Bargain-Basement Cruising

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Photo courtesy of Holland America Cruises

Holland America Cruises’ “Noordam’s” spring repositioning cruise doesn’t take in Gibraltar, but it does include the Azores, Portugal, France, England, Rotterdam and ends in Copenhagen.

With the economy slowing down and your wallet perhaps shrinking you might consider a vacation that promises great value and relaxation. Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed a positioning cruise on my favorite ship, the Discovery, belonging to Voyages of Discovery in England. I boarded the ship in the Caribbean and enjoyed stops in the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Azores, then to England.

A transatlantic cruise is ideal for the person who loves lazy days at sea with a few port calls mixed in. Positioning cruises are offered by some cruise lines in the spring when ships are repositioned from the Caribbean to points in Europe and England, and again in the fall in a reverse pattern. These cruises last anywhere from eight to 18 days depending on the number of ports called on and the itinerary. Most spring positioning cruises begin in Miami or Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and some will visit Caribbean ports before heading northeast for Europe/England. Many of these voyages will have special themes, such as big band, jazz or food and wine. Some might even offer a film festival at sea with a movie star to host the event. Sometimes network news anchors will be aboard to discuss news events of the past with videotape clips. Book authors are often included for lectures at various times. You can either take in these events or pass them up and just read a favorite book.

The prices for these repositioning cruises are some of the lowest in the business. You have the same crews as on a regular cruise and all the amenities you would expect. In years gone by, the cruise lines positioned ships without passengers while the crews did extra duty to clean and polish. But, it’s different today.

Examples of these voyages:

Oceania Cruises, which is an upscale line, departs Miami March 9 for a 14-night cruise to include the Azores, Casablanca, Malaga and ending in Barcelona. Fares are: $1,099 for an inside room, $1,299 for an ocean view room and $1,799 for a room with balcony. Oceania’s ships are medium in size and accommodate only 750 passengers. Meals are open seating with several dining venues to choose from. The ships are rated in the top five of all cruise lines by Condé Nast Travel Magazine this year.

Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines will position its ship, Navigator of the Seas, April 16 for a 14-night cruise beginning in Fort Lauderdale, with visits to the Canary Islands, Lisbon, Portugal, Cadiz and Malaga, Spain and ending in Barcelona. Rates begin at $699 for an inside cabin, $999 for ocean view, and $1,169 for a room with balcony.

Holland America Cruises will reposition its “Oosterdam,” “Eurodam” and “Noordam” next spring to Europe. One cruise lasts 18 days and departs Fort Lauderdale to visit the Azores, Portugal, France, England, Rotterdam, and ending in Copenhagen. One cruise departs April 25, with fares starting at $1,399 for an inside cabin, $1,599 for ocean view, and $1,899 for a room with balcony.

MSC Cruises, a fine Italian company with very modern ships and mostly Italian crew, serves up great cuisine and offers nice size cabins in a very modern setting. You’ll be traveling with Europeans, mostly Italians, along with Americans. This would be a very international experience with pasta every night if you want. Its beautiful “Orchestra” departs Fort Lauderdale May 2 and sails to New York for a two-day visit, then heads to the Azores, Lisbon, Dover and Copenhagen. This lasts 18 nights and priced from $999 for an inside cabin, $1,399 for an ocean view and $1,599 for a room with balcony. The “Lirica” departs April 23 from Fort Lauderdale for a 16-night cruise, visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Madera, Lisbon, Viga, La Harve and ending in Dover, England. Prices range from $1,099 for an inside cabin to $1,399 for ocean view.

Costa Cruises sends its “Fortuna” on a 17-day cruise March 15 from Fort Lauderdale, with stops in the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, San Martin, Guadalupe, Barbados, Madera, Barcelona and ending in Italy. Fares begin at $999 for an inside cabin, $1,299 for ocean view and $1,599 for a room with balcony.

NCL will reposition its “Norwegian Jewel” from Miami to Dover, England. It departs April 17 for an 11-night voyage with stops in the Azores, Viga, Spain and ending in Dover. Rates begin at $599 for an inside cabin, $799 for an ocean view room and $1,099 for a room with balcony. You’ll have six sea days on this one to simply relax.

All of the fares quoted are subject to change and do not include tax, fuel surcharges, gratuities, transfers or airfare. Never-the-less, you can see the great value. These will also give you the opportunity to visit Europe and England at the end of your cruise if you wish. And, don’t forget British Airways offers daily non-stop service from London to Phoenix on 747-400s. The flight usually takes 11 hours.

I plan to do one of these cruises next spring myself. I haven’t decided which one yet, but I’ll have to decide soon since these great value cruises sell out quickly.

The transatlantic weather can vary from cold to quite nice in the spring and the seas can be rather rough. Myself, I love the feel of the waves. I know then that I am at sea! You can obtain details from various Web sites, a travel professional, or the cruise lines directly. Bon Voyage!

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