In this slumping economy, sailing off for exotic locales might seem outside most people's budgets. But that's just one myth that even many seasoned travelers believe about cruises. There has never been a better time for cruise deals and discounted travel packages. And you only have to unpack once.
So, we set sail on Holland America Line's Mediterranean Romance Cruise -- Venice to Barcelona -- to help bust the biggest myths about cruising, and to visit some of the world's most beautiful ports.
Not all of them. You can take your family on a cruise to the Caribbean, Mexico or even the Mediterranean for $42 per person per day, according to Rich Tucker of the award-winning travel Web site, CruiseDeals.com. And that includes all meals and shore transfers. "There has never been a better time to book a cruise than now," Tucker said. "The cruise lines are bending over backward to get your business and are offering some of the best prices we've seen in years. On average, cruises are being offered at 20 to 30 percent less than last year's prices."
To find amazing deals, sign up for CruiseDeals.com's free "Seamail" alerts. And consider its Travel Guard insurance policy. "If you need to cancel the trip for any reason, including losing your job, you'll get a 75 percent refund," Tucker said.
How do you know when you need travel insurance? Steve Dasseos, founder of The Trip Insurance Store, a boutique travel insurance company, said, "If you have the potential for a big financial loss by cancelling your cruise for any reason, you probably should get insurance."
But not everyone needs the same kind of travel insurance, which is why you should consult with a broker, Dasseos said. "If one is going to the Caribbean, that's one kind of insurance; if you're going to Mongolia, that's another kind of insurance," he said.
The kinds of travel policies that cruisers may want to mix and match are cancellation (you lose your job), interruption (you miss the flight to the port) and health (you get sick on the trip). And don't forget about travel agents when you're looking for a great cruise deal. Across the United States and Canada, 17,000 travel agencies belong to the Cruise Lines International Association, a group that represents 24 major cruise lines. Check out its Web site to find a local travel agent who specializes in cruises, and to find the hot deals that the association offers daily. Right now, through 2010, association agents are offering outstanding packages on their European cruises, including two-for-one pricing, free airfare from North America and "Kids Sail Free" plans.
Yes, newlyweds and retirees do take cruises, but so do jazz lovers, business people, singles, and groups of friends and families. Families traveling together are a growing trend on European cruises, notes Holland America Line spokesman John Primeau. "In the past few years, the Europe cruises have attracted more and more multigenerational cruising -- grandparents traveling with their baby boomer children and grandchildren," he said.