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Weekend Cruises, Repositioning Cruises
Weekend Cruises.According to the editors at BudgetTravel.com, cruise operators are offering more cheap weekend cruises (between two and four nights long) than ever before in an effort to attract first-time cruisers and those who can't afford the longer trips.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Line offers one- and two-night weekend cruises out of New York and Miami, as well as quick, one-way cruises between Seattle and Vancouver.
Repositioning Cruises.One-way sailings (or "repositioning cruises") take place when a ship is moving from one cruising region to another. The prices per night are low (starting at less than $50/person/night), but the trips tend to be longer (a week or more) and the ride is only one way, so you'll want to factor in the extra transportation charges. Repositioning cruises occur at the beginning or end of the warm-weather cruise season (mostly spring, late summer, and fall). Look for voyages from the Caribbean, Florida, and U.S. East Coast to Europe (or vice versa) with stops in the Canary Islands or Azores along the way. On the West Coast, you'll find repositioning cruises between Vancouver or Alaska and the southern California homeports, as well as Panama Canal voyages between California and Florida.
Thrifty travelers often choose cheap repositioning cruises as a way to board a luxury cruise line at a bargain price. For example, Celebrity sometimes offers a cheap spring cruise for around $65/person/night and MSC Cruises runs several repositioning cruises across the Atlantic at prices starting at about $60/person/night; kids under 11 tag along for free.
Cruises Location.Typically, the more exotic the destination, the pricier the cruise will be. A 14-day jaunt to the Fiji Islands and South Pacific on Princess Cruises' Dawn Princess starts at $235/person/night. There are exceptions, of course, and budget travelers seeking the un-ordinary might check out Voyages of Discovery, a two-ship line that mounts multi-week cruises to locales such as Oman and Myanmar; fares for more than a dozen cruises cost less than $125/person/night.
The truly frugal traveler, though, may want to focus on ports of call closer to home. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines offers a four-day western Caribbean cruise from Miami for $45/person/night and a four-day trip to Baja Mexico from Los Angeles for $60/person/night.
But cruise prices usually don't include airfare, so it's important to consider the location of the port from which the cruise departs and calculate the cost of getting there and back home; EasyCruise.com offers trips as low as $20/person/night, but they depart from Athens, Greece. Some other cheap cruise deals leave from hard-to-reach destinations, such as San Juan, PR and St. Lucia. To save money, choose a port you can drive to, such as New York; Baltimore's Cruise Maryland Terminal; Port Canaveral (about an hour from Orlando, FL); Los Angeles' World Cruise Center; Mobile, Alabama's Cruise Terminal; Seattle; or the Port of New Orleans.
Cruise Accommodations.Most cruises offer four basic cabin styles: inside (no window), outside (with window), balcony, and suite.
The choice of cruise accommodations isn't so simple, however. Some cruise lines divide those four room styles into as many as 20 price categories based on location, size, and amenities, so consider your personal priorities when choosing your cruise accommodation. If you don't plan to spend much time in your cabin, book the cheapest cruise accommodations deal you can find. But if you think of your stateroom as a retreat, you might want to pay for more square footage and amenities. Rooms on older ships can be as small as 100 square feet, particularly for inside cabins. Also note that cruise lines often include the veranda in the overall square footage. A balcony cabin on Celebrity Summit, for example, may look about average size at 208 square feet, but that covers 38 square feet of veranda.
When possible, look at an online map of the ship's deck plans before deciding which cruise accommodation you want. Consider what is below, above, and next to each cabin. (You may not want to be directly under the noisy pool deck or disco hall, for instance.) Passengers roosting in cabins on the lowest decks will hear the hum of the ship's propellers -- a plus or minus, depending on your taste for background noise. If you get seasick easily, you'll want to avoid the highest-level rooms, which sway the most. The experts at Cruise Critic suggest that the optimal cruise accommodations are cabins that have staterooms above and below, like a traditional hotel.
Cruises Inclusions.Are all meals included, or just breakfast? What's your alcohol allowance (if any)? Do you have to pay extra to attend shows, the spa, or participate in other activities? These are all important considerations for consumers seeking out the best cruise deals. Cheap cruise fares typically include most (if not all) meals and several onboard activities and kids programs, but be prepared to pay extra for alternative restaurants, some coffee and ice cream bars, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, shore excursions, spa treatments, and gratuities. The luxury lines include more in the package, but even these trips are never completely all-inclusive. For instance, drinks and gratuities may be included in fares but spa treatments and shore excursions won't be.
Don't Bother Cheap Cruises
MSC Opera Cruises
Several of MSC's ships, including the Poesia, Magnifica, Melody and Fantasia, do one-way repositioning cruises at rock-bottom prices. But hidden fees are travelers' biggest complaint (tea, coffee, and bottled water cost extra at some meals), along with grumbles about sub-par food and limited hours at the pool and restaurants. Passenger capacity: between 1,500 and 3,000 (depending on ship). Read more »
Celebrity Cruises Review
Holland America Cruises Review
Voyages of Discovery Cruises Review
MSC Opera Cruises Review
Carnival Cruises Review
Norwegian Sky Cruises Review
Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas Cruise Review
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