Best value in river cruising (Budget Travel's pick for 2009)
There's a reason river-cruise bookings have spiked by more than 20 percent each year since 2001: Unlike on mega ships, you typically won't find surprise fees tacked onto your bill when you sail on these small vessels. Riding this wave of popularity, Avalon Waterways is adding four ships—Affinity, Creativity, Luminary, and Felicity—to its European fleet. On May 9, the Affinity starts its maiden voyage in Holland. avalonwaterways.com, six-day trips from $1,699.
—Geraldine Campbell, from the May 2009 issue of Budget Travel
Alaska cruises: Here's a booking tip
If you've ever dreamt of taking an Alaskan cruise, this might be your year: Prices are way down. We've noticed that you can find rock-bottom prices if you book at the last minute or if you're willing to start and/or end your cruise in Alaska (instead of Seattle or another port in the lower 48 states). In a recent Kayak search, we found a seven-night cruise out of Seward for $329 per person before taxes (Holland America) departing in June. Of course, you'll have to buy the airfare to get out there, but it's still worth a look. We were also spotting cruises departing in late May out of Vancouver for $349 per person before taxes (Celebrity)—an excellent price. See our recent Real Deal on Alaska cruises. And all of our current Cruise deals are here.
Cruises: How did one reader nab $74 a day on Princess?
An amazing deal on a cruise was nabbed by Budget Travel blog reader Maureen of Mission Viejo, Calif. She scored a 30-day South American cruise from Los Angeles to Rio de Janeiro leaving on Nov. 22, 2009. Her obstructed ocean view cabin was only $1,697. After you include government taxes and mandatory gratuities, it figures out to be only $74 a day per person! That's about a third cheaper than the list price. Maureen says: Right now the current brochure for the cruise we are taking states a balcony fare from $2,979, add $197 govt.fees/taxes plus $330 tips ($11 per day added on by Princess per person). The math for this trip figures out to be $110 a day for a balcony room. Even more impressive, Maureen is paying about 59 percent less per day for her upcoming cruise than the last Princess cruise she took (staying in a comparable berth). Consider that Maureen went on a 10-day eastern Caribbean cruise with Princess this past January and paid $1,730 per person for a balcony (no fuel charges). Adding the $110 for taxes and tips that trip came to $184 a day. We asked her how she got the deal, to see if we could pick up some pointers: We got this deal from a Princess brochure mailed to us as frequent Princess cruisers (having been on Princess at least three times). We have been receiving these "exclusives-special offers just for you" frequently as well as mailers from other cruise companies. I have been monitoring the prices of all of the cruise lines for the last 4 months. This price was just reduced on Princess's website on June 10th. Maureen's tip: Use a travel agent, but negotiate I chose to book through a local travel agent I have used before. She is really good, thorough, and only deals in cruises. She makes all the phone calls to Princess regarding questions I may have. I saw the Princess eastern caribbean cruise we recently went on listed in Vacationstogo.com for the same price as the Princess website was quoting but with $100 shipboard credit and a free bottle of wine. I told her I would rather book with her and would she match that website's extra offerings? She not only met vacations freebies but added a big bottle of water to our stateroom. She also gave this same deal to my girlfriend who was traveling with us and who ended up booking through her. Maybe people do not want to go to South America??? Maybe that explains the low cost? We have never been south of Mexico. And we live an hour north from Los Angeles harbor where the cruise starts. The only major cost for us is the price of flying back from Rio where the cruise ends during the Christmas holidays. But we have found some good fares on the internet around $900-$1,000. Congrats, Maureen, on your great deal. And thanks for sharing your tips! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Real Deals in Cruises, hand-picked by our editors
Ready for a Room With a View?
We’ve always loved E.M. Forster’s great “travel romance” A Room With a View (not to mention the beautiful film adaptation), in which a young Englishwoman’s life is forever changed when she agrees to swap hotel rooms with a fascinating young Englishman in Florence in order to have, yes, a room with a view. We love the way that expression can mean, quite literally, a window that affords gorgeous scenery, but also the way those words can sum up a transformative travel experience. Speaking of transformative travel: River cruises have been very much on our radar lately because of the way they can broaden your cruise experience, taking you down iconic rivers such as the Rhine, the Danube, and the Mekong, and getting you up close and personal with the cultures and cuisines of the historic, beautiful cruise ports along the way. We’ve also noticed that Avalon Waterways’s unique staterooms offer, you guessed it, “a room with a view” like no other: Avalon’s Panorama Suites are 200 square feet, with 11-foot-wide and 7-foot-tall wall-to-wall windows and a bed angled so that you can get a perfect view out the window. (You can also open up your window to create an Open-Air Bbalcony, but they’re designed to work all year long, regardless of the weather outside.) Some of the Avalon river cruises we’re yearning to see from a Panorama Suite include: Essential Holland & Belgium, an unforgettable eight-day odyssey from Brussels to Amsterdam, with guided sightseeing in Antwerp, Ghent, the Keukenhof Gardens, and other must-sees; The Legendary Danube, from Prague to Budapest, with guided sightseeing in Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and other cities; and Fascinating Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Mekong River, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to Siem Reap, Cambodia, gateway to the stunning temple complex at Angkor Wat. TALK TO US! We’d love to hear about your river cruise experiences, especially those that have included “a room with a view”!
A reader proposes smart new routes for river cruises
Loyal reader Clarence Moore wrote in to us in response to our recent blog posts on Viking and Uniworld introducing new river cruise ships and Avalon christening a new river cruise ship: There are a couple of rivers in the east of Spain and the Po River in Italy that NEED river cruise ships. Additionally, the river north of Prague to Berlin is well covered, but on north to Hamburg and to the sea is hardly covered at all. There are canals and river systems right through from Amsterdam to Berlin, but this route is NOT covered except by one European company with ONE trip annually, if even that now. Yet, they have Hansel and Gretel houses and entire villages through that area that are VERY attractive. The Oder River and other Polish rivers are inadequately or not covered at all. One river goes north and one south not too far after you leave Vienna or Budapest on the Danube—both navigable, but NO cruises! Any way you could help increase interest in these potential river cruises? We need American companies, like Uniworld or Viking to cover them all! Thanks!