It’s Christmas Eve and you still haven’t found that perfect gift? You don’t want to face the last-minute shoppers at the local mall - and it’s too late to get an online purchase delivered. But you can buy a future cruise online right now, print out and place the confirmation documents in a gift card and wrap it as a gift for tomorrow morning.
Not sure what kind of cruise your loved one may want? Pick a cruise line and place a deposit and the two of you can decide together. Let’s look at some of the best cruise bargains available right now for all budgets.
Norwegian Cruise Lines
NCL has a special promotion through Jan. 31: Cruise a week on Norwegian Epic and get your airfare as low as $99 (plus tax).
I like the way this promotion addresses some of the more mundane cruise challenges like “how much will it cost to fly to the ship?” and “how do we get to the ship from the airport?” These are the questions that can detract from the fun of the gift.
Right now, if you book a balcony stateroom on Norwegian Epic, you can get roundtrip airfare for very low prices, varying slightly depending on where you live. Per person price samples: $99 from New York, $149 from Chicago, $199 from Phoenix or San Francisco. Tax is extra.
This special also includes free transfers to the ship from the airport (worth at least $20 per person). This special is for “close in” cruises – those sailing between now through this coming March 2011. You have to book your cruise by Jan. 31 (but you can sail later). Just note that when you search for a cruise you have to look at prices for a balcony cabin or higher. When you add taxes to the $99 airfare it comes to $146 per person roundtrip – still a great deal.
About Norwegian Epic
This is the newest ship from NCL, and it is better suited to younger cruisers. Its best feature is the stellar entertainment, including the performance art show Blue Man Group. Additionally, there is a troupe of comedians from Chicago’s famous The Second City. Howl at the Moon is a dueling pianos show and Legends at Sea is an excellent tribute show with lookalike artists doing Britney Spears, Michael Jackson and Rod Stewart.
This ship is recommended for younger people who like fine dining (some restaurants at additional cost), casual dress codes and an active nightlife. But Epic is also very good for families with kids. Two recommendations: Make all of your showtime reservations online as early as possible before your cruise sails, and look for a balcony cabin where the bed is closer to the veranda than the entryway.
Also of note is the excellent price of balcony staterooms on this ship when it repositions to Barcelona for the summer. The June 5th sailing has balcony cabins as low as $799 per person. The 7-day itinerary includes Livorno, Italy, for Florence and Pisa, Civitavecchia for Rome, Naples – where you can visit the ruins of Pompeii and Palma de Mallorca - which you may find is the most interesting port of them all – especially if you get downtown to the shopping district; chock full of artist galleries and, of course, Mallorca pearls.
Holland America View and Verandah Sale
The other big sale on right now is Holland America’s View and Verandah sale. http://www.hollandamerica.com/find-cruise-vacation/SpecialOffers.action
Put down your deposit between now and Feb. 28, 2011, for a cruise that sails in 2011 or even 2012. Deposits are reduced, and there are special low prices for third and fourth guests sailing in the same staterooms.
Some of the prices on tap: an incredible offer on Mexican Riviera cruises on the Oosterdam for just $399 interior and $599 for a verandah stateroom. Caribbean cruises on the beautiful, new Eurodam start at $499 interior and just $799 for a verandah stateroom – eastern Caribbean, $749 for Western Caribbean.
For 15 days of relaxing bliss try the repositioning cruise from Florida to Spain on the brand new Nieuw Amsterdam. A verandah stateroom is just $1,299, under $87 a day. Sail from Fort Lauderdale to the Portuguese island of Madeira, on to Cadiz as the port for Seville, Spain, stop in Gibraltar, Cartagena, Valencia, and disembark in beautiful Barcelona.
This is Holland America’s newest and most beautiful ship. The line’s new culinary program, which features different nights devoted to various chefs of renown, is getting rave reviews.
Cunard Royal Wedding at Sea
Finally, if your loved one is obsessed with British royalty then the upcoming wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton is the event of century. Next to a personal invitation to the nuptial itself, there could be no finer and certainly no more traditionally British way to experience this wedding than to see it broadcast live aboard a Cunard ship.
is a company with an enviable heritage and unparalleled links to the royal family. Each of the three Cunard vessels in service were christened by members of the royal family: the Queen Mary 2 and the new Queen Elizabeth by her majesty Queen Elizabeth, and the Queen Victoria was named by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
I recommend the Queen Mary 2, which will be sailing a 7-day transatlantic crossing from New York to Southampton that week. The ship is opulent and full of grand British tradition, and you will end up in London where you can then take in all of the sites that played a role in the royal matrimony.
As always – if you need to know more about cruising we urge you to consult our Cruising101 FAQ. http://www.foxbusiness.com/story/personal-finance/lifestyle-money/travel-lifestyle/cruising--dont-know-missing/
I started writing about stock market investing for Motley Fool in 1995, but previously I worked aboard cruise ships. I co-founded CruiseMates.com, the first cruise travel guide on the Internet in New York City in 1999. CruiseMates, one the Web’s top cruise travel guides was acquired by Internet Brands (NASD: INET) in 2006. Once CEO, I am now the editor of CruiseMates – Paul Motter.
Paul Motter is the editor of CruiseMates.com, an online cruise guide. Follow him on Twitter @cruisemates.