Once in a lifetime cruise, once in a lifetime price
Not to sound like a broken record, but Chile's can't-miss travel opportunities just keep on coming. The latest deal to catch our eye is a $690 three-night sail through Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego—the type of trip that generally qualifies as a major splurge—on Cruceros Australis's new 100-cabin Stella Australis vessel. (Let's call this, then, a minor splurge.)
The trip departs from southern Chile's Punta Arenas and winds through the Strait of Magellan, Ainsworth Bay, and Alakaluf Fjord (among others), passing glaciers, waterfalls, and—if you're lucky—elephant seals en route to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. And while the relatively roomy cabins, starting around 178 square feet, have generously sized floor-to-ceiling windows for taking in all that dramatic scenery, the cruise also includes glacier-trekking excursions and guided wildlife-watching outings on tiny inflatable Zodiac boats, so you can really get the full frozen-ends-of-the-earth effect. The rate covers an external cabin and all meals and drinks on the 4-day trip—including local Chilean and Argentine wine—and is only available for this particular April 2 departure. (The lowest normal rate for a 4-day itinerary with Cruceros is $840, making this almost a 20% savings.)
Still too steep for your vacation fund? Then enter our World's Best Cruiser contest! Send evidence of your cruising expertise (packing strategies, photo galleries, a collection of souvenir seashells from tropical ports of call—the wackier the better) to email@example.com by March 15. The winner will receive a free cruise!!
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Jump on These Spring Cruise Deals
As the days get longer and the sun shines warmer, a lot of people start thinking about the sea. Well, there’s no better way to get up close and personal with the Caribbean, the Pacific, and Europe’s legendary rivers than hitting the water on one of these luxurious, but affordable, cruise ships. WORLD’S BIGGEST CRUISE SHIP FROM $607 Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas recently completed its first trials and is preparing for its debut in May, offering the chance to be one of the first to sail on the world’s biggest cruise ship. With a crew of more than 2,000, seven “neighborhoods" (including a tree-lined Central Park, boardwalk, promenade, and other distinct areas), and 20 dining options, Harmony of the Seas is the newest in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class fleet. Thrill-seekers will enjoy the tallest cruise-ship slide, Ultimate Abyss, a kids area called Splashaway Bay, and my particular favorite, the Bionic Bar, where robots craft the cocktails (not kidding). And Royal Caribbean’s commitment to onboard technology can make your trip more convenient: Geraldine Ree, Senior Vice President of Sales at Expedia Cruise Centers, notes that “Royal Caribbean’s Royal IQ App lets you track your luggage to your stateroom.” Harmony of the Seas’s maiden voyage is in May, a short sail from Southampton, UK, to Cherbourg, France. Western Mediterranean cruises are planned for this summer and fall starting at $607, with Caribbean cruises planned for the fall and beyond. CARIBBEAN CRUISE FROM MIAMI FROM $549 The Norwegian Getaway sets sail from Miami for seven days exploring some of the Caribbean’s most alluring ports, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, the Caymans, and Cozumel, Mexico. And "Norwegian’s iConcierge App enables you to book shore excursions and make reservations at the ship’s specialty restaurants,” says Ree. You'll love the delicious Miami-inspired and Caribbean cuisine and great entertainment and nightlife aboard the Getaway. Book this deal from Dunhill Travel Deals starting at $549. BAJA MEXICO CRUISE FROM $344 The Carnival Imagination leaves Long Beach, California, for amazing Catalina Island, then on to such Baja Mexico highlights as Ensenada, Puerta Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas on a five-day cruise that’s perfect for shopping for authentic Mexican clothing and crafts, hitting the beach, and maybe even knocking back a little tequila. Cruises.com has a deal that starts at $344. DANUBE RIVER CRUISE FROM $999 “River cruising continues to gain momentum,” says Ree. “With only nine new ocean ships being added to waters in 2016, there will be 18 new river cruises to debut throughout the year. River cruises are especially popular with multigenerational cruisers. River cruise lines are designing family-focused sailings and family-friendly design elements on board, such as bigger cabins.” We especially love how these smaller ships make more stops in beautiful little cities and towns across Europe. On this Danube cruise you’ll spend eight days exploring gorgeous Vienna and the fairy-tale town of Melk in Austria; Bratislava in Slovakia; and amazing Budapest, Hungary. Book NOW at YMT Vacations and you can nab a deal at $999 per person. TIPS FOR CRUISE NEWBIES Ree also offers some advice for first-time cruisers: Try to jump into “onboard life” – cruise lines offer cool events ranging from educational port lectures to raucous Dancing with the Stars, Shipboard Idol, and talent shows that bring the house down. Sign up early for activities like cooking classes, fencing, or rope climbing; some sessions fill up fast. Take care of anything you need from the Pursers desk on the second-to-last day of the cruise; on the very last day, lineups start early and remain pretty long until you disembark. If you're flying to your embarcation port, buy your plane tickets early and splurge a little on nonstops. Throw in a swimsuit in the carry on! Who wants to wait for the luggage to be delivered when a pool or beach are available? Choose a ship and destination together as a family. This allows all of the family members to “buy in” and get involved, building the anticipation for every family member. Make reservations as far in advance as you can. Adjoining and “across the hall” cabins become more difficult to find the closer you get to departure. Fly in a day before the cruise to ensure that temperamental weather doesn't cause you to miss the boat.
River cruise growth outpacing ocean cruises
In the past 10 years, the number of passengers taking river cruises has grown by 15 percent, and while the overall numbers (261,000 annually) pale in comparison to ocean cruising (10.7 million annually), the numbers of big-boat cruisers have only grown by 5.4 percent, according to Cruises Line International Association. I recently had the chance to meet and talk with Torstein Hagen, the Chairman of Viking River Cruises, which won our annual Readers' Choice Award in 2010. (The 2011 poll is currently live through April 15 and you can cast your vote here; Viking is currently coming in second to Avalon Waterways.) As ocean cruises have added on more and more services for customers (water slides, ice bars, zip lines), river cruises have had to be more selective with their offerings. On a 95-cabin boat there's only so much space, and there are very strict limitations in terms of length and depth. "We don't try to be everything to everyone," Hagen told me. (Viking, however, is forging a new path in 2012, with four new boats, the Longships, that have 200 square foot balconies attached to each and every cabin—an innovation in the river cruise world). More central, perhaps, to the increasing appeal of river cruises is the true all-inclusive nature of the pricing structure. While ocean cruise lines sell their itineraries at a low cost, once you're aboard, you'll be upsold on everything from coffee beverages to merchandise. (The one exception is Royal Caribbean, which is now selling an 'all you can drink' cruise.) Meanwhile, a higher ticket price for a river cruise doesn't have any surprises: fuel surcharges, WiFi, daily shore excursions—they're all included. When I asked Viking's Hagen if you could pick up your own bottle on one of your daily walks about a picturesque European town and bring it to dinner, he acknowledged that there technically is a $6 corkage fee, "but you'll never actually get charged. In fact," he said, waving his hand toward Richard Marnell, the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Viking, "let's just do away with that once and for all. Done!" If you haven't yet voted for your favorite River Cruise Line, you can do so here. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Mega-Cruise Smackdown Your Top Money-Saving Cruise Questions -- Answered Ask Trip Coach: Ocean Cruising
Cruise news: Disney Cruise Line expands into NYC
It's been a big year for the Disney Cruise Line brand. This January, the third ship in the Disney fleet, the Dream, launched her maiden voyage out of Port Canaveral, Florida. Cruisers, including our very own editor in chief Nina Willdorf, have raved about the boat's many family-friendly features, from the world's first water coaster at sea (the 765-foot-long AquaDuck) to the animated Magical Portholes found in inside staterooms. So how to top themselves in 2012? Expansion! Starting next year, in addition to sailings from Los Angeles and Port Canaveral, Disney Cruise Line will embark from three new ports: Seattle, Galveston, and New York. From its new Big Apple home, the Disney Magic will offer classic Bahamas itineraries (complete with stops at Disney's own private island, Castaway Cay). Cruisers will even receive a complimentary Park Hopper pass and free shuttle transportation between the port and the Walt Disney World resort when the boat hits Florida. In addition, Disney is adding a New England and Canada coastal route, as well as a new two-night journey out to sea—an appealing option, perhaps, for cruising commitmentphobes like me. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Completely Obsessive Absolutely Indispensable Guide to Disney World Royal Caribbean's Most Passionate Cruisers Ask Trip Coach: Cruising
Vote now for the World's Best Cruiser!
We studied countless entries in search of cruisers who nail the balance between smarts, skills, and spirits and narrowed it down to three cruise-savvy finalists. Martha and Ken Wiseman, from Romeoville, Ill., have cruised for 38 years and have been on 65 cruises! They stand out for their against-the-grain opinions because they hate to pack light and love cruise-organized shore excursions. Meanwhile, Toni Vitanza, from Clemson, S.C., is adamant about packing light and refines her packing, planning, and money-saving strategies with every trip. (Need proof? She can fit all her cosmetics in an Altoid tin.) Finally, Ted and Karen Beranis, from Bonita Springs, Fla., are a pair of seafaring social butterflies who found a surefire way to make friends wherever they go, while also being strategic about how to hit the pool and hang at the piano bar. Read our finalists' bios, view their photos, and watch their videos to determine who you think the World's Best Cruiser is, and then cast your vote by June 28. The winner will sail off into the sunset on a free cruise—and appear in an issue of Budget Travel. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Find a summer music festival near you Rivers wreaking havoc: Mississippi too high, Rhine too low Auto rental lot of the future: 'anywhere you can park five cars'