Written by 1:58 pm Deals

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.

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