Friday, April 27, 2007

Peter Deilmann Cruises offers free air and shore excursions

Peter Deilmann Cruises is offering free air transportation as well as free shore excursions (valued up to $600 per passenger) and free airport-ship transfers on its cruises to the British Isles, Western Europe, and the Mediterranean in September and October aboard the MS Deutschland, a 513-passenger, 286-stateroom deluxe ocean liner.

Free air cities include New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, and 10 others in the eastern U.S. Air supplements of $110 and $150 are available from 34 other cities throughout the U.S. If you don't want to take the free air -- using your own frequent flyer miles, for instance, or just finding a better fare on your own -- Deilmann will deduct $750 per person from the cruise rates.

With the free air offer, cabin prices start at $3,355 per person in double occupancy. The Deutschland has 36 single cabins for solo travelers and charges much less for single supplements than most cruise lines; single cabins start at $3,701.

Discovery World Cruises offers free air

Discovery World Cruises is offering free air from East Coast cities on its summer 2007 cruise tours to Scandinavia, the North Cape, and the Baltic, as well as $99 air from Midwest cities and $199 from West Coast cities.

Fares begin at $2,950 per person for its "Fjords, Faroes, Fire and Ice" cruises sailing roundtrip from Harwich, UK, on May 31 and July 18. The cruises travel to Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe and Shetland islands of Scotland.

This fall, Discovery's "Transatlantic Crossings" offer two-for-one fares and free air from all Discovery gateway cities. These are repositioning cruises departing from Portugal for South America, so free air makes for a good deal. Prices begin at $4,750 for the first person (second person in cabin sails free) for an 18-day cruise departing Lisbon for Rio de Janeiro November 7, 2007.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Get your Hawaii cruise bargains while they last

Norwegian Cruise Lines, which has invested heavily in beefing up its Hawaii cruise operation in recent years, is now cutting way back on it, with plans to remove two of its four fulltime ships there within the next year. NCL has announced that the Norwegian Sun will leave Hawaii as of October 2007 and its Pride of Hawaii will pull out as of February 2008 (sounds like a name change may be in order).

Right now, with available cabins still plentiful, NCL's Hawaii cruises are terrific bargains. For instance, I just checked the Internet discounter, which is featuring oceanview cabins on NCL's Pride Of America -- departing Honolulu April 28 and stopping at the Big Island, Maui, and Kauai before returning to Oahu a week later -- for just $549 per passenger, double occupancy. That's a staggering 88 percent off the brochure price. Balcony cabins are going for just $949, an 82 percent discount. Hurry!

If that's a bit short notice, many subsequent sailings have deals almost as good. The Pride of Hawaii is sailing a similar week-long itinerary with a May 28 departure and oceanview cabins at $699, which is 77 percent off the brochure price. Or you can get an inside cabin for $549 per passenger.

Once Norwegian cuts its Hawaii fleet in half by next year, however, there's a very good chance that prices will go up -- based on the law of supply and demand. With fewer cabins available, incredible bargains like these will become harder to find.

So if you're thinking about cruising to Hawaii in the future, you might do well to think "near future."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity speed up disembarkation process

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity recently announced a new option for speedy disembarkation at the end of a voyage. It's called Express Departure, and we can only hope similar ideas are quickly adopted by other cruise lines.

According to the new policy, passengers who need to catch planes or who simply want to get off the ship faster can leave between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. on departure day, as long as they can carry their own luggage off the ship. Rather than leaving their bags out in the hallway to be picked up, they keep their luggage with them in their cabins until ready to disembark.

For me, there's nothing more frustrating than having to wait to leave the ship once I'm all packed up and ready to go, especially if I'm in a hurry to get somewhere else (such as catching a flight). And needless to say, if it keeps you from missing your flight altogether, this could be a huge money-saver.

This is one more reason to pack as lightly as possible: if you can manage your own luggage, you'll be in control of when you can leave. Imagine not having to go through that mad scramble for luggage, buses, taxis and all the rest that occurs under typical disembarkation procedures.

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have also introduced a new pay service called Luggage Valet, that enables you to check your luggage, get baggage claim checks and receive airline boarding passes while still on the ship. When you arrive at the airport, you can then bypass the check-in lines and go directly to the security checkpoint. That could easily save an hour jostling in line at a busy airport, or allow you to go off for the day without luggage if you have a late-day flight.

For the time being, at least, Luggage Valet is only available at nine ports in North America, including Los Angeles and San Diego, CA; Miami, Port Everglades, and Tampa, FL; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Seattle, WA; and Vancouver, BC, Canada. Participating airlines include American, United, Continental and Delta.

Both lines also allow passengers to get off to a faster start before the cruise, offering online check-in before leaving home. You can print out boarding passes that result in faster embarkation once you reach the pier.

Three cheers for streamlining all these generally annoying necessities.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Discounts on Elegant Cruises Mediterranean voyage

TravLTips is offering its members 25 percent discounts and free shore excursions on Elegant Cruises' nine-day sailing on the m/s Andrea through the western Mediterranean, embarking May 21, 2007, in Malta and stopping in Sicily, Corsica, the Balearic Islands of Spain, and other ports in Spain and Portugal. Double occupancy fares start at $1,867 per passenger and for most cabin categories there is no single supplement -- great news for solo travelers. There's also an open bar throughout the voyage, excluding top-shelf premium liquors and wines.

Elegant Cruises offers classy small-ship cruises in the Mediterranean and Adriatic and along various European rivers as well. The Andrea holds a maximum of 105 passengers and usually docks near the historic centers of port towns, for easy touring on your own or with an organized shore excursion.

You can sign up for a free trial membership in TravLTips, which offers often excellent discounts and deals on cruise ships and freighters, by going to its website:

Monday, April 9, 2007

Act fast for savings on a slow voyage

Norwegian Coastal Voyage is offering a 66-day north-south World Cruise this fall that starts in Reykjavik, Iceland, and ends in Ushuaia, Argentina, the world's southernmost city. Along the way, passengers will cruise the waters of the Arctic, Atlantic, Caribbean, Pacific, and Antarctica and pass through the Panama Canal and by Cape Horn. There will be dozens of port stops in 15 countries.

If you book by April 15, you can save $1,000 per passenger on the least expensive cabin, which costs $10,999. Or you can go whole hog and save $2,200 per passenger on the most expensive suite, which comes in at $39,999. If you can't afford the whole shebang, you might consider a shorter segment, such as 13 nights from Valparaiso, Chile, to Ushuaia, taking in the Chilean fjords and Antarctica, for $3,899, or 31 nights from New York to Valparaiso for $8,999.

And send me a postcard!

Princess has special fares for repeat passengers

Following up further on our Repeat-Passenger Feature in the April Smarter Cruising Newsletter, we can announce that Princess Cruises is making exclusive savings available for its Captain's Circle Members (i.e., past passengers) for upcoming fall-season week-long Mexican Riviera cruises, if booked before May 15, 2007. Rates start at $499 per passenger for interior cabins; or you can get a free balcony upgrade if you book an oceanview stateroom. You can also share this offer with friends and family (up to four people and two staterooms). The least expensive fares are in late November and early December.

Royal Caribbean launches first youth loyalty program

In the April edition of the Smarter Cruising newsletter (read it here), I offered a rundown of the major cruise lines' repeat-passenger ("loyalty") programs, which are similar to airline frequent-flyer programs and often offer exclusive discounts and other perks to reward their past passengers on subsequent cruises.

Now, in a reflection of its commitment to family cruising, Royal Caribbean has just announced the first-ever loyalty program designed for cruisers under age 18. The Crown & Anchor Society Youth Program will launch on the line's Liberty of the Seas maiden voyage on May 19. Young passengers, who will automatically attain their parents' membership level (it's a four-tiered program: Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Diamond Plus), will be eligible to earn cruise credits and also be presented with various puzzle and game books and special offers for onboard amenities.

You can enroll your kids in the program at or through the Crown & Anchor Society's toll-free service line, 800/526-9723.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Travel Guard provides free assistance to Greek cruise ship evacuees

AIG Travel Guard will provide emergency travel services free to evacuees of the Sea Diamond cruise ship after it ran aground and began taking in water off the Greek Island of Santorini on Thursday. Of the 1,200 passengers aboard, three-quarters are American, including many groups of U.S. college students.

Family members of the evacuees can call Travel Guard's world service center at 800/826-1300 for assistance in contacting or relaying messages to their family members that were evacuated, as well as coordinating cash wire transfers, help with rebooking travel back home, finding alternative lodging, locating important travel documents that may have been lost or left behind during the evacuation process, and more. Evacuees can use Travel Guard's toll-free number for assistance: 00800.1809.201.2429, account code 911911#.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

What if your cruise fare drops?

A reader asked what she should do to recoup several hundred dollars that she's apparently overpaid her cruise line for an upcoming voyage. After putting down her deposit a few months ago for a Caribbean cruise, she spotted a considerably cheaper fare on the Internet for the same category cabin on the same cruise.

The good news for this reader: she hasn't made her final payment yet. Since she booked her cruise through a traditional travel agent, she needs to call the agent to request the lower fare before final payment is due. Assuming all other conditions are met, the agent should be able to secure the lower fare for her. Once the final payment is made, however, the cruise line would probably tell her that the new, lower fare applies to "new bookings only" and reject the refund.

That said, there are no guarantees that she'll get her rebate even before final payment is made. Part of it depends on the travel agent's clout; if it's a major agency the cruise line values, her chances of getting the rebate are much higher.

But she still has options. As long as she acts before the final payment deadline, she can most likely cancel the cruise and rebook it at the lower fare, assuming it's still available. In this case, she might also want to switch travel agents since her first agent was unable to help her.

A final note: you really can't depend on your travel agent to keep on top of every new fare that comes along after you book your cruise. It's best to monitor fares yourself if you want to be sure you get the best deal. But if you do get a call from your travel agent out of the blue saying he or she has secured a lower fare for you after you've already booked, you know you've got a savvy, honest agent who will work with your interests in mind.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Try an exotic cruise from Cyprus to Egypt or Israel

I just returned from a week on the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. Besides being a beautiful and historic island to visit by itself -- it's also a popular beach destination for Europeans -- Cyprus serves as the base for a number of mini-cruises that you can take to nearby countries such as Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, and Greece. (Israel is only about 60 miles from eastern Cyprus, while Egypt is less than 200 miles south.)

If you have just a few days to spare, these can provide a great way to get a taste of the Pyramids, the Holy Land, or other spots in the eastern Mediterranean.

One good cruise line based in Cyprus is Louis Cruise Lines. Louis runs three-day, two-night mini-cruises to Egypt that start at 80 Cyprus pounds per adult, or about U.S. $190 at current exchange rates. The ships leave Limassol, a port on the south coast of Cyprus, for Port Said, Egypt, at three in the afternoon and reach Port Said at 7 the next morning, departing Egypt at 8 that evening. The line offers 12-hour organized shore excursions that include visits to Cairo and the Pyramids as well as a Nile River cruise during time in port (shore excursions coast extra, however). The ships return to Cyprus by noon on the third day, so you're gone for less than 48 hours.

Mini-cruises to Israel leave Limassol at 4 in the afternoon and arrive in Haifa at 7 in the morning. You then have until departure at 8:30 p.m. to explore the Holy Land; the cruise line offers shore excursions to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Galilee. The ships return to Cyprus by late morning of the third day. Rates start at 75 Cyprus pounds per adult, or about U.S. $180.

Cabin rates about Louis' two ships (the M/V Princesa Marissa and the M/V Serenade) include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as onboard entertainment.

Louis Cruise Lines also offers mini-cruises to various Greek islands, including Rhodes and Crete. They plan to expand their offerings to cruises to the Black Sea and Adriatic Sea as well. Contact them at

Another line to check out is Salamis Tours. Besides Egypt, Israel, and some Greek Islands, Salamis adds mini-cruises to Lebanon and Syria to its itineraries. Salamis' two cruise ships, which hold around 600 passengers each, also leave from Limassol and have pricing comparable to Louis Lines. Go to for more information.