Friday, June 29, 2007

Great offers on Antarctica cruises from Norwegian Coastal Voyage

Norwegian Coastal Voyage is offering free airfare (a $750 savings) from New York City on three of its 13-day Antarctica cruise tours leaving from Santiago, Chile, on November 21 and 29, 2007, and February 17, 2008. Double occupancy fares start at $4,999 per person, a good value for Antarctica. You must book before July 31, 2007.

The actual cruise length is nine days, with the rest of the trip spent en route from New York or in Santiago and in Ushuaia, Argentina; tours of Santiago and Ushuaia are included, as are top-flight hotels in Santiago and roundtrip plane fare from Ushuaia to Santiago. The cruise aboard the MS Fram crosses the Drake Passage and then spends parts of five days in Antarctica.

AARP members are eligible for an extra $150 discount per cabin.

To book or for more information, click here or call 800/323-7436.

Photo by Dennis Cox/World Views.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

MSC kids-sail-free offer ends soon

MSC Cruises is offering two free holiday sailings for kids 17 and under if you book by Saturday, June 30, 2007.

One seven-night itinerary departs Fort Lauderdale December 21, 2007, for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Dominican Republic. Kids sail free if they occupy the third/fourth berths in a stateroom with two paying adults; adult double occupancy fares start at $799 per person.

The other seven-night itinerary departs Fort Lauderdale for Key West, Grand Cayman, Cozumel, and Nassau on December 28. Adult double occupancy fares start at $999 for this one; again, kids are free if they share a stateroom with two paying adults.

This offer is limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Click here or call 800-666-9333.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Book now for hot deals on New Zealand-Australia cruises

You can cruise from Auckland, New Zealand to Sydney, Australia (or vice-versa) this winter aboard the Celebrity Mercury starting at just $2,699 per person, including airfare from one of 38 gateway cities across the U.S. Prepaid gratuities are also included.

Sailing dates are December 9, 2007; January 6 and 20, 2008; and February 3 and 17, 2008.

Cruises are 14 nights and make multiple port stops in both New Zealand and Australia.

Keep in mind that while it's winter in the Western Hemisphere from December to February, it's summertime in Australia and New Zealand, the perfect time to cruise.

To take advantage of this offer, go to CruCon Cruise Outlet or call 800/493-6609 and book by Friday, June 29. The offer applies to the first 100 cabins booked, so act fast. The $2,699 price is for double occupancy of an inside cabin, but upgrades are available.

Photo of Sydney Harbor by Dennis Cox/World Views.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Carnival's "vacation guarantee" aimed at first-time cruisers

Carnival Cruise Lines has extended its "vacation guarantee" for all departures through December 13, 2008.

The guarantee works like this: if you start your cruise and just want to get off, for whatever reason, you can disembark at the first non-U.S. port of call and receive a pro-rated refund for the unused portion of your cruise fare, along with reimbursement for coach air transportation back to the ship's home port. You just have to notify the purser's office of your intent before reaching the first port of call.

Carnival devised its guarantee, the only one of its kind in the cruise industry, as a way to attract first-time cruisers who may be reluctant to sail for fear they may be bored, or feel confined, or other notions that many non-cruisers have about cruising. If you fall into that camp, you may want to give Carnival a try and sail off without risking your entire cruise fare. (Further good news: initial fares tend to be lower on Carnival than on most other lines, anyway.)

You can reach Carnival's website here or call 800/CARNIVAL.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What if a hurricane ruins your cruise?

It's always a good idea to buy travel insurance before any expensive trip, and on cruises, especially, adverse weather and natural disasters like hurricanes can play havoc with your vacation -- not to mention cost you money.

But what travel insurance to buy? is a website that can help you choose by offering comparisons among a number of plans, which can vary widely in cost, coverage, and exclusions.

For a comparison chart on which travel insurance companies cover weather cancellations and delays -- and exactly what they cover and offer in compensation -- click here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The best deal in cruising: the Smarter Cruising Newsletter

Did you get this month's Smarter Cruising Newsletter in your email inbox? If you missed it, you can click here now to read it.

Not a subscriber? That's crazy!

Here's what Smarter Cruising Newsletter subscribers learn each month:

Money-Saving Tricks and Techniques – The Smarter Cruising Newsletter explains the techniques Smarter Cruisers use to Book the Best Cruise Deal, Land Money-Saving Cruise Discounts, and Save Money Onboard their cruises.

Cruise Deals of the Month – Each month in the newsletter we analyze specific deals on offer from the various cruise lines, online travel agencies, and big online discounters. You'll learn how to spot the truly great cruise deals – and which so-called "bargains" to avoid.

Smooth Sailing Tip – In each issue of the Smarter Cruising Newsletter, you'll get a quick tip to help make your cruise vacation more pleasant, safe, and stress-free.

Rough Seas Ahead? Tip – There are numerous little (and not so little) things that can spoil your cruise vacation. Each month you'll learn what they are – and more importantly, how to avoid them!

Best of all? The Smarter Cruising Newsletter is 100% FREE.

So what are you waiting for?

Click here now to sign up!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Early-booking savings on Uniworld river cruises

If you book and pay in full by July 15, 2007, you can save $200 per couple on one of Uniworld's Christmas Market-themed sailings along the Danube, Rhine, or Main rivers of central Europe this upcoming holiday season.

A seven-night Danube Holiday Markets cruise that sails through four countries -- Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia -- starts at $1,698 per person. Other seven-night itineraries are similarly priced. All staterooms are river view.

Click here for more information or call 800-733-7820.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Warning: Italy tourism websites may be infected

Reuters news agency is reporting that thousands of Italian tourism Websites may be infected by software that allows computer hackers to gain financial information (such as credit card numbers) from computer users who visit the sites. The warning comes from a Japan-based computer security firm called Trend Micro, which has dubbed it the "Italian job."

If you're doing Web research in connection with an upcoming cruise to Italy, be particularly wary of small Italian-based sites that end in ".it", such as or

You may be vulnerable if you use a version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer that is not up to date, according to Trend Micro.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

"Relaxed" passport requirements may still spell trouble

While the U.S. government has postponed till the end of September the requirement that air passengers all have passports to re-enter the U.S. after flying to another country in the Western Hemisphere, and cruise passengers theoretically now have until at least summer 2008 to obtain passports if embarking from a U.S. port, cruise passengers without passports continue to face uncertainty this summer.

Many travelers still find themselves caught in a bind even with the later deadlines. Here's why: untold thousands of U.S. citizens have already mailed off their birth certificates to the passport office in order to get new passports. Others must still send them off with their applications, since under the new regulations the U.S. government is demanding that you show proof you have at least applied for a passport in order to travel out of the country.

The problem: the Canadians, for instance, want to see your birth certificate or some other iron-clad proof of citizenship before letting you enter their country. And if you've had to send yours off with your passport application, you now risk rejection by Canada. (Somehow, the U.S. State Department has overlooked the fact that other countries have entry requirements, too.)

For cruise passengers heading off on Alaska cruises via the port of Vancouver, Canada, this could pose a serious -- yet unexpected -- problem.

Carnival Cruise Lines, for one, now recommends that all Americans carry passports on their cruises if possible, even if embarking from a domestic port. That's because if you have to fly home from another Western Hemisphere country early, say, because of illness, you'll be out of luck if you don't have a passport once the requirements go back into effect. The same is true if you miss your cruise at its embarkation point and have to fly to another country to board at the next port.

With a huge backlog of passport applications piling up, the U.S. State Department has already ruined the vacation plans of thousands of citizens who haven't been able to get new or renewed passports soon enough to make the trips they had planned to places like the Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, and Bermuda.

Possible relief is on the way: legislation is now working its way through Congress to delay all the passport requirements until the summer of 2009. Members of Congress have been inundated with complaints from constituents who are missing vacations, weddings, even business trips due to the black hole of State Department bureaucracy.

The only thing that's certain is that confusion and incompetence reign in the departments of State and Homeland Security. As always, stay tuned for further developments in one of the great travel fiascos of our time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Regent discounts July Alaska sailings

The luxury line Regent Seven Seas is making some special offers on its Alaska sailings in July, knocking about 30 percent off the price and allowing kids 17 and younger to sail free if they occupy the third or fourth berths in a cabin.

Regent is never going to be inexpensive, but you can sail Alaska in style for under $4,000 per adult, double occupancy, for any of four week-long voyages from Seward to Vancouver, BC (or vice versa) next month. Three of the sailings (July 4, 11, and 18) have the kids-sail-free offer. Fares on the July 4 sailing start at $3,697 per passenger, while the others start at $3,986.

Unlike most cruise lines, Regent includes gratuities and most drinks in the base fares. With July fast approaching, it's best to act now to grab any of these deals.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

One-day sale today on summer sailings

Royal Caribbean and Celebrity are holding one-day sales today (Tuesday, June 19) for upcoming sailings this summer, mostly in July. If you're ready to cruise, call a travel agent right away.

Here are just some of the deals from Royal Caribbean: a seven-night Mediterranean cruise embarking July 14, starting at $899; a five-night Bermuda cruise embarking July 29, starting at $749; a four-night Baja, Mexico, cruise leaving July 9, starting at $349; a seven-night Alaska cruise embarking July 20, starting at $699; and a six-night Greek Isles cruise sailing July 7 and starting at $649.

Among other deals, meanwhile, Celebrity is offering a seven-night northbound Alaska voyage embarking July 6 for $499 and up; and a 12-night Mediterranean cruise leaving July 24 and starting at $1,299.

Prices quoted are all for double-occupancy interior staterooms, but you can also ask about higher-rate ocean view and balcony staterooms, also at discounted rates.

Greek Isles photo by Dennis Cox/Worldviews.

Monday, June 18, 2007

QE2 to be put out to "pasture" in Dubai

Cunard Line announced today that the grande dame cruise liner Queen Elizabeth 2 will leave its fleet as an ocean-going passenger vessel in late 2008 and be permanently relocated in Dubai to become a luxury floating hotel and tourist attraction in 2009. It will be berthed at Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, the world's largest man-made island.

The QE2, which was launched nearly 40 years ago, is the longest-serving ship in Cunard's history and has made 25 world cruises and 800 transatlantic passages, carrying more than 2.5 million passengers.

Chances are demand will go up for QE2 sailings in the next year, so if you're interested in booking an upcoming voyage, this would probably be the time.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hawaii Superferry to begin this summer

OK, so it's not exactly a cruise -- but for those of us who prefer sea travel to air travel in general, the Hawaii Superferry Alakai promises a pleasant, inexpensive way to travel between the most popular Hawaiian islands.

Now en route from Mobile, Alabama, to Hawaii, the Alakai is expected to enter service later this summer, offering daily catamaran trips between Oahu and Maui and six-day-a-week service between Oahu and Kauai. Travel time will be three hours each way on these routes -- probably not much more (if any) time than it would take to fly, if you include trips to and from the airport, going through security, waiting for luggage, and any flight delays.

A second ferry is scheduled for 2009, offering four-hour service between Oahu and the Big Island, as well as a second Oahu-Maui voyage daily.

Fares for the Alakai will range from $17 to $62 one way, depending on the passenger's age and time of travel. Most fares range from $41 to $54. The Superferry will also transport cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, and bicycles, for additional fees. So while it won't have all the relaxation and amenities of a cruise ship, it's a way to spend time on the water in Hawaii at an affordable price.

Click here for more information.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Having trouble finding a travel agent?

A new travel website,, might be able to help you find the right cruise for you -- with professional help. Free to consumers, Tripology helps to play matchmaker between traveler and travel agent.

Offering several categories of travel needs -- one of which is cruises (others are hotels, flights, tours, etc) -- Tripology lets you plug in the vital info about what you want from your voyage, such as destination, cruise line preference, departure date and location, budget, length, and any special requests.

Within a day or so, you can expect to hear back from as many as three travel agents who specialize in your desired type of cruising. If you're looking for a bargain cruise, for instance, you theoretically shouldn't hear back from an agent who specializes in luxury cruising.

In any event, you can choose which agent you'd like to work with -- or none of them if you don't like what you hear.

Tripology isn't a travel agency, nor does it sell tickets or trips. It makes its money by charging travel agents a small fee for being able to contact you. So far, more than 4,500 agents have signed up to do just that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Refunds for delayed "expedited" passports

The U.S. State Department now says it will refund any $60 fees it collected from U.S. citizens who paid for "expedited" passports but didn't get them in the time promised. (Expedited passports were supposed to take a couple of weeks, but were dragging out to a month in many cases.)

No word as to how travelers who missed vacations, weddings, and business trips due to the government backlog in issuing new and renewed passports should recoup those losses, but at least $60 is a nice symbolic gesture.

Stay tuned for more misadventures of our very own State Department Keystone Cops.

And if you're planning a cruise that involves international travel any time in the near future and don't have a passport, I'd suggest applying for one ASAP, even though you may seem to have a little breathing room at the moment. (See my Smarter Cruising blog posts of June 8, March 7, and January 22, 2007 for more detail on that.)

Free cruise contest from Vantage Travel

Here's another win-a-free-cruise contest, this one sponsored by Vantage Deluxe World Travel, a tour operator that specializes in cruises and escorted land tours.

If you've already taken a Vantage tour, all you have to do is submit a photo from it and you might win a European river cruise for two aboard Vantage's new riverboat, the ms River Navigator. This is said to be an $8,000 value.

Second and third prizes are travel vouchers for $1,000 and $500, which you can only use on a future Vantage tour. Prizes are awarded annually.

For more detailed rules and information, click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The June Smarter Cruising Newsletter is out

This month's Smarter Cruising Newsletter has just been released to hundreds of Smarter Cruising subscribers.

Smarter Cruisers are already checking out the feature article on family cruising, perusing the Cruise Deals of the Month, and reviewing essential Smooth Sailing Tips.

Not a Smarter Cruising Newsletter subscriber? Head on over to and sign up now! Each month in your email inbox you'll receive money-saving cruise tips, along with info on the hottest deals -- and of course, we will never share your email address with anyone.

Best of all, it's 100% FREE! Just click here now to sign up!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Empress of the North offers refunds, credits

After running aground on the Columbia River in late March, the Empress of the North -- an 1800s-style sternwheeler operated by the Majestic America Line -- is expected to be back in operation for Alaska sailings on July 7. It's been in drydock undergoing repairs in Alaska and Oregon for several weeks and all scheduled trips through June 30 have previously been cancelled.

Majestic America Line is offering passengers whose scheduled voyages were cancelled a choice of a full refund or the chance to move to another summer 2007 Alaska sailing plus reimbursement for all related incidental charges and a 25 percent credit toward a future cruise.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Keystone Cops passport officials strike again

Those of you who follow the Smarter Cruising Blog know that we've been trying to keep track of the ins and outs, ups and downs and over-the-hills-and- through-the-valley doings of the U.S. State Department and Homeland Security Department vis-a-vis new regulations mandating that everyone traveling by air or land out of the country carry a valid passport to re-enter the U.S.

This has mainly affected people traveling within the Western Hemisphere, where, previously, other forms of government ID have sufficed.

The new rules, instituted earlier this year, have created havoc for travelers -- including many cruisers, even though ship passengers embarking from U.S. ports have been exempted for the next year or so. That's because if you have to fly out of the country to take your cruise -- say, to Canada for an Alaska cruise -- you still have to have a passport to get back.

Don't get me wrong -- I think every American who plans to travel abroad should have a passport, for many reasons. The problem is that the government instituted these regulations without making adequate preparation to be able to issue all the millions of new passports that any fifth grader could have antiticpated would be needed. (Lack of preparation seems to be a common theme with the current Administration.)

The result has been a backlog that extends up to three months or more, and people are missing vacations, business trips, weddings -- whatever occasions might take them abroad.

My own passport was up for renewal this summer. Since I travel abroad a lot on business, I couldn't take the chance of sending off my passport into a black hole for weeks or months, so I paid more than $300 to a visa service to get an expedited version. The average traveler should not have to do that (and, in fact, if they all tried, I'm sure the expedited versions would pile up in a huge backlog too).

Now, in a show of apparent good sense, the State Department will reportedly put a hold on the whole "have to have a passport" rule until the end of September 2007, allowing Americans to make their summer trips to countries (such as Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, and most of the Caribbean) that don't require passports to enter. You will need proof that you've applied for a passport and, of course, may have to go through extra security checks at the airport, but at least you'll be able to travel.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Win a free cruise on NCL

You can win a free five-day cruise for two on Norwegian Cruise Line if you go to their Website and enter their "Freestyle Foto Finder Game." One winner is selected per week in a random drawing from entrants who register and play the game (identifying differences in two photos), though it appears you don't even have to get the answers right (except for your name, address, etc) to win. Pretty simple.

The promotion ends at midnight on June 18, 2007, so you still have a couple of chances left. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents (excluding Quebecois) age 18 and up; you have to take the cruise before the end of 2008. If you win, send me a postcard.

Meanwhile, you also have until June 18 to book any NCL cruise from October 1 2007 through March 2008 to qualify for free onboard credits ranging up to $450 per stateroom; if you book by June 10 for some holiday crusies, you may qualify for a four-category upgrade. It's a good idea to call a travel agent to sort it all out for you and make sure you get your perks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

French Country Waterways slashes fares by a third

The luxury barge cruise line French Country Waterways has increased discounts on its October 21 and 28, 2007, voyages in Alsace-Lorraine, Burgundy, Champagne, and the Upper Loire Valley.

All-inclusive six-night cruises on five eight- to 18-passengers barges, which originally cost $4,895 to $5,995 per person, double occupancy, have now been slashed nearly 30 percent to $3,495 to $4,595. This is value season in France, but the fall weather in late October is often beautiful (no guarantees, of course).

Picture yourself plying tree-lined canals on a slow journey through the French countryside, dotted with medieval villages, fields, and vineyards, and with daily excursions into historic cities and towns, all included in the price. The cuisine and wines aboard (also included) are first rate, and French, of course. If this picture appeals to you, a barge trip may be for you.

Go to for more information.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Name Carnival spa, win free cruise for two

Carnival is currently holding a contest to name its new 21,000-square-foot health spa on the upcoming 3,000-passenger Carnival Splendor, which will be the largest and most luxurious spa in its fleet. Grand prize will be a cruise for two in a Carnival Splendor spa suite including complimentary spa service for the entire voyage.

The Splendor will debut July 13, 2008, with voyages in northern Europe and the Mediterranean, followed by a wintertime stint in the Caribbean.

To find out all the rules and enter the contest, go to The deadline is June 15, 2007. Sorry, kids -- you have to be 21 to enter!

MSC puts South America on sale

If you're planning to be in South America early next winter or into the spring, you might be able to take advantage of some offers from MSC Cruises on voyages along the Argentine or Brazilian coastlines (or both).

From late November into March, MSC is putting some selected three- to nine-night sailings up for sale, with one three-nighter going for as low as $299 per person, double occupancy. A seven-night cruise goes for as little as $849 per person. Children 17 and under cruise free in the same stateroom as two paying passengers.

Keep in mind that these cruises start and end in either Argentina or Brazil, not in the U.S., though only U.S. and Canadian residents are eligible for these fares. The fares could be withdrawn at any time.

For more information, go to or call 800-666-9333 or a travel agent.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Cruise West offers early-booking discounts

Cruise West is offering early booking savings of up to $600 for those who sign up by June 15, 2007, for any of three exotic South Pacific itineraries in 2008 and an additional $200 for those willing to pay in full on that date. If you aren't willing to commit by then, you can still save $300 per person by booking by September 2, 2007, and an extra $100 for paying in full by then.

The cruises, which are scheduled for January through March, 2008, are all on the line's flagship Spirit of Oceanus. The all-suite ship holds a maximum of 120 passengers; each suite has a window, porthole, or balcony. Life on board is informal and well-suited to the South Pacific.

Itineraries are alluring and adventurous. Two 12-night sailings between Fiji and Tahiti, embarking January 23 and February 26, 2008, also visit the Cook Islands and Tonga; prices with the early booking discounts start at $5,049 per person.

An 11-night itinerary with two departures next February goes roundtrip from Tahiti and travels to the Marquesas Islands, among others; prices start at $3,749 with the full savings.

And a 16-night itinerary explores the islands of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, while traveling between Guam and Fiji. Two voyages are offered for this one, leaving January 7 and March 11, 2008. Rates start at $5,999 per person with the maximum discounts.

Contact Cruise West at or call 888-851-8133.

Costa's one-day Caribbean cruise sale today

Act fast if you're interested -- Costa Cruises is having a one-day sale on selected Caribbean cruises today (June 1), with seven-night voyages starting at just $449, based on double occupancy of an inside cabin.

Sailing dates on the Costa Fortuna or Costa Mediterranea are all on weekends during November and December 2007, with itineraries ranging from the western to the eastern and southern Caribbean.

For bookings or more information, go to or call 1-800-462-6782 or a travel agent, and ask for discount code PG.

And for a free subscription to my monthly Smarter Cruising newsletter, filled with features on saving money on cruises plus lots of late-breaking hot deals, go to to sign up. The next edition will be arriving shortly.