Friday, February 29, 2008

Final day to name new ships, win a cruise's Name That Ship contest, which we wrote about here last month, is in its final day today.

For all the details and a link to the rules and an entry form, read our previous posting, but the gist of it is that if you come up with the perfect names for two new Royal Caribbean Genesis-class cruise ships, you could win a free cruise for yourself and a guest.

One detail has changed since our previous post: you now have until midnight tonight (February 29), EST, to name those ships.

Good luck!

Photo from Royal Caribbean.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Early-booking savings on Red Sea with Elegant Cruises

You can save $300 per passenger off the regular rates on Elegant Cruises' new Red Sea cruise and land tours of Egypt and Jordan by booking by May 31, 2008.

Elegant's "Monasteries of the Lonely Desert" two-week cruise tours are offered in late December 2008 and in January and February 2009, with 10 departures either from Cairo or Amman, Jordan, aboard the 62-passenger M.S. Monet.

Egypt's Cairo, Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh and Jordan's Petra and Amman are all on the itinerary, which includes six nights aboard the Monet cruising the Gulf of Suez and Red Sea and a five-night land program. Excursions include visits to Egyptian monasteries, the temples at Luxor, a Bedouin village, and the ancient rock city of Petra, among others.

Prices (for bookings after May 31) start at $3,512 per passenger in double occupancy, or, for early bookings, $3,212 per passenger. If you'd like to take the cruise only, without the land portion, prices start at $2,706 per person, or $2,406 with the early-booking discount.

Unlike many cruises, these prices include all excursions -- a great deal.

You can also opt for a two-night pre- or post-cruise extension (with hotel, tours, and some meals) to Cairo for $560 per person double occupancy; you can take a $350 per person discount off the Cairo extension in lieu of the other early-booking discount if you wish.

Having experienced one of Elegant's M.S. Monet cruises down the coast of Croatia in the Adriatic, I can vouch for the quality of these voyages, from the excellent onboard accommodations and food to the historical and cultural lectures and friendly crew. The Monet's intimate size provides an opportunity to get to know everyone on board.

For more information or bookings, go to Elegant's website or call 800/683-6767 (e-mail

Egypt photo courtesy of Elegant Cruises.

Carnival one-day sale today on 2008 cruises

Carnival Cruise Lines is holding one of its periodic one-day sales today, with discounts and free upgrades on most of its 2008 cruises.

Three-day cruises -- such as a sailing to The Bahamas aboard the Carnival Imagination on October 3, 2008 -- start as low as $249 per passenger, while a four-day Bahamas cruise aboard the Carnival Sensation on October 26 starts at $299 per person.

Five-day western Caribbean cruises this spring start at $429, while week-long western and eastern Caribbean cruises start at just $529 this fall.

The fine print: Prices do not include a $5 per day per passenger fuel surcharge, or government taxes and fees. You'll need to put down a full deposit when you book. The offers are valid for new bookings only, and expire tonight (February 28) at midnight EST.

For more information or bookings, go to the Carnival website or call 888/CARNIVAL or a travel agent, and request fare code CP1S. Be sure to ask about available upgrades.

Photo from Carnival Cruise Lines.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Viking River Cruises offers free travel insurance in 2008

Viking River Cruises, which sails rivers in Europe, Russia, and China, is offering free travel insurance on any of its 2008 cruises for two people in a stateroom if you book one by March 7.

The Viking Travel Protection Plan covers trip cancellation, travel and baggage delay protection, emergency medical expenses and evacuation, and personal effects damage coverage.
The value of the coverage depends on the total cost of your trip package, but if you were to purchase insurance separately it might amount to several hundred dollars or more. Maximum savings are $2,000.
The fine print: You must pay in full at time of booking to receive the free insurance coverage. You can combine this offer with Viking's Past Guest Discount, but no other discount offers.
To book, call Viking at 877/668-4546 or a travel agent and ask for offer 27Echo. For more information on Viking River Cruises, go to its website by clicking here.
Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tierra del Fuego, anyone? Jump on board for last-minute savings

Princess Cruises has a boom-boom special on three 12-day cruises aboard the Star Princess around South America's Cape Horn next month, with prices starting at just $799 per person for inside cabins and $1,299 for balcony cabins.

The cruises sail between Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile, with stops in Montevideo, Uruguay; the Falkland Islands; and Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. There's also scenic cruising through the Beagle Channel, the Chilean fjords, and around Cape Horn.

Departure dates are March 6, 18, and 30, 2008 -- so if you're free next month and feel like doing the tango or checking out the penguins in the Falklands, jump on these deals quickly.

Prices are based on double occupancy and include fuel supplements but don't include $77 in taxes and fees.

For more information or bookings, click here for the Princess website or call 800/774-6237 or a travel agent. Ask for promo code UEF.

Star Princess photo from Princess Cruises.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cruise West offers kids' discounts on Alaska cruises

Recently we detailed the small ship cruise line Cruise West's innovative "Stowaway" program, which offers discounts to passengers who book late and have flexible schedules.

Earlier we wrote about Cruise West's early booking discounts for five summer 2008 Alaska itineraries.

Today's item is for passengers who want to bring their kids along to Glacier Bay, Alaska, this summer to experience Glacier Bay's incredible wildlife and scenery. Cruise West is offering 50 to 75 percent discounts (off the adult fare) for kids 18 and under for all its three- and four-night "Glacier Bay Highlights" sailings in 2008, which travel roundtrip from Juneau to Glacier Bay from May to September. The four-night sailings also stop in Haines.

These cruises are aboard the 102-passenger ship Spirit of Glacier Bay and are priced from $1,799 per adult in double occupancy. An adult paying $1,799 could bring along a child for $900.

For more information, visit the Cruise West website or call 800/296-8307 or a travel agent.

Photo from Cruise West.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Princess Launches "Greatest Romantic" Contest

Appropriately for Valentine's Day, Princess Cruises launched its "The Greatest Romantic" contest today, with a grand prize of a seven-day Caribbean or Mexican Riviera cruise for two (airfare included) to the person judged The Greatest Romantic.

The Love Boat line is asking for video submissions -- from "heartfelt stories" to "crazy stunts," song and dances to poems -- that will convince the judges that you or someone you know is The Greatest Romantic. The ultimate judges will be registered visitors to the Princess website who vote on the winner; a lucky voter will also win a free cruise for two, and five finalists will also win prizes.

Entries will be accepted from today (February 14) until March 20. Voting will begin April 1 and continue for two weeks; the winning video will be announced around April 15.

Naturally, there are a whole raft of rules; click here to begin reading about them.

Good luck, and if you insist on nominating me as The Greatest Romantic, well, I'll send you a postcard from the cruise! Happy Valentine's Day!

Photo from Princess Cruises.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Save 25 percent on Cruise West Stowaway Program

I like the name of this offer from Cruise West: the "Stowaway" Program.

If you're a flexible traveler who can take off with just 30 days' notice, you can save 25 percent on your fare from Cruise West, the small ship line that covers the West Coast from Alaska to Mexico.

    Here's how to become a "stowaway": sixty or more days prior to the first date of your desired travel period, make a $700 deposit for the cabin category and cruise itinerary of your choice that departs within a particular 30-day window of that travel period.

    Cruise West will then inform you of a specific Stowaway travel date at least 30 days prior to departure.

    If you accept that date, your payment of 75 percent of the published fare must be made in full by credit card within 24 hours. (Once full payment is made, you'll be subject to penalties if you cancel; cancellations within 30 days of departure forfeit 100 percent of the cruise price.)

    If you decline the date offered, your deposit can be applied to a future cruise but is not refundable.

    You can also elect to receive Cruise West travel coupons in the amount of the deposit to be used toward any Cruise West destination within 24 months of issue. These travel coupons are transferable but not refundable.

    More fine print: Stowaway availability is limited and your choice of ship, departure dates, sailing direction (northbound or southbound) and cabin category are not guaranteed. If Cruise West can't offer you a departure date and cabin category within your 30-day travel window, the line will refund your deposit in full. The offer is valid for the cruise only; when booking cruise/land tours, the 25 percent savings is only on the cruise portion.

    Cruise West past guests (Quyana Club members) are eligible for an additional 5 percent savings, but the Stowaway Program can't be combined with group savings or other offers.

    If you need help with last-minute air arrangements, Cruise West may be able to assist from various gateway cities.

    To sign up for the Stowaway Program, call Cruise West at 888/851-8133.

    Photo by Dennis Cox/WorldViews.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Last-Minute Savings on Fred. Olsen cruises from Miami

    Four Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines voyages out of Miami aboard its newest ship, the Balmoral, are available at last-minute savings. The cruises depart in March and April 2008 for destinations in the Caribbean and Europe.

    A March 13 11-night Western Caribbean departure heads for Nassau, Ocho Rios (Jamaica), Belize, Santo Tomas de Castilla (Guatemala), Roatan Island (Honduras), and two stops in Mexico before returning to Miami via Key West. Prices begin at $720 per person, double occupancy. A similar voyage at similar rates departs Miami April 3 as well.

    A 10-night March 24 Eastern Caribbean itinerary includes Grand Turk, Samana (Dominican Republic), Antigua, St. Kitts and Tortola. Double occupancy fares begin at $840 per person.

    A 17-night repositioning cruise leaves Miami on April 14 for Civitavecchia, Italy, the port of Rome, via Nassau, Hamilton (Bermuda), Funchal (Madeira), Malaga (Spain), and Ajaccio (Corsica). Fares begin at $1,145 per person.

    The fine print: Full payment is required at the time of booking and is non-refundable. Prices include port charges, taxes and fuel surcharges. The offers are based on availability and subject to withdrawal at any time.

    For more information, call Borton Overseas at 800-843-0602, ext. 6, or visit

    Phoo from Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines.

    Thursday, February 7, 2008

    Holland America Alaska cruise sale this week

    Holland America Line is putting its 2008 seven-day Alaska cruises on sale February 6-8, with prices starting at $599 per person for an inside cabin in double occupancy.

    Those prices are available on the May 10 "Alaskan Explorer via Hubbard Glacier" voyage aboard the Oosterdam, the May 16 "Alaskan Explorer via Glacier Bay" sailing aboard the Amsterdam, and the September 14 "Glacier Bay Inside Passage Cruise" aboard the Zaandam.

    Many other week-long Alaska cruises are available for prices starting at $649 per person and up, May to September. And back-to-back two-week Glacier Discovery cruises are on sale at prices starting at $999 per person.

    A host of cruise tours (combining sea and land itineraries) are also on sale.

    An added bonus: depending on the date of the cruise, you can get free or reduced fares ($99 to $299 per person) on many seven- and 14-day Alaska sailings from May to September, subject to the availability of triple and quad staterooms.

    The fine print: Prices do not include taxes or a $5 per day per person fuel surcharge. These rates are for new bookings only. You must book by 11:59 pm, Pacific Time, Friday February 8. Ask for Promo FJ.

    For more information or bookings, go to the Holland America website or call 877/724-5425 or a travel agent.

    Photo from Holland America.

    Wednesday, February 6, 2008

    Hurry to land baby boomer savings on MSC Caribbean sailings

    The Italian line MSC Cruises is offering special Baby Boomer/Senior-Saver rates on some fast-upcoming 10-day MSC Lirica cruises to the Caribbean.

    Rates start at $799 per person, double occupancy, if even one passenger in a stateroom is at least 50 years of age. Kids or grandkids 17 and under sail free in the same cabin. Government taxes and fees are additional, as is a fuel surcharge for the first two people in the cabin.

    Rates starting at $799 are available for a 10-night March 9 cruise with stops in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Antigua, Tortola, and the Dominican Republic.

    Rates start at $949 per person for a 10-night March 19 Caribbean cruise with stops in Cozumel, Mexico; Puerto Limon, Costa Rica; Cristobal, Panama; Cartagena, Colombia; and Cayo Levantado, Dominican Republic.

    The offers expire on February 29, 2008, but space is limited and cabins could fill at any time.

    For more information, go to the MSC Cruises website. For reservations, call a travel agent.

    Photo of MSC Lirica cabin from MSC Cruises.

    Tuesday, February 5, 2008

    Looking for a theme cruise? Try our new blog

    Are you a bridge fanatic, a classical music lover, a political junkie?

    Do you have a passion, hobby, or interest that you'd like to combine with your love of cruising?

    Then you'd be a good candidate for a theme cruise.

    Theme cruises -- appealing to groups as diverse as birders, photographers, golfers, history buffs, salsa dancers, and many others -- are one of the hottest trends in cruising. Like-minded people get together to celebrate their interests, attend lectures and performances, play games or sports, practice their dance moves, revisit World War II sites, view wildlife, learn yoga...the possibilities are nearly endless.

    And all against the backdrop of the blue sea and the added flair of wonderful ports around the globe.

    But many theme cruises are one-shot opportunities that you might miss out on -- unless you check in frequently with our new blog from Smarter Cruising:
    Theme Cruise Finder (

    Launched February 4, the Theme Cruise Finder has already covered theme cruises appealing to bridge players, classical music aficionados, and wanna-be political pundits.

    Whatever your special interest, you're sure to find an upcoming theme cruise that will appeal to you.

    See you soon at Theme Cruise Finder!

    Photo of Crystal Symphony from Crystal Cruises; the Symphony is hosting a classical music lovers' cruise to the Baltic on June 7, 2008.

    Friday, February 1, 2008

    Crystal offers 2-for-1 deals on S. America cruises

    The luxury line Crystal Cruises is offering up to 50 percent off on some staterooms for two repositioning cruises on the Crystal Symphony between the U.S. and South America next winter.

    One of the cruises leaves Los Angeles for Valparaiso, Chile, on December 7, 2008, and has a theme of Mind, Body and Spirit with instruction in yoga, Pilates, and tai chi and wellness seminars. Ports on the 15-day cruise will include stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru.

    The other, a 16-day voyage, leaves Buenos Aires for Miami on January 9, 2009, with stops in Rio De Janeiro and other ports in Brazil, Barbados, and Grand Turk.

    On the first voyage, staterooms start at $3,450 in double occupancy and on the next they start at $3,790 . At around $230 per day per passenger, this is good value for a deluxe cruise line, which seldom offers such big discounts.

    Note that fares do not include port, security and handling charges, or a $7 per person per day fuel surcharge.

    For bookings, call a Crystal-approved travel agency at 888/269-9414 or 888/722-0021 or your own travel agent.

    Photo of Crystal Symphony from Crystal Cruises.