Looking for a cruise bargain? One way to find a good deal is to watch for special rates that cruise lines offer when they are unable to fill all their cabins, starting about two months before the voyage. A ship that sails with empty cabins is leaving money on the shore.
The best deals go to vacationers who are flexible about ships, dates and itineraries. Seldom will you find bargains during the holidays and other peak vacation seasons.
If you want specific ships, dates, cabins, or popular itineraries, your best bet is book early, not late, to take advantage of early-booking discounts, which can be substantial. Now is a good time to look at next fall and winter. If you are thinking about Alaska, try to make a decision by this summer for summer of 2009.
Finding a great last-minute deal is possible if you are flexible and will have no difficulty getting to the port where the cruise begins, which is why Florida residents fill most of the last-minute bookings out of Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
The Internet and a local travel agent who specializes in cruises are the best resources for deals. Travel agencies regularly receive faxes from cruise lines trying to fill ships. If there is more space available than expected, the cruise line will reduce the fare to sell out the ship.
Repositioning to Europe
One of the best deals -- if you like long days at sea -- is on ships being repositioned between ports that serve winter cruises in the Caribbean and summer journeys in Europe.
For example, when I was researching availability on the Balmoral, left, Fred. Olsen Cruise Line's newly refurbished ship operating out of Miami, I found some deals on the ship's 17-night repositioning cruise scheduled for April 14 from Miami to Rome.
In mid-March, discounted rates on the Trans-Atlantic cruise started at $1,145 per person for an inside cabin for two people, $1,405 for an ocean view cabin, $1,670 for a cabin with balcony, $1,780 for a suite.
For information on the ship, ask your travel agent, call Borton Overseas at 1-800-843- 0602 or go to FredOlsenCruises.
Click for my review on the Balmoral, seen above docked on Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos. The ship on the right is the Seven Seas Navigator.
For a free subscription to Travel Maven, type your email address in the box at upper right or add an RSS feed.
Molyneaux is editor of TravelMavens.net. CLICK for articles on cruising, Florida, Europe, adventure and travel gear and gadgets.