Thursday, March 19, 2009

Battle of the luxury cruise lines

Two weeks ago, we reported on Seabourn's slashing of prices on upcoming European sailings.

Regent Seven Seas and Crystal Cruises are also getting into the act.

Regent has announced what they call "ultra-inclusive" pricing, which comes on top of their traditional "all-inclusive" pricing, which already includes gratuities and alcohol. What's the difference? For starters, if you book by May 31 of this year, Regent is offering free (selected) shore excursions for most of the rest of its 2009 sailings and all of its 2010 sailings (some restrictions apply). Regent is also offering two-for-one price savings (that is, 50 percent discounts) and free air -- gateway cities are limited, so you may have to pay extra -- also dependent on booking by May 31.

Crystal, meanwhile, has announced its own "All Inclusive -- As You Wish" program, which offers shipboard credits of $2,000 per couple if you book a cruise of 11 days or longer. Crystal's program stresses individual spending decisions: you can spend your credit on shore excursions, alcohol, or whatever you want.

In the past, discounting has been much more typical of mainstream lines such as Carnival or Royal Caribbean than the luxury lines. The battle of the luxury lines indicates just how tough the competition is for the cruise dollar in these hard economic times.

Photo of Seven Seas Voyager from Regent.

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