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June 29, 2009

50% Off Silversea Cruises

SilverWindVenice   Silversea is offering two-for-one deals on dozens of sailings through the end of the year.  

By Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Daily deals Silversea, which Condé Nast Traveler readers rated their 5th favorite small-ship cruise line last year, is offering two-for-one deals on 39 itineraries worldwide through the end of the year. All room and suite categories are included. In addition, select sailings combine the two-for-one pricing with free airfare and $1,000 per couple in onboard credits, which can be used for spa services or shore excursions. The scope of the deal is unprecedented on this cruise line, says Richard Turen, one of the cruise experts on Wendy's list of top travel specialists.

Turen particularly recommends the November 26 eight-night sailing of the Silver Cloud for its interesting itinerary: Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires, with stops in Parati, São Paulo, and Itajai, Brazil; and Montevideo, Uruguay. On this sailing, the lowest category room is $3,697 per person, including taxes and port charges--down from the original price of $7,145. This sailing does not include free air, but you do get the $1,000 per cabin onboard credit. 

Book by: There is no expiration date. The deal is available as long as cabins on the select sailings are available.

Book through: Richard Turen, whom Wendy has recommended before on this blog for his savvy advice, unflinching honesty, and encyclopedic knowledge of cruising. Turen can often wrangle great perks for his clients. On the South America cruise above, for instance, booking through Richard gets you your choice of a complimentary specially arranged shore excursion or a $300 shipboard credit on top of the one from the cruise line.

April 10, 2009

Windstar Cruises Sale of 60% Off

Wind_spirit_anchored_greece_2 The Wind Spirit at anchor in Greece.  Image courtesy of Windstar Cruises.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Deal of the Day

More great cruise news for small-ship lovers!  Windstar Cruises has slashed rates -- for a very brief time -- on 15 spring and summer Mediterranean sailings.  Windstar, whose 148-passenger, four-masted sailing ships have an intimate, romantic feel, was rated one of the top small-ship cruise lines in our 2008 Readers' Choice Awards. Wendy has sailed on Windstar three times and says it's her favorite cruise line.

As just one example of the discounts on offer, the August 29 seven-night sailing on the Wind Star from Istanbul to Athens has been reduced to $1,364 per person (including taxes and fees) from the former cost of $3,514 per person.

The catch: Time is short. You'll need to book by tomorrow to get these rates. Also, because the fares are so low, they are non-refundable.

Wendy's tip: Wendy always recommends booking through a travel agent who specializes in cruises, knows the ship and every cabin inside and out, and has excellent connections with executives at the cruise line, based on close longterm relationships. Linda Allen of Cruises by Linda, the person who notified us of this Windstar deal, is one of the top cruise specialists in Wendy's Rolodex, so you can't go wrong booking through her. (Linda can be reached at 800-422-3445 or cruisesbylinda@cox.net.)

April 09, 2009

Sale on Seabourn's Mediterranean Cruises

Mid_spgr025 The Seabourn Spirit in the port of Navplion, Greece.  Image courtesy of the Yachts of Seabourn.

by Kathryn Maier on Travel Deals

Deal of the Day

Most luxury cruise promotions these days tend to lay on the free perks (free shore excursions, free shipboard credit) instead of aggressively slashing rates. Seabourn, however, has reduced fares by what it claims is "up to 65%" on its Mediterranean sailings this summer. As Wendy has warned us, percentage discounts can be deceiving. Still, Seabourn has several week-long cruises for less than $3,000 per person. If that sounds awfully pricey, keep in mind that Conde Nast Traveler readers rate Seabourn the world's best small-ship cruise line, thanks to the level of comfort, service, and cuisine.

The best value for your dollar might be the October 24 cruise of the Seabourn Spirit: It's an 8-night cruise that starts in Rome, ends in Lisbon, and calls at 5 Spanish ports en route.  The rate has been reduced to $2,568 per person (including all taxes, fees, and gratuities) from the former cost of $6,136 per person.

For more info: See the Special Offers page on Seabourn's Web site.

Wendy's tip: Book through Linda Allen of Cruises by Linda, one of the top cruise specialists in Wendy's Rolodex, and you'll get not only lots of useful tips for stretching your dollar farther in each port of call, but also perks such as free shipboard credit.  In fact, if you pay your deposit within 24 yours of making your reservation, Linda can give you a complimentary two-category upgrade.  (Linda can be reached at 800-422-3445 or cruisesbylinda@cox.net.)

March 25, 2009

Web Site for Luxury Cruise Deals?

Crystal Symphony
Pictured: Crystal Symphony, courtesy
of Crystal Cruises

by Wendy Perrin

An excellent question has come in from reader J.S.:

"I have always wanted to go on a luxury cruise. Can you suggest a Web site or search site where I can register to be notified when a special is going on?  Thanks."

There are plenty of sites where you can sign up for notification of deals on cruise lines that label themselves "luxury" but are not. I know of no sites that focus on the true luxury cruise lines and reliably highlight only the honest-to-goodness deals and not the phony ones too.

My recommendation?  Register directly with the individual Web sites of the cruise lines that interest you. The finest, as rated by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler in our latest Readers' Choice Awards, are: Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn, and SeaDream Yacht Club. Then, to book your sailing, call one of the cruise specialists on my list of travel agents you can trust. Here's why.

I'd also check LuxuryLink, which sometimes features highly discounted luxe cruises. My final suggestion? Check in here every few days or so and look at our Daily Deals, since I tend to include the steepest luxury cruise bargains I hear of.

A question for readers: Have YOU registered with a site that has proven to notify you consistently of the best luxury cruise deals available? If so, please click on "Comments" below to let us all know about it. Thanks!

March 12, 2009

Deals on Luxury Cruises in Alaska Don't Get Much Better Than This

Regent_seven_seas The Seven Seas Mariner in Alaska.

by Wendy Perrin

Deal of the Day

Of all the summer Alaska cruise deals I've seen lately, this one really stands out to me: Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering 2-for-1 pricing, plus free airfare, plus free unlimited shore excursions on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner.  Additionally, kids sail free on departures from June 17 through August 5.  Don't forget that, unlike a lot of cruise lines, Regent Seven Seas includes alcoholic drinks and staff gratuities in its rates. So this is just about as all-inclusive as it gets, folks.

Book by: May 31.

CNTraveler approved: Not only is the Seven Seas Mariner rated one of the world's best cruise ships by Conde Nast Traveler readers, but I actually sailed on it myself--seven years ago, along the coast of South America--and can personally vouch for the spaciousness of its rooms (which all have balconies), the yumminess of its food, and the spoil-you-rottenness of its staff.

Tip: Do yourself a favor and book through one of the top-notch cruise specialists on my list of the world's best travel agents (which I update annually for Conde Nast Traveler's August issue). These cruise specialists get extra perks for their clients. If you book through Tom Baker of Cruise Center, for instance, you'll get an extra $400 per cabin in shipboard credit (meaning, "free" spending money for use onboard the ship) if you choose the Seven Seas Mariner's June 24, August 5, August 19, or September 9 departures. For other departures you get $200 per cabin in shipboard credit. (Tom can be reached at 800-592-3887 or tom.baker@cruisecenter.com.)

January 21, 2009

What You MUST Know Before Scooping Up a Cruise "Deal"

Statueofliberty_2 My kids in New York Harbor last March, on the deck of a cruise ship bound for the Bahamas.

by Wendy Perrin

At this moment of our economic downturn, when cruise lines are promoting outrageous discounts in order to fill their ships at almost any cost, some of you have been asking why I haven't pointed you to more cruise deals lately. Here's why: I was waiting for my February Perrin Report to be published. In my latest column I explain why it's never been more important for the cruise buyer to beware, and I list the necessary steps you should take to ensure you get the best possible value for your money when booking a cruise. You can click here to read it.

You might also find helpful an Associated Press article, published yesterday, about cruising on a budget. "The cruise fare you see advertised is not the price you'll end up paying" is one of the quotes from me. Click here to read the AP article.

The results of Conde Nast Traveler's annual cruise poll have also just been published. Click here to read how 11,000 of the magazine's savvy readers have rated more than 400 ships.

So what are the very best cruise deals available today? After the jump, I'll share two.

Continue reading "What You MUST Know Before Scooping Up a Cruise "Deal"" »

December 18, 2008

Don't Get Ripped Off When Buying a Cruise, Part 2

Regent_seven_seas
Regent Seven Seas Cruises operates small to medium-size luxury ships such as the Seven Seas Mariner, one of my personal favorites.

by Wendy Perrin

Remember my warning Don't Get Ripped Off When Buying a Cruise? Mark Conroy, president of Regent Seven Seas Cruises, says I misstated the problem and overstated its scope. So let me attempt to set the record straight while also giving some crucial advice to anyone who is considering snapping up one of the many cruise deals flying around these days.

As you may recall, I wrote that when you charge a cruise to your credit card, a few cruise lines--including Regent Seven Seas--may charge a currency-exchange fee of 3 percent, even though you're paying in the U.S. in U.S. dollars. I quoted veteran travel agent and Travel Weekly columnist Richard Turen, who reported this on his Travel Truth blog:

"Oceania Cruises has been running U.S. bank-issued credit cards through a financial institution based in Dublin, Ireland. This has resulted in scores of Oceania passengers, many of them unaware, being charged an additional fee of up to 3% on their cruise deposits and final payments. In the last year, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas were both sold to the cash-rich Apollo Investment Group. Now there are reports that Regent Seven Seas guests are also being charged additional fees on payments made on some Visa, MasterCard, and American Express Cards . . . ."

According to Regent Seven Seas president Mark Conroy:

* I was incorrect to state that the cruise line may charge a 3% fee since, technically, it's the credit card issuer--not the cruise line--that is levying the fee. The fee goes into the pockets of the card-issuing bank, not the cruise line. "If anyone is 'ripping off' the guests, it is their credit card issuer," he says.

* The fee is levied on fewer than one percent of bookings. "I think that Richard has seen more than his fair share of these fees because the AAdvantage Cards issued by Citi Bank are some of the most aggressive at collecting this fee from their cardholders," he says. "There are a large number of Visa- and MasterCard-issuing banks, as well as American Express, that do not charge foreign-currency fees for Regent Seven Seas Cruises charges."

* If a passenger is charged the 3% fee, and he/she contests it with the credit card issuer, and the bank refuses to reverse it, then Regent Seven Seas will reimburse the amount of the charge either by check or in the form of shipboard credit.

Richard Turen, always thinking about the consumer, makes some important points in response:

Continue reading "Don't Get Ripped Off When Buying a Cruise, Part 2" »

December 15, 2008

Where's Wendy? Day 10

Stromboli
The Mediterranean Sea was calm on December 3 at dawn, when we sailed past Stromboli, an active volcano off Sicily. The sea didn't stay that way for long!

by Wendy Perrin

I'm back home now . . . and wowed by those of you who figured out I was on a Mediterranean cruise on the Norwegian Jade. The voyage started and ended in Barcelona and, in between, called at the ports of Civitavecchia in Italy (where we went into Rome for the day), Izmir in Turkey (where we explored Ephesus), Alexandria in Egypt (our base for visiting the Giza Plateau), and Valletta, Malta (an island of enchanting harbors and medieval walled towns).

As clever reader Kiwiwriter has pointed out, the ship was supposed to call at Piraeus, Greece, as well. That's the port for Athens. Alas, rough seas between Italy and Greece led to the cancellation of that stop. (And if you're wondering what I was thinking sailing in the Med in December, I can assure you this wasn't a vacation. I was on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler . . . and to find out more you'll need to wait for the article.)

And now--drum roll, please--the moment we've been waiting for: Who won this Where's Wendy? contest? Click to the next page to find out.

Continue reading "Where's Wendy? Day 10" »

November 25, 2008

Don't Get Ripped Off When Buying a Cruise

by Wendy Perrin

Note: Please see my 12/18/08 update to this post (by clicking here).

Some cruise lines are charging a currency-exchange fee of 3 percent when you purchase a cruise, even though you're paying in the U.S. in U.S. dollars. A couple of years ago I warned about Oceania Cruises and MSC Cruises doing this, but now Regent Seven Seas and Sea Dream Yacht Club have gotten into the act too, according to Richard Turen, one of my most trusted cruise specialists on the list of the world's top travel agents that I update annually in Conde Nast Traveler. Here's what Richard has written about "Luxury Cruise Lines and the Great Credit Card Rip-Off" on his must-read Travel Truth blog:

Continue reading "Don't Get Ripped Off When Buying a Cruise" »

November 24, 2008

Shore Excursions for Cruises in Asia

by Wendy Perrin

"I am taking a 28-day cruise from Singapore to Beijing," writes reader Reneemia37. "Can you suggest a company for shore excursions, particularly in Bangkok, Hanoi, Saigon, Kyoto, Shanghai, and Beijing?   Also do you have a list of private guides for any of those cities?   Any help would be most appreciated."

The best person I know for this is Paul Niskanen of Cruise Masters in Portland, Oregon. He's the Asia cruise specialist on my list of the world's top travel specialists.  I assume you didn't book your cruise through him, which is unfortunate because it means you may need to pay a fee to book the unique private excursions he offers in these ports. Paul's a very nice guy, is very value-conscious, and is expecting your call ... and now's a good time to catch him 'cause he's just back from a cruise from Singapore to Sydney. Bon voyage!

November 19, 2008

2-For-1 Cruises with Free Air Fare

Regent_seven_seas The Seven Seas Mariner in Alaska.

by Wendy Perrin

The cruise deals just keep getting better (thank you, economic meltdown). Most of them have a book-before-the-end-of-the-year deadline, though, which is why I've been hesitant to publicize them here: I happen to believe the deals we're seeing now are mere come-ons compared with the bargains we'll see in early 2009.  It makes sense to book now for late winter, spring, or summer only if the sailing you want is in high demand--because the itinerary is unusual and the season is short--or if you need a specific type of cabin. In other words, if you want an Antarctica expedition, book now. If you want a run-of-the-mill Caribbean cruise, wait!

That said, some pretty great Regent Seven Seas offers landed in my In Box yesterday that some travelers may want to take advantage of now, while they can still get the exact cabin and week they want. The details, after the jump.

Continue reading "2-For-1 Cruises with Free Air Fare" »

November 04, 2008

Cruise on Windstar in the Caribbean for $999

Windstar_ship Unlike conventional cruise ships, Windstar Cruises' yachts are intimate and sail to relatively off-the-beaten-path ports.

by Wendy Perrin

An exciting email just landed in my in-box: Three weeklong Windstar cruises in the Caribbean are on sale through this Friday for $999 per person. As a Windstar alum and big fan--I've sailed on the line three times, twice in the Caribbean--I can assure you this is a great deal.

The 312-passenger Wind Surf sails out of Barbados to Bequia, Mayreau, Pigeon Island (St. Lucia), Dominica, Grenada, Tobago, and back to Barbados; it's the November 30 and December 14 sailings that are on sale. On December 13 the 148-passenger Wind Spirit sails out of St. Thomas to St. John, St. Martin, St. Barts, Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and back to St. Thomas.

Jost_van_dyke_2 The Wind Spirit calls at Jost Van Dyke, one of my favorite Caribbean islands. (I snapped this picture there in February 2007.)

Since I couldn't find the $999 rate on Windstar's site, my guess is it's available only through specific travel agents. (As I noted in my last post, luxury travel suppliers don't like to advertise their lowest rates to the general public.) I learned about the deal through the travel agent who booked my last two cruises, Linda Allen. So if you need help booking, call Linda.

October 30, 2008

The Perrin Post Saves A Reader $2,100

by Wendy Perrin

Remember last week's post Don't Book a Cruise Until You Read This? Reader Deannadv wrote in to say that my tip saved her $600 on a stateroom on Cunard's Queen Victoria. Then she wrote again last night to say that my tip about Cheap Rental Cars in Europe has saved her another $1,500:

"You did it again. Traveling to Tuscany with family for Xmas at farmhouse/villa. Was able to book the same 9-passenger van with car seat for more than $1,500 less. Avis had quoted $2,300 for our 10-day rental, and Nova Car Hire is charging just $770. It's a miracle. Add this savings to the $600 Cunard cruise reduction and we almost have enough saved for another trip somewhere. Thank you so much for the solid travel advice you provide."

No problem. I'm here to help.

October 29, 2008

Luxe Cruises Grow A Lot More Affordable

Seabourn_perrin
Book a 2009 Mediterranean cruise on Seabourn by December 19 and save $1,000.

by Wendy Perrin

It's not only mass-market megaships that are slashing rates. The Yachts of Seabourn, the small-ship cruise line that Conde Nast Traveler readers just rated tops in the world, has announced a remarkable deal: Book any of next summer's 50 seven-night Mediterranean cruises on any of Seabourn's three plush, all-suite ships--including the brand-new Seabourn Odyssey--and you'll receive an additional $1,000 off the early booking savings. The caveats? Keep reading.

Continue reading "Luxe Cruises Grow A Lot More Affordable" »

October 24, 2008

Don't Book a Cruise Until You Read This

Crystal_serenity by Wendy Perrin

The cruise deals are flying. I've watched prices for some cruise-ship cabins plummet by $1,000 in the past month. And fares for cruises near the U.S. (Caribbean, Mexico, Panama Canal) this winter and spring, as well as for Europe next summer, are almost sure to drop a lot farther. So if you're tempted to book now for the winter, spring, or summer, strongly consider giving your business to a cruise line that, if the price drops after you buy, will refund the difference between the fare you paid and the new, lower fare.

Right now Crystal Cruises (that's the Crystal Serenity pictured above) is the line with the most customer-friendly booking policies. Not only is it guaranteeing you'll get the lowest price even if you book before a big sale starts, but it has also reduced deposits from 10% to 5% of the cruise fare for all 2009 sailings. Plus it will let you cancel your cruise up to 45 days prior to the sailing with no penalty (70 to 80 days prior is more the norm).

Continue reading "Don't Book a Cruise Until You Read This" »

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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