Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Discounts and Dilemas in European Cruising

To borrow an overused phrase from Dickens, it was the best of times and it was the worst of times...for would-be European cruisers.

On the upside, Mediterranean and even Baltic cruise prices are bottoming out, price-wise. Some examples, culled from such sites as and
  • June 26 sailing of Holland America's Ryndam: A full week for just $599 for a roundtrip from Rotterdam with port stops in Sweden, Norway and Denmark
  • May 28 or June 11 sailings of the Norwegian Jade: Round-trip from Venice for a week's tour of the Greek islands for $449
  • July 15th sailing of the Seabourn Sojourn: Down 76% from its list price of $12,425 to $2999 for this deluxe Baltic sailing (Stockholm, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Talinn, Visby, Copenhagen)
  • May 28 or June 4 on Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas: Roundtrip from Barcelona to Koper, Ravenna, Bari and Dubrovnik just $399
I picked weeklong itineraries as those are the cheapest, but there are similarly discounted rates for longer sailings as well, and on every brand. 

So for those looking to snag a savings on ocean cruising this summer in Europe, the pickings are ripe.

Look in fall and winter, however, and the landscape shifts.

Simply put, more and more cruise line are pulling unprofitable boats from the Med. Just in the past week, Norwegian Cruise Lines has announced it will be canceling the Jade's Mediterranean and Holy Land cruises for a stint in dry dock and then a move to Canary Islands itineraries. Royal Caribbean has said it will be repositioning the Navigator of the Seas to the Caribbean. Who knows which ship will be yanked next?

So why the drop in popularity for cruises that were last fall and summer's hottest ticket? Most are citing the unrest in North Africa, a situation that's making Americans leery of not only Mediterranean cruises but also those heading to the Baltic (which may be a sign of how geographically challenged many American cruisers are!).

I'd add that the high fuel surcharges being added to TransAtlantic flights (and thus upping the overall cost of getting to Europe significantly) are also a big factor this year. So before you book a discounted cruise, make sure the airfare cost doesn't wipe out your savings.
Danube River View (photo by J Showa)

River Cruise Woes
A lack of bookings doesn't seem to be affecting river cruises of Europe, but a lack of water certainly will. In another mark of how climate change is reshaping our world, the Rhine River is well, drying up (or at least getting much shallower). The water levels have already affected barge shipping on the river, meaning that necessary supplies of gas, grain and other goods aren't getting to their ports, according to Bloomberg News.  

While river cruise operators haven't yet altered their itineraries, most must be now considering contingency plans. In the past when there have been water level problems (both too high and too low), some itineraries have been transformed from boat to motorcoach tours; others have involved moving passengers from one boat to the next. 

The take away? The Volga and Danube are darn nice rivers, too (and may be wetter this summer!)


  1. wow this was a very interesting read! I often embark on Mediterranean Cruises with my husband and I'm happy our favorite ship wasn't chosen to be removed from the itinerary! Thanks for the info and happy holidays!

    1. the main problem is the price of each ticket, very expensive for me!