Thursday, March 22, 2007

Cruise the Caribbean for a week for less than $500

Teaming with, Royal Caribbean is offering seven-night cruises in the Caribbean for $499 per passenger, double occupancy, in April and September. Port charges are included in the price.

Hurry -- the first April sailing is in just two weeks, on the 7th. Departing from Miami, the Navigator of the Seas makes stops in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Maarten, and the Bahamas. The second April sailing is on the 22nd of the month, via the Explorer of the Seas. Also departing from Miami, it visits Belize, Mexico, and the Grand Caymans.

The September cruises depart on the 2nd, 16th, and 30th of the month aboard the Mariner of the Seas. These are out of Port Canaveral, Florida, and stop in the Bahamas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten. You can upgrade to an oceanview cabin for $549 or a balcony room for $699 on these sailings.

To grab one of these offers, go to or call 888-828-3427.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NCL's special deals for 3rd and 4th guests

Here's another late-breaking deal to cap off wave season: Norwegian Cruise Line is offering special pricing for the third and fourth guests in a cabin on many of its fall sailings in 2007, but you have to book by this week (the offers expire Sunday March 25).

For instance, on its five-day sailings in the Caribbean aboard the Norwegian Jewel and Norwegian Pearl, NCL is charging just $100 a person for the third and fourth berths. On its seven- and eight-day sailings in the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera aboard the Norwegian Dawn, Sun, and Star, the cost is just $140 per person for those extra berths. And rates range from $180 to $250 per person for third and fourth berths on nine- to 18-day sailings in the Caribbean, South America, and Europe.

As always, various rules and restrictions apply so call a travel agent and ask for promo code PG F307.

Learn more about all kinds of cruise discounts! Go to Tracking Down Discounts.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

One-week sale on Alaska cruises from Regent

You can combine Alaskan adventure with luxury on Regent Seven Seas this summer if you travel aboard the line's spacious Seven Seas Mariner for one of three late spring cruises to the 50th state. The line is offering two-for-one savings if you book by this Sunday, March 25, at rates starting at $2,848 for a balcony suite (the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner is the world's first all-suite, all-balcony ship).

Departures for week-long voyages are May 23, May 30, and June 6 and travel either from Vancouver, BC, to Seward, Alaska, or vice versa. Fares include all onboard tipping, complimentary selected wines and spirits, and other drinks.

The downsides are that you can't combine this offer with free air or kids sail free deals, so, depending on how you plan to get there and who you plan to travel with, you'll need to assess whether this is the best deal you can get.

Still, for a luxury line in a relatively expensive destination, this is a nice offer. And as a bonus, the weather in Alaska is often quite good in late May and early June.

One-day Carnival cruise sale

If you're thinking of taking a Carnival cruise this year, the industry giant is featuring a one-day sale this Thursday, March 22, in which it's offering best available stateroom upgrades on most sailings in 2oo7. Double occupancy rates being offered start as low as $249 for two four-day sailings from Florida in September, and there are lots of other Caribbean and Mexican cruises under $500 per passenger.

Carnival also has group sale rates that expire on March 22. And they have special rates for past passengers starting as low as $209 for three-day cruises out of Miami this fall; perks include stateroom upgrades as well (you have to book these by the end of April).

All these deals are being sold exclusively through travel agents, so if you work with one (or even if you don't), give her or him a call and mention these specials.

Cruise discounts from RiverBarge Excursions

RiverBarge Excursions, which runs mostly weeklong river barge excursions along the Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, and other rivers (and lakes) in America's heartland, has standing offers of discounts for both kids and teachers -- and they don't have to travel in school groups to take advantage of them.

Children 12 and under are free on RiverBarge voyages when occupying the same stateroom as their parents or grandparents, while kids 17 and under are half price when staying in their own cabin. Teachers, meanwhile, get to go for half price when sharing a stateroom with another full-paying adult.

Each voyage centers around a cultural or historical theme such as "The Route of Jean Lafitte" or "Cajuns and Creoles," so they're well-suited for both teachers and kids with an interest in American history or just enjoying life on some of the nation's great rivers. If you don't want your kids to be the only youngsters aboard, it would make sense to book your trip for summer or another school holiday period.

Weeklong full-fare rates start at $1,745 per passenger (for a trip in March 2008) but average more in the range of about $2,500 per passenger. Certainly not cheap, but you might be able to save on airfare if you live near a southern or Midwestern embarkation point. Shorter, less expensive trips are also available periodically, if you just want to get a taste of what they're like. And if you're someone who has to battle seasickness on an ocean voyage, you should find these river trips calm and to your liking.

For more information, go to, call 888-462-2743 ext. 1, or e-mail You can find details on these discounts by clicking on "Special Excursions & Savings" on the website's home page.

Learn more about all kinds of cruise discounts! Go to Tracking Down Discounts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

EasyCruise extends its Greek Islands cruises

EasyCruise, which has made a big splash in the cruise industry with its no-frills, low-fare voyages through exotic locales, has just extended its schedule of Greek Islands cruises for this summer. The EasyCruise Greek itineraries will now start May 18th and run until November 11, 2007.

EasyCruise is forging new ground (well, water) among cruise lines by offering its passengers a choice of staying on board for as few as two days and as many as 14; how's that for flexibility? And for one of its Greek Island mini-breaks of a couple of days, you could spend as little as $39 per person if sharing a cabin for two. Or you could cruise for an entire week on its new Classical Greece itinerary for as little as $135 per person based on double occupancy.

To keep fares low, EasyCruise does not include food or much in the way of activities in its rates. But it sails mostly in the mornings and stays in port much later than almost any other cruise line, so that you can eat lunch and dinner on shore and enjoy the nightlife in each port as well (it caters to a mostly young crowd). And on-board amenities do include a sauna, hot tub, a bar and restaurant, sundecks, gym, disco, and even a new spa, some of which cost extra, while others are included in the price.

EasyCruise also has itineraries in the Caribbean, northern Europe, and other parts of the Mediterranean. Get all the details at

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Free air and shore excursions from Deilmann Cruises

Paying for your cruise fare can be a major expense -- but paying for airfare to get to your cruise and for shore excursions once you're onboard can cost even more.

Peter Deilmann Cruises is offering some pretty attractive deals this summer to U.S. travelers on its five-star, 286-cabin ms Deutschland cruises to Norway, Spitzbergen (way above the Arctic Circle), Iceland, the islands of Denmark and Scotland, Greenland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Ireland. During three sailings in June and July, you can get free airfare from 17 eastern U.S. cities and low air supplements from 34 more cities in the rest of the country. The deals also come with free shore excursions up to $600 per passenger.

Deilmann also has free air and shore excursion deals for nearly two dozen other ocean and sea cruises, ranging from Southeast Asia to the Mediterranean, and extending into the early part of 2008.

For more details, call the cruise line at 800-348-8287 or e-mail them at You can also go to the Deilmann website at; click on "Our Fleet" and "Ocean Fleet" for details on these deals (though the website isn't particularly easy to navigate).

For information about my money-saving cruise e-Book "Booking the Best Deal," go to

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Don't let lost documents spoil your cruise

Losing your passport or other picture ID, credit cards, cruise or plane ticket, and other vital documents can ruin a vacation and cost you time and money to replace. In other cases, you may need to retrieve information from documents such as insurance or medical records, a birth certificate (if you lose your passport), or child custody papers that you might not routinely carry with you. Anyone who's faced having to prove their identity or truthfulness to a skeptical ticket taker or border guard knows what a nightmare it can be without the proper papers.

Now a new website offers you the opportunity to safely store in and retrieve your vital info from an online safe deposit box, accessible from any Internet connection, anywhere. It's called

For instance, you could scan your opening passport pages, credit card numbers and issuing bank contact info, and copies of your tickets into the online safety deposit box, and retrieve them if you need to while away from home, as long as you can find an Internet connection.

Most important, the online safety deposit box is secured by military-grade encryption; without your own chosen password (which does not keep themselves) no one but you (or your trusted designee) can gain access to your files. I just signed up myself, and the site guided me into choosing the strongest possible password that a stranger could never guess. Without that password, or so we're assured, even hacking into your file would yield only gibberish.

If you're wary of trusting your most vital personal information to any website, that's understandable. We've all heard the horror stories and it's your decision to make. But for me -- having once lost a passport abroad and spending the next three days and virtually my last Austrian Schilling trying to replace it -- the balance tips in favor of being able to retrieve that information when needed.

Furthermore, the basic service is free. If you want additional storage or special premium file transfer services, the cost is $4 per month.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Special 2 for 1 offers from Viking River Cruises

The European river cruise companies seem to be in a bit of a price war at the moment. In the March Smarter Cruising Newsletter, I noted that Uniworld Grand River Cruises, Imperial River Cruises, and General Tours World Traveler were all offering current sales on European (including Russia) river cruises.

Now Viking River Cruises has just announced a two-for-one offer on some of its Rhine, Danube, and Russia river cruises coming up later this spring. On its 12-night Rhine Trips through five countries, you could save up to $4,755 per cabin on the April 13 and 25 sailings and on its May 7, 19, and 31 departures. Prices also include a dozen shore tours.

On its seven-night Danube cruises through three countries, you could save up to $3,015 per cabin on its May 13 and 20 sailings; seven shore tours are included.

And on Viking's 10- or 11-night Russian cruises, which travel from Moscow to St. Petersburg, you could save up to $3,267 per cabin on its May 6, 9, 13, 23, 27, and 30 departures. Eleven shore tours are included.

The offer is for new bookings only and expires April 6, but book ASAP since some of these sailings may sell out soon. Rates are based on double occpuancy, and you have to pay in full at time of booking. Call a travel agent or Viking at 877-66-VIKING.

To subscribe to the free Smarter Cruising monthly newsletter, go to

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Cruise ship casinos: some winning tips?

I'm not a big fan of shipboard casinos, but for those who are, here are a few tips I've picked up from aficionados:

Play the slots early in the cruise rather than later. Rumor has it that they're set to pay off better earlier so as to attract more players; once they're hooked, the machines pay off less as the days go by.

Choose slot machines that are located in the most visible positions, such as those at the end of a row or those that are nearest walkways or gaming tables; similar rumors have it that these are set to pay off more than the more obscurely located machines. Again, the idea is to attract more gamblers, but you might as well take advantage of it.

In general, no matter what your game, set a strict budget before entering the casino as to what you are willing to lose at any one session, then stick to it. (A good incentive? Perhaps pledging to pass up a shipboard cocktail or massage if you lose the money you might otherwise spend on those items.) Perhaps more important, set a maximum limit of what you are willing to win -- enabling you to walk away with extra money in your pocket and not giving it right back to the casino.

Any additional tips from readers? I'd love to hear them.

Cruising kids get a reprieve, of sorts

In our never-ending battle to keep up with U.S. passport regulations, here's the latest in case you missed it:

Children aged 15 and younger will be exempt from the new rule that goes into effect as early as January 2008 that U.S. citizens will need to have a valid passport to re-enter the United States by land or sea (air travelers -- including all children -- already have to have passports, as of January 23, 2007). So if you're returning from, say, a Caribbean cruise that departs from and returns to Miami, your kids under 16 can re-enter the U.S. with certified copies of their birth certificates instead. They do need to travel under adult supervision and with parental consent.

My advice is still the same: despite this relaxation of the rules, get passports for everyone in your family if you don't already have them. For starters, if you like to travel, you'll probably need them soon enough anyway, since they're required for any air travel outside the country. Secondly, the Homeland Security Department tinkers with these regulations often enough that you may find yourself needing passports for your kids by this time next year anyway -- don't count it out.

What cruise ship is in Aruba right now?

Last week I wrote about, a website that allows you to track the current positions of cruise ships around the world. This week I've learned about another new site, Seascanner for Google Earth, that allows you to track the exact positions of various cruise ships and track down a considerable amount of other information about them as well.

First, go to, click on the "Ships" tab, and then click on the link that says "show current positions of ships in google earth." (If you don't have google earth downloaded on your computer, you can do so at this site for free.) You'll be brought to a globe (which you can turn by clicking on the navigational tool in the upper right-hand corner) showing the positions of cruise ships belonging to Costa, Celebrity, Cunard, MSC, Royal Caribbean, and several other cruise lines (not including Carnival and some other popular lines, however).

Click on the symbols to find a particular ship and where it is located at this exact moment. For instance, when I checked a few minutes ago, I found that Royal Caribbean's Jewel of the Seas was en route from Cozumel to Costa Maya, Mexico, and would dock there in 19 minutes. (It should be docking just about now, as I write this.) Meanwhile, Celebrity's Constellation is docked in Bridgetown, Barbados, for the next seven hours before setting out for St. Kitts during a 10-day voyage out of Ft. Lauderdale.

Not only is this info great for daydreamers, it's excellent for tracking the progress of family members or friends who are off cruising (as I'm sure we'd all like to be).

Once you pull up information about the ship, you can click through to find itineraries for that same ship for the rest of 2007 and well into 2008. You can also get pricing information on those voyages, though rates are listed in euros, not dollars. Seascanner also has a feature allowing you to click on a particular port most anywhere in the world to see which ships include it in their upcoming itineraries (again, it's not an exhaustive list but is limited to nine cruise lines at the moment). And you can also click through to features such as aerial photos of the ship docks and close-up photos of the ships and their layouts.

I have to warn you -- if you like to cruise, this site is addictive!