Cruise sales heat up, if we play them right

carnival breeze 0002 New this year to the world of cruise sales are some attempts to encourage us to buy now for sailings that will be complete before the end of the year.  Also new is the addition of the Non-Refundable Deposit element on several lines.  That too is meant to firm up bookings and discourage changing our minds later.

Let’s take a look at a couple of the best values we see out there today.

Starting today and for just five days, Princess Cruises is offering special cruise deals to destinations around the world, with their World of Savings sale.  Passengers can take advantage of savings up to $2,000 per stateroom, plus up to $100 onboard credit on specific sailings.  We like the way Princess does it because they don’t pay Hide and Seek with the special values.

These select September 2012 to January 2013 sailings feature the best of Princess’ worldwide cruise destinations, offering the opportunity to sail to exciting ports of call such as Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Rome; to explore the natural wonders of Alaska; or to enjoy the idyllic islands of Hawaii or the Caribbean.

In addition to fare savings, passengers booking interior or oceanview staterooms can receive an onboard credit of $25 (cruises up to 9 days) to $50 (cruises 10 days or longer), and in balcony staterooms or above can get credits of $50 (cruises up to 9 days) or $100 (for sailings 10 days or longer). All onboard credits are offered per stateroom.

Some specific examples of cruise deals include:

Alaska – 7 days : $999 balcony (was $1,649); $549 interior (was $874)

Caribbean – 7 days: $849 balcony (was $949); $549 interior (was $599)

Europe – 12 days: $1,599 balcony (was $2,790); $999 interior (was $1,790)

South America – 13 days: $2,099 balcony (was $2,395); $1,199 interior (was $1,495)

Australia & New Zealand – 14 days: $2,199 balcony (was $2,995); $1,299 interior (was $2,095)

Hawaii – 14 days: $1,999 balcony (was $2,345); $1,299 interior (was $1,445)

Panama Canal – 14 days: $1,799 balcony (was $2,299); $1,099 interior (was $1,599)

Asia – 16 days: $2,499 balcony (was $3,195); $1,499 interior (was $1,995)

All cruise prices are per person, based on double occupancy. The World of Savings event begins at 12:01 a.m. PDT on April 19 through 11:59 p.m. PDT on April 23, 2012 and is available to residents of the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico. Reservations made during the sale require a non-refundable deposit.

For those willing to read the fine print and accept the restrictions, there are a lot of good values to choose from.  This week, Norwegian Cruise Line sweetened the already discounted deal with a new element: Free Shore Excursions for Kids

Book your 2012 family cruise today and every child 12 and under in your stateroom will receive free unlimited shore excursions, and all teens 13-17 get 50% off. That’s every child, in every port, on all sailings. You won’t find a better family vacation value anywhere! All shore excursions must be pre-booked in advance of your sailing.

That’s Norwegian’s Little Norwegian’s Explore For Free promotion and another sign that soft sales run deep.

Norwegian’s offer is for families who book a 2012 cruise from today through May 13, 2012, closing the window of opportunity more than ever.

Carnival Cruise Line‘s Summer Sale is a winner if we play it right too.

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The “playing it right” element is the tricky part but not too tricky. Still, this is a good time to have a travel agent in your back pocket to sort through it all and be sure you get the best value.  Here’s why:

Basically, Carnival is offering up to 13 different rate codes to choose from.  Consumers can’t see those different options on Carnival’s consumer website.  There are a limited number of qualifiers available to consumers, usually age, past guest affiliation, etc.  Travel agents can see all the different fares for any sailing in a number of scenarios then compare to be sure they get the best value.

That can be significant.

Let’s take the Summer Sale fare for a 3-5 day sailing.  We’ll use Carnival Paradise sailing from Tampa on 05-05-12 in the least expensive cabin category for an example.

Under the Summer Sale fare, the price this morning for a category 4B inside cabin is $1065.98 total for two including all port charges, taxes and fees.  Because it is booked under the Summer Sale fare promotion it also gets $100 onboard credit.  A good way to look at that considering the $100 onboard credit, good as cash on the ship, that brings the price down to $965.98 total for two.

Not bad.

But for a past guest, that same Summer Sale fare, minus the $100 onboard credit is $875.98, $90 less at the end price.

That’s one example of just how costly not using a travel agent can be.

Some other possible fares on the same sailing:

Senior Fare, least expensive cabin is a category OV, unassigned Oceanview cabin for $925.98
Military Rate, category 4B inside for $895.98

The deal is in there, we just have to know how to pay the promotions to our best advantage.

Chris Owen is a travel writer from Orlando Florida charged with sharing frank, inside information on cruise vacations with travelers. Certified a Master Cruise Counselor by the Cruise Lines International Association, Chris can be found via the popular travel blog, and on the long-running cruise information website,

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