If you’re thinking about a cruise vacation in 2014, especially a Caribbean cruise, you’ll find all sorts of bargains and special offers during the industry’s “Wave Season,” which takes place between January and March. That’s when the lines offer major sales, free upgrades, onboard credits and other goodies.
Some of the biggest bargains will be in the Caribbean – because capacity in that part of the world will be at an all-time high, thanks to the launch of new ships (including two megaships) that will sail the Caribbean, as well as the redeployment of ships from other parts of the world. The new ships will add more than 15,000 new berths to the thousands already available. Does this mean competition? Price wars? You bet.
Starting in February, Norwegian Cruise Line’s second Breakaway Class ship, the 4,028-passenger Norwegian Getaway, will sail seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruises every Saturday from Miami. Fares start at $649 per person; Norwegian is also offering $100 onboard credit plus a free balcony upgrade on any Getaway sailing.
In November, Royal Caribbean’s new 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas will sail Eastern and Southern Caribbean cruises year-round from New Jersey. Eight-night itineraries start at $1,059 per person. Royal Caribbean’s “WOW” promotion offers shipboard credit on select 2014 Caribbean cruises of six nights or longer, embarking between March and December. You get $75 per stateroom for an ocean-view stateroom, $150 for a balcony or $300 for a suite to spend however you like onboard. However, the promotion does not apply to the new Quantum of the Seas.
Princess Cruises’ 3,560-passenger Regal Princess debuts in the spring and homeports in the Eastern Caribbean in the fall. Seven-night sailings will start from $749 per person. The “3 for Free” sales event, “The Next Wave,” offers passengers up to $280 in benefits, including shore excursion spending money, a framed keepsake photo and a bottle of wine. The sale also offers passengers a reduced deposit of only $100 to secure the cruise. The sale runs through Feb. 28 and applies to seven-day Caribbean cruises for summer 2014.
MSC Cruises’ almost-new MSC Divina has moved from Europe and is now sailing year-round Caribbean Cruises out of Miami. The line is offering starting prices from $429 per person for seven-night cruises; kids 11 and younger sail free. As part of Wave Season, the Divina Dream Deal offers travelers a variety of Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries starting at $499 along with shipboard credits of up to $300 per stateroom on select sailings.
With MSC’s “2-For-1 Plus” promotion, you can sail for half price, plus take advantage of one of three additional booking incentives — a complimentary beverage package, prepaid gratuities or a $400 shipboard credit per stateroom. This deal is valid on many sailings, including the Divina’s Eastern and Western Caribbean seven-night sailings.
As almost all cruise lines participate in these promotions, you can check out their websites to see if there’s something you like. Carnival, for example, one of the most budget-friendly lines, has a “New Year, New Memories” promotion in which you can save up to $400 per stateroom on sailings of six days or longer, or up to $200 on short sailings. Free cabin upgrades are also available. For example, a seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Dream (from Port Canaveral) in a balcony cabin starts at $749. (This offer must be booked in January.)
If you’re new to cruises, a travel agent who specializes in cruise travel can give you a rundown on all current promotions and help you make a selection. (As travel agent commissions are paid by the cruise lines, this service will cost you nothing.)