Thursday, May 31, 2007

Carnival's military specials end today

Through May 31, Carnival is offering special deals to military personnel -- deals that extend to friends and family as well. You can book up to two additional cabins at the same sale prices as the member of the military pays in the first cabin.

Eligible sailings through 2007 include three-, four-, five-, seven-, and eight-day cruises to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico, with prices per passenger starting as low as $199 for three- and four-day cruises to the Bahamas and Baja Mexico. Eight-day cruises to the western and southern Caribbean can be had for as low as $499 per passenger.

Call Carnival at 888-CARNIVAL or a travel agent today to take advantage of this offer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Carnival features one-day sale May 24

Carnival Cruise Lines is holding a one-day-only sale Thursday, May 24, 2007, when you can get free upgrades on a variety of Caribbean and Mexico sailings through February 15, 2008.

Prices start at just $229 for three-day Bahamas voyages in September, and many of its three- to five-day sailings start at under $400 per passenger.

For more info, go to or call 888/CARNIVAL or a travel agent. Remember, you have to book on May 24.

Act fast for Orient Lines upgrades

Orient Lines is offering free upgrades from inside to outside cabins on its itineraries worldwide when you book by Sunday, May 27, 2007. Destinations include the Mediterranean, South America, and Antarctica.

Go to for more info or call 800/333-7300 or a travel agent to take advantage of this deal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007 offers free travel insurance

Facing fierce competition among Internet cruise sellers, has introduced a new lure: the website now offers free travel insurance for any cruise you book through its site. It claims to be the only cruise retailer making such an offer. The complimentary cruise insurance protects travelers against trip interruption and cancellation, emergency medical and dental expenses, emergency medical evacuation, travel delay, and baggage delays and losses, and does so for all the occupants of a stateroom -- not just the first two.

If you've ever purchased cruise insurance (and you should, unless you get it free) you know that this offer could easily save you upwards of $100 or more per passenger -- not to mention the money you might recover if you have to cancel your trip, etc. etc. Of course, before grabbing this offer, you'll want to note the money you save on insurance versus the money you might or might not save by booking through another Internet discounter or travel agent. But everything else being equal, the free insurance makes for a very nice perk.

A whale-spotting guarantee from Cruise West

Cruise West, one of the better small-ship cruise lines sailing Alaska's coastline, guarantees whale sightings on its Wilderness Inside Passage voyages or the cruise line will refund $250 of your cruise fare when you return home.

Now here's both the upside and the downside of that guarantee: during the past five years, the line says it's never had to provide any refunds at all. That means that in all likelihood you will see whales (no fair hiding in your cabin), but you won't get any money back.

But you'll still be getting your money's worth. Leaving round-trip from Juneau, Cruise West Wilderness Inside Passage itineraries include a full-day in Glacier Bay National Park, a stop in Russian-flavored Sitka, and a visit to a tiny coastal community where larger ships couldn't dare to tread.

To sign up for Cruise West's Alaska voyages, go to or call 888-851-8509.

Costa puts Indian Ocean on sale

Here's a particularly intriguing Indian Ocean itinerary from Costa Cruises, offered as two 26-night repositioning cruises in November-December 2007 and March-April 2008, and starting at just $2,769 for inside staterooms. Fares are per person, based on double occupancy.

Embarking either in Savona, Italy, or in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, the Costa Marina cruises make stops in such exotic and farflung ports as Alexandria, Egypt; Aqaba, Jordan; Hodeidah, Yemen; Mahe, Seychelles; Mombasa, Kenya; Nossi-Be, Madagascar; and St. Denis, Reunion. They both pass through the Suez Canal along the way.

Costa is an Italian cruise line, but this offer is good only for U.S. and Canadian residents and expires June 15, 2007. Call 800/462-6782 or go to and ask for discount code AF.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Save money on upcoming Elegant Cruises in Europe

My wife and I recently returned from a one-week Elegant Cruises voyage down the Croatian coast, and highly recommend it for anyone seeking a small-ship experience to an alluring destination.

The ship, called the Monet, holds just 62 passengers with an all-Croatian crew almost half that size. The result is plenty of personal attention from the staff -- and excellent chances to meet most if not all of your fellow passengers; we made some great friends along the way.

And what a way it is. Starting and ending in Venice -- perhaps the world's most beautiful city -- the Monet sails down the Dalmatian coast of the Adriatic Sea to visit such incredible ports as Dubrovnik, Split, Korcula, Zadar, and Pula. Highlights include medieval walls and churches, Roman ruins, hundreds of islands, a pristine national park to explore, and a cafe culture that rivals Paris. If you haven't been to Croatia -- one of the world's hottest destinations at the moment -- this is one of the best ways to see it. As a small ship, the Monet can usually dock quite near the center of the old cities, making it easy to walk right off and find yourself in the center of the port action within minutes.

Now, Elegant Cruises has just announced 15 percent discounts on its week-long Venice-Dalmatia cruises on these upcoming 2007 departure dates: June 20, 27, July 18, and August 29. If you're interested, book fast.

Elegant has also just announced a 25 percent savings on its two-week August 24 cruise called Mediterranean Discoveries, aboard the Monet's sister ship, the Andrea, with stops in Portugal, Spain, France, Corsica, Sardinia, and Italy -- a fascinating itinerary that gets off the beaten track. For this voyage, Elegant is also waiving its usual single supplement, so a solo passenger can sail for the same price as a double occupancy passenger, a huge incentive if you're traveling by yourself. Again, if you're interested, act fast.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Alert for Heathrow Airport: squeeze into one carry-on

I recently passed through London's Heathrow Airport on my way to and from Cyprus and will be doing so again shortly on my way to Venice for a cruise, and I wanted to pass along this bit of advice: bring a carry-on bag with you large enough to stuff all your other carry-ons into.

When you get to the security line in Heathrow, they allow only one carry-on per passenger to be sent through the X-ray machines. That includes items such as purses, shoulder bags, briefcases, and laptop computers. In other words, unless you are willing to check one of your carry-ons right then and there to be carried in the baggage compartment on the plane, you'll need to stuff all your items into one bag or they won't allow you through security.

As you might imagine, it's quite a chaotic scene as everyone starts repacking items to try to squeeze everything into one bag. In my case, I was carrying a shoulder bag and backpack and had to stuff the former into the latter. I managed to do it only by removing the extra pair of shoes I was carrying in my backpack and sticking one shoe into each pocket of my trousers (yes, they objected to me putting two pairs of shoes into the basket to go through the machine!). I looked ridiculous, but I made it through.

On my way back, after I had acquired a few items in Cyprus, I had to check my backpack onto the plane -- and, of course, it got lost and didn't make it to my home for several days after I did.

There doesn't seem to be any logic to this requirement -- rather than speeding things up at security, it slows them down for anyone carrying more than one bag -- and it has nothing to do with any specific airline (in fact, no one at British Airways warned me or anyone else about this, as far as I could determine; they let me carry two bags onto the plane with no problem). All it creates is a major annoyance, a lot of rumpled items, and more checked baggage as desperate passengers throw their hands up in the air and trust their carry-on valuables to the airlines.

As I say, just a word of warning if you're passing through London on your way to your cruise.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Carnival offers new mini-cruises to Atlantic Canada

Mini-cruises -- cruises of three nights or less -- are popping up all over the place these days, and Carnival Cruise Lines is adding an interesting itinerary to the mix starting this June, with a series of three-night cruises from New York City to Saint John, New Brunswick, in Atlantic Canada.

From mid-June to the end of August, Carnival ships will leave New York at 5 p.m. most Thursdays and arrive in Saint John by 8 a.m. the following morning. This is an ideal way to visit the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world, over the course of a long weekend. Rates start at just $319 per person, double occupancy.

Also this summer, Carnival is offering a number of four-night cruises from New York that stop in both St. John and Halifax, Nova Scotia, spending nearly a full day in each port. Rates start at $459 per person, double occupancy.

I'll be on the June 21 three-night cruise to St. John and will offer a full report when I return.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Princess offers new Luggage Valet service

Starting in mid-May on four European voyages and phasing in to other ships throughout the rest of the year, Princess Cruises will be offering a service called Luggage Valet that will enable you to avoid lugging your bag(s) to the airport en route to your ship. For a fee -- and it's pretty hefty starting at $90 per bag for domestic shipments -- DHL will pick up your bag at your home and deliver it straight to your stateroom for your cruise. Bags can be delivered to either domestic or international cruise ports, but the international fee is more expensive yet.

This service may be especially helpful to passengers who plan to do a land tour before or after their cruise and want to pack a separate bag for the cruise itself and then not have to worry about it.

You need to make your Luggage Valet reservation no later than 30 days before the start of your cruise.

Norwegian Coastal Voyage offers variety of discounts

Norwegian Coastal Voyage, which now extends its offerings far beyond the Norwegian fjords, is offering a variety of discounts that appeal to seniors, repeat passengers, solo passengers, and anyone who books early. Special savings apply on destinations as far-flung as Greenland, Antarctica, Spitsbergen, and even on its September 18, 2007, "pole-to-pole" itinerary from Iceland to the tip of Argentina.

Members of AARP are eligible for savings of up to $150 per cabin; passengers of 67 or older can get reduced fares of up to $135 per person; repeat passengers can save up to $300 per person; those who book an Antarctica or Coastal Voyage (Norway) by May 31 can save up to $1,100 per person; and solo travelers can book a cabin on the Coastal Voyage without paying a single supplement on non-summer sailings.

Except for the early booking special, you can combine any of the other discounts, so a 67-year-old single repeat passenger could do very well.

I've taken the Norwegian Coastal Voyage along the Norway coast from Bergen over the North Cape to Kirkenes near the Russian border, and I can attest that it's earned its reputation as the "World's Most Beautiful Voyage." Not only does it traverse some gorgeous fjords and pass countless snow-capped peaks along the way, but it stops at some of the most remote and northernmost towns you'll ever visit. Absolutely fascinating.