Three years ago, with much fanfare, most of the major cruise lines announced that they would no longer permit travel agents or others to discount the price of their cruises.
This time, they said, they really meant it. No more Mr. Nice Guy. If anybody got caught discounting a cruise price, they'd lose their right to sell cruises in the future.
This fall, the discounting of cruise prices is more frequent and substantial than ever. I've never seen such bargains.
• Cruises for $67 a day, on an upscale ship: It isn't only the popularly priced cruise lines -- like Carnival Cruises, Norwegian Cruises, or Royal Caribbean -- that are offering rates like $339 for a five-night cruise out of Miami ($67 a day). The same figure is now being quoted for upscale ships of upscale cruiselines, like Celebrity Cruises. On its five-night sailings from Miami -- scheduled for Dec. 15, 2008, and Jan. 3, 2009 -- the Celebrity Century, a premium ship if there ever was one, is permitting cruise brokers to sell its inside cabins for $339 per person (the Dec. 15 sailing) and $359 (the Jan. 3 sailing). You can get those rates by calling America's Vacation Center at 888-420-1035.
• Cruises for $57 a day, on more basic ships: The new bargain Web site called Travel Themes and Dreams is offering those rates on no fewer than six Caribbean sailings in the autumn, on all the lowest-priced cruise lines (Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian): $399 per person in double-occupancy cabins. That's a price of approximately $57 a day, per person (lower than which you just can't go), and it's available for departures taking place (mainly from Florida) in September, November and December of this year.
• Free trans-Atlantic airfare: For two Mediterranean cruise departures from Barcelona, Spain on Nov. 30, 2008, and Jan. 25, 2009, on a fascinating itinerary to Rome; Athens; Ephesus, Turkey; Alexandria, Egypt; and Valletta, Malta, 12 nights in all, Norwegian cruise line will throw in free, round-trip trans-Atlantic airfare for bargain-hunting passengers. An outside, balcony cabin will go for $1,999 per person, including round-trip air to and from Barcelona from either Newark, N.J. Philadelphia, New York, Boston or Washington (for $200 more, they'll fly you from Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco or Los Angeles). As with all deals of this sort, it can be booked not with the cruise line but with a broker of discount cruises.
• Balcony cabins for $69 a day: The date is Dec. 8 of this year (long after the hurricane season has ended), the city of embarkation is Tampa, Fla., and the ship returns to Tampa 10 days later. The elegant vessel is Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas (a modern, 2,500-passenger vessel), going to San Juan, Puerto Rico; St. Maarten; Basseterre; Antigua; and Tortola -- a pretty good itinerary. And the price per person, from Cruise Marketplace, is astounding. In a current market of extraordinary cruise bargains, this one takes the cake.