Luxury lines deeply discount sailings

(Travel Weekly) Hedging their bets against a recurrence of the kinds of economic and geopolitical disruptions that forced widespread, last-minute discounting in recent years, several luxury cruise lines are rolling out aggressive early-booking deals on 2012 sailings.
For most, it’s a new strategy to build a more solid foundation of advance bookings, coupled with the hope that they won’t have to discount again later. The deals include incentives such as 50% or higher discounts off published fares, free airfare, thousands in bonus savings per stateroom and hefty onboard spending credits.
The deadlines vary by line; most require reservations by Oct. 31, Nov. 30 or Dec. 31.
In some cases, the deals fall within a hair’s- breadth of matching higher-category cabins on a premium or mass-market brand.
For example, an 11-night Azamara Club Cruises voyage on the Journey, sailing from Rouen, France, to Amsterdam on May 6, was priced last week at $2,799 per person for an interior stateroom.
On the same day, a 12-night Holland America Line cruise, sailing roundtrip from Amsterdam aboard the Eurodam on May 21, offered a fare of $2,399 per person. That was for a balcony stateroom and one additional cruise night, but Azamara is also including air credits and other amenities.
“This is one of the first times I can remember the luxury lines having sales this quarter, leading into the next year,” said Ross Spalding, president of Princeton, N.J.-based Crown Cruise Vacations and its luxury unit, Crown Cruise Collection.
“It’s tight out there,” Spalding said. “People are being very careful with their money, and if the deal isn’t good enough, they’ll look elsewhere; maybe they’ll book a suite on a mass-market line, or they won’t book as high of a suite on a luxury line.”