven-night, classical Greek itinerary, showcasing Mycenae, Nemea, Olympia and Delphi. Passengers will be able to experience the Acropolis by night and witness a Sounion sunset.

Next summer, the ship will again offer long-weekend cruises to Poros, Mykonos, Paros and Sifnos. A new 10-night itinerary will transit the Corinth Canal to the islands of the Ionian Sea, including Ithaki, Paxos, Corfu, Kefallonia, Zakynothos, Itea (for Delphi), Corinth, Preveza and Agioi Saranta, Albania, which serves as a gateway to Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cruise Guide: ‘Repo’ cruises gaining in popularity

By Mike Coleman

Ocean crossings or leisurely one-way voyages between continents, with few if any port of calls, are becoming increasingly popular cruise vacation experiences. Such trips, known as repositioning cruises, harken back to a bygone era when plenty of onboard time added to the mystique and romance of a high-seas adventure.

No fewer than 15 major players, each a member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), will soon move their fleets from summer seasons in Europe, Alaska and Canada to winter itineraries in the Caribbean, Mexico and elsewhere. In fact, 50 ships, ranging in size from intimately small to mega-liners, will be offering fall transatlantic or Pacific ocean voyages this year.

One of the world’s most popular cruise lines, Princess, might be the busiest. Look for Emerald Princess to sail on a 17-day, 8-port cruise, departing Venice on October 8 to Fort Lauderdale. Sea Princess leaves London on October 13, for a 14-day crossing to Barbados. Royal Princess sets off from Rome November 28 for Fort Lauderdale, on a 24-day cruise, and Star Princess offers a 17-day, 9-port sailing between Rome and Fort Lauderdale, embarking December 3.

On the West Coast, the line offers a series of two- to six-day voyages on the Diamond Princess, Island Princess, Golden Princess and Coral Princess, from Vancouver to San Francisco or Los Angeles, between September 15 and September 24. Pacific Princess will make a nine-day cruise from Vancouver to Honolulu, departing September 12, and Sapphire Princess sails from Anchorage on September 15, arriving in Beijing 15 days later.

Not to be outdone, Royal Caribbean will also be moving its fleet on one-of-a-kind sailings. Jewel of the Seas leaves Southampton October 30, on a 12-night trip to Fort Lauderdale. Brilliance of the Seas sails December 2, for Miami from Barcelona. Splendour of the Seas heads southwest from Lisbon on December 4, arriving in Santos, Brazil 14-nights later.

Voyager of the Seas heads west from Barcelona on December 8, on a 15-night voyage to Galveston. Heading south from Alaska in September are the Radiance of The Seas, on a 14-night cruise departing from Vancouver September 14 to Los Angeles; Vision of The Seas – nine nights from Vancouver to Los Angeles, departing September 21; and Serenade of The Seas, sailing from Vancouver on September 22, on a 13-night voyage to San Diego.

The luxury lines, too, will be repositioning respective fleets. After a summer season in Alaska, look for Regent Seven Seas Mariner to head west across the North Pacific. Departing from Seward on September 12, the ship’s 13-night itinerary includes Kodiak, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Hakodate, Sendai and Yokohama, before ending the cruise in Osaka, Japan. The voyage features six days at sea.

On Oct. 2, Silversea’s Silver Shadow slips out of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for a 15-day transatlantic repositioning to Bridgetown, Barbados. Travelers wishing a little longer voyage are able to join the ship in Lisbon on Sept. 23 for the nine-day crossing to the Canary Islands, with stops in Spain, Morocco and Madeira.

Cruise Guide: ‘Wave Season’ features oceans of cruise values

By Mike Coleman

The best cruise vacation deals in 2006 are being offered now through March.

Industry insiders call it “Wave Season,” the time of year when the major cruise lines offer attractive advance-purchase incentives that are sure to please the pocketbook.

From hefty fare reductions, stateroom upgrades and two-for-one savings to onboard credits and discounted airfares, the top cruise lines in the world are sparing no expense to woo you and other potential guests.

Is it too good to be true?

Not so, said Terry L. Dale, president and CEO of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). But, he cautions, there is a slight hitch.

“Consumers should book early to ensure they can spend their vacation enjoying the ship, stateroom and itinerary that best suits their vacation needs,” he said.

Sound advice, especially when the lines are offering some of the best industry-wide deals in years. For instance, ultra-luxury operators Radisson Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC), The Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea Cruises are slashing prices on select sailings.

RSSC is featuring two-for-one savings on three Seven Seas Mariner sailings, including a seven-night Caribbean itinerary from Fort Lauderdale on March 13; a nine-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean on March 20; and a 15-day Panama Canal voyage from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco on April 3.

Seabourn, meanwhile, is offering 60 percent savings on a 12-day Spain and Morocco cruise departing March 28, from Lisbon to Madeira on the all-suite Seabourn Pride. The line is also offering 50 percent savings on the ship’s 18-day Mediterranean Odyssey cruise departing Istanbul on May 2.

Silversea will again roll out its “Silver Sailing” program featuring savings of up to 50 percent off the cruise-only fares on select luxury voyages throughout the year. Savings are available for some of the most sought-after itineraries in Alaska, the Caribbean, Mediterranean, South America and the Far East.

For all 2006 European cruises booked by March 31, luxury line Crystal Cruises is introducing reduced business class upgrade airfares. Crystal’s program offers rates that are about 50 percent lower than unrestricted business class to Europe.

Holland America’s “View & Verandah” promotion allows guests the opportunity to book an ocean-view stateroom for the price of an inside stateroom or a Deluxe Verandah stateroom for the price of an ocean-view stateroom.

MSC Cruises is offering travelers special promotional rates for interior staterooms on its seven- and 11-night voyages that sail from Fort Lauderdale. Such rates reflect a savings of up to 50 percent or more off the line’s published brochure tariff.

Norwegian Cruise Line is offering discounted rates, stateroom upgrades and onboard credits on every 2006 ship and itinerary for all bookings made between now and Feb. 28, as part of the line’s annual “Sale of All Sails” promotion. Savings include up to four-category upgrades and a $50 shipboard credit on select sailings.

Swan Hellenic, however, is looking just beyond 2006. The line is offering savings of up to 49 percent on its 65-day Faces of South America cruise aboard Minerva II, scheduled for January, 2007. The round-trip Barbados cruise includes stops at 34 ports in Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.