Uncovering hot deals during National Cruise Week 2013

Looking for a great deal on an off-season vacation? The National Cruise Vacation Week has special cruise prices on right now. The promotional event began Oct. 20 and will run through the 27th. Cruise lines around the globe are hoping to entice potential travellers with unique cruise deals by offering special incentives to buyers simultaneously.

Like many traditions, National Cruise Week has changed over the years. The concept was started years ago by CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association) as "National Cruise Night." The original idea sparked dozens of cruise industry sponsored events in major cities nationwide. Party guests had the opportunity to book a discounted cruise vacation on the spot, with cruise lines offering special incentives for that night only.

Over the years the event has gone virtual, with hot web-based deals. And now potential cruisers can take advantage of a full week of lower-cost cruising deals. But the average consumer should be wary of specials that sound too good to be true. A truly savvy shopper would be able to find many of the offerings listed online any week of the year. It is still worth a look, however, to find the particularly compelling bargains this season. Below is a rundown of my favorite specials from many of the participating cruise lines during National Cruise Vacation Week.

1. Norwegian Cruise Line


(Cruising through Europe. (Norwegian Cruise Line))

Norwegian Cruise Line always has some kind of “special offer” on tap, but the National Cruise Week offer for up to $500 in spending credits on cruisetours caught my eye. Cruisetours are cruises combined with land vacations, usually in Alaska but also in Europe. For example, the 15-day Classic Italy package offers an eight night land tour through Venice, Florence & Rome along with a seven-day Mediterranean cruise to Livorno, Cannes, Majorca, Barcelona, finally returning to Rome. The seven-day European land tour is normally priced at $799 per person, with a seven day cruise starting at the same price. This makes the $500 spending credit (per couple, not per person) a nice bonus.

2. Holland America


(A luxury stateroom aboard Holland America. (Holland America))

Holland America is combining its new Explore4 special offer with shipboard credits of up to $200 per stateroom. The Explore4 option includes four different added value extras:

--A free Signature Beverage Package or beverage card for two people
--Free specialty restaurant dining one night for two people
--Free or reduced fares for a third or fourth guest in the same stateroom as two adult fares
--Reduced deposits of 50 percent off the normal rate.

The beverage package is valued at $100 per day (per couple) and includes wine, beer, spirits, cocktails, sodas and coffee that would normally be priced at up to $7.00 apiece. There is a daily limit, but I think guests will definitely get their money's worth with this deal. The included specialty dining offer includes dinner for two at the Pinnacle Grill –  regularly priced at $25 per person.

3. Cunard Line


(Cunard Line)

Cunard Line is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a variety of special deals on all cruises. If you book this week you can get complimentary balcony upgrades; up to $300 per stateroom onboard credit and a reduced refundable deposit. The European “Three for All” promotion offers up to $500 off the airfare to Europe (per stateroom) when you book flights through Cunard. You get up to $500 onboard credit per stateroom and receive free gratuities for two people.

4. Royal Caribbean


(Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean is breaking with the pack and ending its Cruise Week specials on the 25th rather than the 27th. But its also the one cruise line that does not seem to be offering any life-changing deals. Currently, Royal Caribbean is offering $100 shipboard credit on any seven night summer Caribbean cruise in 2014. The offer is only valid on selected sailings from June 1 through August 31, 2014.

For the full list of participating cruise lines and more vacation deals, check out the CLIA web site.