Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hawaii and Alaska: surprising cruise bargains

This is the second part in this week's Smarter Cruising series looking at bargain cruise destinations for 2007.

Alaska -- traditionally one of the more expensive cruise destinations because of its relatively short season (May to September) -- has been in a bit of a downturn this year.

Again, like this year's Caribbean slump, no one knows the exact reason, though the 49th state's tremendous popularity over the past decade or so may be catching up to it -- the "been there, done that" crowd may be searching for new destinations and adventures.

That means that even in mid-July, you can still find space on a good many ships for August and September -- and at discount prices, too. According to Travel Weekly magazine, basic fares have dropped about 20 percent this year.

Hawaii (pictured above right) is another place to land terrific bargains -- but maybe only for this year. Norwegian Cruise Line, which has dominated the Hawaii market, announced earlier this year that it's pulling two ships out of Hawaii by early 2008, an admission that it had created too much supply for the demand.

In all likelihood, with fewer cabins available next year, prices will rise. But for now, Hawaii cruises are going at bargain prices similar to those in the Caribbean. (It may well cost you more to fly to Hawaii, however, than to an embarkation city for the Caribbean. And unlike Miami, Houston, New Orleans or other mainland starting points for Caribbean cruises, not many of us can drive to Hawaii!)

Tomorrow: Europe.

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