Huge Discounts On Upmarket Cruises Are Now Available

Posted on: 15 May 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Spectacular discounts are making luxury ships more affordable. We reveal some of the best bargains.

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The luxury cruise market is understandably jittery at the moment. Never before have so many upmarket ships competed for the pounds and dollars of a market so reluctant to spend.

One cruise line, Hebridean International, has already folded and others are offering spectacular discounts to stimulate the market.

Crystal Cruises is providing free flights and $2,000 (£1,300) per couple on-board spending money on some European voyages this summer - a sum that should cover a few fine wines, treatments in the luxury spa and a handful of shore excursions.

Silversea is trying to entice travellers with flights from £29 (a strange psychology, given that Silversea's guests will happily spend £5,000 per couple for a week's cruise) and $1,000 per person on-board spending credit.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises is offering free shore excursions on most cruises this year and several next year, as well as free flights to join its voyages in Asia later this season.

Yachts of Seabourn, meanwhile, is offering big discounts on published fares. The line's ships are sailing full, but with price cuts of 55 to 60% on some cruises.

Factor in the all-inclusive nature of Silversea, Regent and Seabourn, which includes drinks and gratuities in the price, and a week at sea begins to look extremely attractive compared with a week in a luxury hotel.

Some cruise operators say that they are thriving in the current climate. Oceania Cruises, which offers four-star rather than five-star ships, says it has sold 85% of its cabins for this year.

There are early signs that next year could be better for everybody. Cunard Line recently started selling the inaugural season of its new ship, Queen Elizabeth, launching in October next year.

The maiden voyage sold out in 29 minutes and 14 seconds. A week later, the 2010 programme for Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria went on sale and accommodation in the Princess and Queens Grills, offering the top cabins on the ships, was snapped up quicker than at any time in the line's history.

It seems that although guests will take pot luck on a late booking for a short haul destination, those who want a specific cruise or a favourite stateroom are booking early.

There is a feeling that passengers who chose not to cruise this year will make up for it next year and cruise lines are snapping up these customers with early booking incentives.

Oceania is cutting $2,000 per person from brochure fares for next year, an offer that like all the others, may disappear should the market pick up. SeaDream Yacht Club meanwhile is offering up to 40% off next year's fares for guests who book and pay now.

Two ultra-luxury cruise lines, Yachts of Seabourn and Silversea, are launching ships this year, the first new vessels in six years for the top end of this market.

Both lines already offer fine dining and adventurous itineraries on small, intimate vessels. Now, they are building slightly bigger ships with the emphasis on larger cabins and suites and even more lavish spas.

The 450-passenger Seabourn Odyssey will be launched next month. Ninety per cent of cabins have balconies and those of some of the biggest suites are big enough for cocktail parties. There will be dancing under the stars, a spa with outdoor treatment areas and laptops for guests to use.

A seven-night Aegean Odyssey cruise leaving Istanbul on 18th July costs £2,199 excluding flights, £1,261 off the brochure price.

Silversea will unveil the 540-passenger Silver Spirit in December. Almost all the cabins will have teak balconies and new features will include butler service in all suites, a Japanese restaurant and a supper club, with cocktails, dinner and dancing.

A seven-night cruise from Rome on 29th May next year costs from £2,937 excluding flights – 40% off the published fare.

Are you sailing the seas this year? Will you postpone your cruise holiday until 2010?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other 50connect readers in the forums.

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