Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) reports that its member lines are now offering value and substantial savings - as much as 50 percent off - on fall and winter cruises throughout Europe. The offerings include more ships, year-round deployments, new ports and itineraries from the British Isles to Turkey and all the wine regions, major capital cities and the islands and harbors of the Mediterranean.
CLIA says the choice and variety of cruise experiences offered year-round by CLIA member lines are significant sales opportunities. Cruise guests in Europe this fall and winter will share two common experiences, CLIA says: the opportunity to see Europe from an appealingly unhurried perspective, and value: passengers on winter voyages in the Mediterranean and Europe can save as much as 50 percent over comparable summer itineraries in the same region.
As an added enticement, CLIA reports several cruise lines are offering free travel for children, reduced fares for teens, complimentary shore excursions or other shipboard amenities.
New Ships, New Itineraries and Year-round Sailings: Many CLIA member lines are investing in expanded operations, capacity, and new ships in Europe through longer cruise seasons – in some cases a year-round presence, CLIA notes. Examples cited by CLIA include:
• The Celebrity Reflection, Celebrity Cruises’ newest Solstice-class ship debuted in the Mediterranean this October. The 3,000-passenger vessel is offering 14-day sailings from Barcelona or Venice throughout the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, Greek Isles, Malta and Turkey. Celebrity also is offering seven immersive wine cruises from Southampton through November 18 to top wine producing regions in France, Spain and Portugal aboard the Celebrity Constellation.
• Hurtigruten has offered the “Coastal Voyage of Norway” year-round for the past 120 years. Available in varying cruise lengths, the voyage stretches as far as Kirkenes, high above the Arctic Circle, on an itinerary that visits 34 different ports. Winter sailings are particularly fascinating given the season’s special light, including the aurora borealis, or “northern lights.” This year, Hurtigruten is offering 30 percent savings on select 12-day voyages between November and March 2013.
• Two of the biggest European-based cruise lines – MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises – offer trips through the Mediterranean year-round. MSC Divina, the company’s newest ship, will sail this winter throughout the Mediterranean, Iberia and North Africa. The 3,478-passenger Divina features the exclusive, “ship-within-a-ship” MSC Yacht Club, an Aurea Spa with spa suite accommodations, an adults-only lounge with an infinity pool and many other amenities.
• One of CLIA’s most venerable globe-trotting cruise lines, Holland America Line, will offer a series of fall voyages aboard the Rotterdam to European destinations including Spain and Portugal, the Norwegian fjords, and an 18-night “Canary Islands Holiday” departing December 22 from Rotterdam and featuring Casablanca, Cadiz, Lisbon and the Canaries.
• In 2013, Princess Cruises will have seven ships in Europe sailing on 60 itineraries to 135 destinations into December. The company’s newest ship, Royal Princess, which will debut in June 2013, will feature a Grand Mediterranean itinerary. The Ruby Princess will offer new seven-day Mediterranean sailings and a 12-day Greek Isles itinerary.
Kids: MSC Cruises offers free passage for children 11-and-under and reduced fares for teens 17-and-under. Costa Cruises is offering free cruises for kids 17-and-under on voyages through November 24.
• Royal Caribbean has eight ships in Europe this year, offering seven-night eastern and western Mediterranean and Greek Isles cruises for the whole family with the DreamWorks Experience featuring favorite DreamWorks characters. Royal Caribbean also offers 12-night Italy, Greek Isles and Holy Land voyages, and Mediterranean and Canary Island itineraries from Southampton. For those looking for special savings, Royal Caribbean is offering a six-night Greek Isles & Turkey cruise departing November 11 from Italy starting at less than $800 per person, double occupancy.
Luxury Segment: The luxury segment of cruising is particularly well-represented in Europe during late season cruising, CLIA says. For example:
• Windstar Cruises, the only CLIA member to offer luxury sailing ship voyages, features six- to eight day sailings featuring many of the Mediterranean’s most popular ports of call from Barcelona and Lisbon to Italy.
• SeaDream Yacht Club offers late fall cruises on its two exclusive 112-passenger vessels, including seven-day trips between Nice and Rome or Nice and Barcelona and 12-day sailings between Athens and Barcelona. With almost as many crew as guests, SeaDream’s fare includes all meals, wine with lunch and dinner, open bar, gratuities and more.
• Cunard Line offers a series of nine-, 10- and 12-day voyages on the Queen Elizabeth through November, including a Greek Isles and Turkish Splendours voyage, a Holy Land Explorer itinerary and a ten-day Mediterranean Moments cruise beginning in Rome on November 29 and sailing to Southampton. Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth will be joined by Queen Victoria for another series of Mediterranean voyages between July and December.
• Oceania Cruises sails the Mediterranean in style through November 10, offering seven- to 12-day trips from embarkation ports in Spain, Portugal and Turkey.
• Silversea Cruises has a presence in Europe for ten months of the year beginning in late February and continuing into mid-November. The itineraries include seven- to 12-day sailings from Spain and Portugal to Turkey, Greece, the Canary Islands and Israel as well as ports in the Mediterranean.
• Seabourn also cruises the Mediterranean this autumn, with a variety of sailings on the Seabourn Pride from Lisbon to the Middle East as well as seven- to ten-day voyages from Athens, Barcelona, Venice, Monte Carlo, Rome and other Mediterranean ports.
• Regent Seven Seas Cruises, another popular luxury cruise line, is offering two-for-one fares with additional bonuses for suite accommodations on its 10-night Classical Mediterranean cruise this fall. In addition, the line offers Business Class air upgrades and complimentary shore excursions such as a wine tasting in the hills of Lucca, Italy, or a bicycle adventure in the Konavle Valley in Croatia.
The Rhine, Danube and Holiday Markets: Sailing the great rivers of Europe also offers unique autumn and winter pleasures, especially with a new generation of luxury “specialty” ships featuring panoramic windows, new dining choices, extensive shore excursions and the ability to tie up in the very center of many cities, CLIA notes.
CLIA’s three European river cruise operators – AMA Waterways, Avalon Waterways and Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection – offer choice and value with sailings ranging in length from a week or less to two weeks or more on all of Europe’s rivers, including the Rhine, the Danube, Moselle, Seine, and even the Douro in Portugal, famous for its “port lodges.” Also on tap are perennially popular winter holiday cruises in Germany and Austria.