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“Wave Season” for Cruise Lines Ending, Deals Likely to Continue

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Cruise ship near landIf you’ve ever thought about taking a cruise, now is the time to book. We’re nearing the end of “wave season,” where travel deals abound between January and March.

On many lines, official wave season deals will end tomorrow, but with our economy in the dumper, deals are extending well into spring.

“Wave season officially ends in March, but we anticipate the influx of bargains to continue. We are seeing a lot of good deals on sailings into the second quarter,” says Melissa Baldwin Paloti, managing editor of CruiseCritic.com. “We’re seeing cruises for $50 and $75 a day, and even luxury liners are offering some of the best deals we’ve ever seen.”

Unlike low and shoulder seasons, when travel providers offer enticing deals for right now, wave season is when many cruisers book trips for the rest of the year, so the cruise lines throw in incentives. So traditionally, wave season has been more about scoring perks like cabin upgrades and onboard credit than truly rock-bottom prices.

Oceania cruisesBut these days, cruise lines are practically giving away cabins in the hopes of earning revenue on onboard spending and shore excursions. Best of all, you can lock in your rates now, so you’re covered even if prices go up later.

Shorter cruises are a popular option among spring breakers and weekend travelers. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sky recently returned to Miami after spending several years sailing as the Pride of Aloha on week-long Hawaiian itineraries. It’s now sailing three- and four-day Bahamas cruises through April 2011. A three-day cruise from Miami to Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL’s private resort) drops as low as $249 departing March 13 and $229 departing on April 3.

For West Coasters, Cruise411.com is listing Carnival’s three-night Baja, Mexico cruise starting at $149 for departures on April 2, April 23 and April 30. Guests can also get up to a four-category cabin upgrade if they book with Cruise411.

Travelers are also finding incredible deals on one-way spring cruises. Cruisebrothers.com has a 12-night transatlantic voyage on the Celebrity Summit, departing April 18 from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Barcelona, Spain starting at $499. That’s about $42 a night!

Royal Caribbean’s spring cruise from Colon, Panama to Ft. Lauderdale starts at $399 for eight nights. The Enchantment of the Seas departs April 19 and  stops in Costa Rica, Colombia and Aruba before docking in Ft. Lauderdale.

Two cruise shipsAccording to Paloti, one stand-out incentive from a luxury liner is Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ free shore excursion promotion: bookings made by March 31 include a selection of unlimited free shore excursions on 35 voyages in 2009. Drinks and gratuities are already included in RSSC cruise fares, so many of these trips are practically all-inclusive.

Meanwhile, Star Clippers is offering half-off for honeymooning brides on seven-night Tahiti cruises in 2009—and if you book your air through the cruise line, you also get a free nights hotel stay in Tahiti after the cruise.

Theme cruises are also a hot trend. You can sail to the Greek Islands with Karl Rove, explore Asia with Ted Koppel, or indulge in seven days of food and wine this May with Crystal Cruises.

A seven-day “Holistic Holiday at Sea” onboard the Costa Fortuna will sail to the Caribbean from Ft. Lauderdale on March 1. Hosted by a Taste of Health and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the cruise will feature workshops from leading health professionals, macrobiotic healers and natural food chefs, as well as yoga, Pilates and other natural healing sessions.

By Sarika Chawla for PeterGreenberg.com.

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