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Bargains in the sails
11:35am Tuesday 12th February 2013 in Reviews
Jeremy Gates finds out why big cruise lines are cutting prices for last-minute bookings
IF you have never cruised before, the first half of this year could be the time to give it a try. There are remarkably cheap deals available, particularly in April and May, as cruise lines and specialist agents battle to grab a bigger share of the fastest-growing sector of the travel industry.
Offers currently available mean that many canny passengers can book spring departures from about £60 per day. For example, 12 nights in the Western Mediterranean on P&O’s flagship Azura, leaving Southampton on April 4, is down to just £599 on the Iglucruise website.
The same online agent offers maiden voyages on Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas. Departing on May 24 for seven nights to France and Spain, from £599 per person.
Richard Downs, of Iglu cruise.com, says: “A reluctance to book worked its way through last year and into 2013, and lots of cruises have been left on the shelf for the first two quarters of this year.”
Trade journal Travel Trade Gazette found a 14-night Mediterranean cruise on P&O’s Ventura in May from £1,099, including a choice of additional on-board spending, free parking at departure port or free coach transfers.
Downs says a big problem is persuading customers to commit themselves when there is so much choice. “That is why cruise lines increasingly use celebrity appearances to boost sales,” he says. “When you know Alan Titchmarsh or Kenny Dalglish is appearing, you don’t want to miss out.”
At Cruise & Maritime Voyages, marketing services manager Miranda Coates says: “An Easter cruise to Spain and Portugal, departing Bristol on March 30, has a lead-in of £549 for eight nights, saving 40 per cent against initial prices.”
In April, it offers cruises to the Norwegian fjords sailing from Tilbury, Liverpool and Harwich, while overnight taster voyages are particularly cheap when sold on a two-for-one basis.
At Cruise Thomas Cook, best buys include two nights in a Barcelona hotel and five nights on board Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas for £685, calling at Nice, Rome, Florence and Barcelona. Flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dublin, all on April 23, are included.
At Bonvoyage.co.uk, a 17-night cruise on P&O’s Oriana from March 28 starts at £1,168, with outside cabins from £1,609. It includes car parking or coach transfers and £160 on-board spending money.
- Iglucruise: 020-8544-6620, iglucruise.com; Cruise Thomas Cook: 0800-916-6070 and cruisethomascook.com; Cruise & Maritime Voyages: 0844-414-6185 and cruiseand maritime.com; Bonvoyage.co.uk: 01252-813377 and bonvoyage.co.uk