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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cruise Traveler Magazine's 7 Best Cruise Trends for 2009

Cruise Traveler Magazine's 7 Best Cruise Trends for 2009
What's in store at sea and on shore....

Also: Practical Advice On How To Save Money On Your Next Cruise

Our pick for the number one cruise trend for 2009 is "The Best Cruise Deals". As the economy tanked, cruise prices have plummeted, and now they're a great bargain. The cheapest deals we have seen in years.

But that's not all. With dozen's of new ships entering the market, the cruise lines have to fill those berths. And boy have they built them to attract even the most price conscience traveler. The new ships are bigger, better and offer more amenities, and now, rock bottom prices.

So, here we go.. the 7 Best Cruise Trends For 2009.

1. The Best Cruise Deals

A bad economy makes for some very good deals: Super cruise deals, lowest prices in years. But don't book them directly with the cruise line. You can get "bonus" savings from many travel agents. Not only a better price, but some agents throw in shipboard credits, pre-paid gratuities and other incentives to get you to book. Shipboard credits, where available from the cruise line, are house credits that are placed on your stateroom's account for you to use during your cruise vacation. You can use the credit towards merchandise, lounges and in some, but not all cases, for Spa Treatments or Shore Excursions.

Contact your credit card company. They may offer additional savings, shipboard credits or frequent flyer miles when you pay for your cruise in full with that credit card.

Sign up for e-mail deal alerts that let you know where the great deals are. Some services will e-mail you when cruise fares drop for the cruise you want.

Tip: After you've booked your cruise keep checking the prices. If the price drop, contact your travel agent, changes are they can you can save you more money.

Cruise lines are offering deeper discounts earlier, with great deals rates for spring and some offer kids to sail for free.

You can find deals priced at less than $45 per person per day including all your meals and most activities -- but watch out.. you will pay an "up charge" for specialty restaurants, bar drinks, spa treatments and shore excursions.

And best of all. No more fuel surcharges.

2. Bigger is Better?

Carnival Splendor, at 3006 guests is the Carnival Cruise line's newest behemoth. The new Celebrity Solstice, welcomes 2,850 guests, and Royal Caribbean's new Independence of the Seas, with 3,634 guests are some of 2009's biggest cruise ships.

Early Look: In December 2009, Royal Caribbean introduces the 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas. Yes, over 5000 guests! Onboard features include the huge Central Park, the Boardwalk, a shopping and dining promenade, featuring an antique carousel; and the Aqua Theater, a pool area and amphitheater at the ship's bow that will feature a high-diving spectacular and aqua-acrobatics.

3. Better Food and Dining Options.
But at what cost? Are the cruise lines nickel-and-dining you?

For 2009 you've got more dining choices. Specialty coffee cafe's, wine bars, gourmet pastries and upscale specialty French, Asian, Italian and Chop House restaurants -- all at additional cost. Up charges range from a low of $5.00 to as high as $30.00 or more. You can still dine in the main dining room for no extra charge, included choices from a healthy-calorie counting menu. Now there are even more.

Cruise lines continue to offer flexible dining options -- dining when and where you want, rather than being assigned a specific table at a 6:30 or 8:30pm dining hour. Norwegian Cruise Line, Holland America and Princess offer flexible evening dining options.

For 2009 Royal Caribbean introduces "My Time Dining" a similar concept.

With the basic price of your cruise at its lowest level in years, cruise lines will focus more on "per capita" spending onboard to make up any shortfall in cruise fare revenue. So, be sure to add up all the costs to get a true picture of what your cruise will cost.

4. Close to home cruising, best for your budget.

There will be fewer people cruising to exotic destinations like Australia, New Zealand, South America or Asia. Even Europe and the Mediterranean will see less passengers. The cost of airfare to get there is too expensive and can cost you more than the cruise these days. The cruise lines are scrambling to reposition their ships closer to home, so Bermuda, the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera are your best bets.

And if time is short and you can't take seven-day off, consider a cruise from 3 to 5 days. In 2009 you will find dozens of short cruise options at starting prices under $299 per person.

There are three, four- and five-night voyages that sail from Miami and offer both Eastern and Western Caribbean ports-of-call. On the West Coast, Royal Caribbean offers four- and five-night Mexican Riviera cruises. You can even take a five-night Bermuda cruise from New York. You can now sail from Baltimore on a year-round basis.

So, save the cost of airfare and drive to where the ship departs. The high cost of air travel is a compelling reason to target cruise ships that sail within a day’s drive or less of your home. Cruising close to home has never been easier.

From the East Coast, you can sail from; Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, New York City, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Port Canaveral, Tampa.

From the West Coast; Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle.

From the Gulf Coast; Galveston, Houston, Mobile, New Orleans.

All total, some 22 close-to-home departures in the United States and Canada. With so many ships in these close-in markets, in 2009 the competition for your cruise dollar will be fierce. And that means a great deal for you.

5. So what if you are well-off, and can afford it?

Despite the economy, luxury cruising is not dead. There are new luxury ships on the horizon. In June 2009 we welcome the Seabourn Odyssey, with one of the biggest spas on a luxury ship, larger staterooms, in-cabin dining and more. In November, Silversea Cruises introduces Silver Spirit. Silver Spirit will feature a supper club and an Asian-themed restaurant.

6. What's Old is New!

Older cruise ships are no longer sent to the scrap yard. They are reborn. After weeks in dry dock, they emerge with new balconies, larger kids' facilities and luxury spas. Some get children's water parks, 300-foot waterslides and adults-only pools. Others get brand new shopping arcades and upgraded in-cabin bedding, furniture, carpeting and bathroom amenities.

Many ships have redesigned lounges, public rooms and the addition of pizzerias, coffee and wine bars and ice-cream parlors.

7. Last-Minute Deals Are Dirt Cheap!

Be patient. It pays.Are you holding out for the last minute so you can snag that great deal? You're not alone. More people are flexible as to when then can travel and want to take advantage of close-to-home cruising (saving the high cost of airfare)

Hint; Wait until 30-45 days or so before the cruise you want for the best deals. Cruise lines are cutting prices for that unsold inventory to all time lows. The cruise industry, reeling from the economic crisis and a sharp drop-off in passengers, is offering some incredible last minute cruise deals. We've even seen a 3 days cruise for $99!

Practical Advice On How To Save Money On Your Next Cruise
Plan ahead and save big. Get the best value for your money.
By Editors of Cruise Traveler Magazine

1 Reserve Your Cruise Now
At least 3 - 6 months prior to sailing. You get the best choice of locations and stateroom availability and the sooner you book, the better the discount.
2 If You Can, Pay For It In Advance
Save as much as 15%. Some cruise lines give an extra discount if you pay in full at least six months in advance of your sailing date.
3 Reserve Your Cruise At The Last Minute
Depending upon when you want to go, last minute bookings can save you money! Especially if you are not particular about what cabin and where on the ship you are staying.
4 Cruise In The Off Season
Cruises are more expensive in high season, so if you can go some other time you will save even more. Alaska cruises are cheaper in May and September. Europe and Mediterranean cruises in September and October. Caribbean cruises in September, October and January.
5 Do A Transatlantic, Transpacific Or Repositioning Cruise
Want to sail from Europe or the Mediterranean to the Caribbean, or from Alaska to Hawaii, or Mexico? You will cruise for about half the cost of the same number of days of a single destination cruise. You'll get more lazy days at sea and fewer port stops.
6 Cruise On The Ship's Very First Journey
If you take an inaugural cruise on a new ship, you may save money, but don't expect everything to be ship shape.
7 Go With A Group
Groups that travel together save more. Go with or put together your own group from your church, club, work, school or plan a once in a lifetime a family reunion. And if you can get 15 or more people to go, you could go for free!
8 Don't Care About The View... Why Not An Inside Stateroom?
If you think of a stateroom as only a place for sleeping and dressing, and a view isn't necessary, you can save money with an inside stateroom.
9 If Four's Not A Crowd, Put The Family In One Stateroom
Third or fourth guests go at a substantial discount, and kids sometimes go free. If you take 4 adults, everyone shares in the savings. However, it can be very crowded. And just one bathroom!
10 Reserve Without A Stateroom Assignment
Even if the stateroom category that you want is sold out, you can reserve your place on the ship. The cruise line guarantees to provide you a stateroom in the category you want or one higher at the time they assign you a stateroom. However, you don't have a choice where it will be. You may save money and get a free upgrade if at the time they assign you a stateroom there are no more, in the category you reserved.
11 Join The Club
Cruise lines give a special discounts or free upgrades to past passengers. Carnival give you a break even you have sailed on Holland America, Windstar, Princess, Costa, or Cunard, as they own them all.
12 Ask And You Shall Receive
Keep a close eye on weekly newspaper ads and newsletters for promotional specials. You may qualify for a two-for-one offer, kids free, or 50 percent off promotion. And, if you already have put a deposit down or paid for your cruise, do hesitate to ask for the lower fare if it applies to the stateroom type and category you reserved.
13 On A Honeymoon? Or Celebrating A Special Occasion?
Celebrating a honeymoon, anniversary or a family reunion on the cruise. On some ships you may qualify for an extradiscount.
14 Look For Added Value
Some sailings offer free hotel nights before or after your cruise, sightseeing tours, or the cruise line will offer shipboard credits you can use in the shops.
15 Free Upgrades
Some lines offer an upgrade in cabin category if you are a repeat passenger, on a honeymoon, celebrating an anniversary, or your friends or family reserved more staterooms.
16 If You Like It So Much, Stay Onboard Another Week.
If you arrange to stay on the ship for a second cruise, you could sail the second week at a discounted rate.
17 Age Has It's Advantages
Over 55? Some cruise lines have discounts for you. And, if a senior is traveling with other people in the stateroom that are under 55, the discount may apply to both fares.
18 Airfare Prices Vary
Sometimes the airfare offered by the cruise line is cheaper; sometimes not. Plan as far ahead as possible to get the lowest priced airline tickets. Comparison shop the ship's offer and what the airlines are offering.
19 Consider A Pre Or Post Cruise Hotel Package
Hotel stays can be arranged at the same time you book your cruise. As with airfares, compare the ship's price with what the hotel would charge you direct.
20 Every Cruise Line And Cruise Ship Is Different
The most important thing you can do is research all the ships and cruises that go to your chosen destination. Compare itineraries, accommodations, shipboard activities, shore tours and fares. By comparing, you will find a cruise that offers what you want at a price that fits your budget.. Be sure when you compare fares that you know whether taxes and port charges are included or not.

More Things To Consider...

Become Internet Savvy

Check online for the latest discounts and special offerings on ships and sailings. Visit the cruise line's own web sites and several travel agents online to get the best service and price. But remember, don't reserve a cruise just because of price.

Choose The Cruise That Best Fits Your Needs, not your wallet
So many people have bought the cheapest thing around, only to be disappointed once onboard. As you know by then it's too late to change your mind.

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