08.07.2007 
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West Caribbean
Norwegian Pearl 5-night Western Caribbean RT Miami, from $399, balcony cabins from $599. Best available upgrade.
•  AMERICA'S VACATION CENTER: 1-800-753-1176
CruiseMates says: NCL's most exotic ship! Striking decor and lots of activities.
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Europe Steals
NCL Savings: Mexico, Europe or Hawaii with Air Packages from $449.
•  DESTINATION OCEANS: 1-800-374-3740
CruiseMates says: transatlantic cruise on brand new ship from $449 pp!
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Australia Bargain!
Lower Price ---Air Included -14-nt Royal Caribbean –Australia & New Zealand --$2399 IN! Bonus: Double Onboard Credits
•  CRUISES-N-MORE: 1-800-733-2048
CruiseMates says: great rates on an unusual itinerary
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Hawaii Bargain
7 Night Hawaii Cruise on Pride of America, Starting at $699; RT Honolulu to Hilo, Maui, Kona, Kauai
•  CRUISEDIRECT.COM 1-888-407-2784
CruiseMates says: best ship in Hawaii!
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from $240
Complimentary 5-star resort in Orlando, FL for 3 nts with 3-night Carnival cruise to the Bahamas!
•  National Cruise Tours 1-800-408-1143
CruiseMates says: Florida vacation package with 3-day cruise!
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Cruise Discounts
Save up to $150 per stateroom on select 4-5 day sailings and up to $250 per stateroom on select 7-8 day sailings between January – April 2008.
•  CRUISE CONNECTIONS 1-877-712-8747
CruiseMates says: Florida vacation package with 3-day cruise!
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Hawaii with Airfare
Air Included -7-nt to 11-NT NCL HAWAII –FALL Cruise & Air Packages ---$949 IN; $1199 Balcony
•  CRUISES-N-MORE: 1-800-733-2048
CruiseMates says: great price for Hawaii cruise with airfare included.
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Bermuda Steal
5-night Bermuda cruise from Boston from $479!
•  CRUISEVALUE: 1-800-231-7447
CruiseMates says: Great getaway cruise at a nice price.
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Hawaiian Bargain
10-Nt Hawaii bargains on NCL Pride of Aloha from just $599 pp. Up to $150 onboard credit included.
•  CRUISE LOCATORS: 1-800-955-7447
CruiseMates says: great savings with onboard credit included.
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11-day Hawaii Steal
11-Night Hawaii Cruise from Ensenada on Celebrity Mercury from $729
•  CRUISEMAGIC: 1-800-474-5678
CruiseMates says: a GREAT price for an 11-night premium cruise line!
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West Caribbean
NEW Carnival Freedom! 7-night just $469 pp! Miami to Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios
•  CRUISEDEALS: 1-800-668-6414
CruiseMates says: brand new Fun Ship; $619 oceanview, $819 balcony!
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South Caribbean
Carnival Miracle 8-night deep Caribbean from Florida. St Martin, St Kitts, St Lucia from $699 pp.
•  CRUISEPLANNERS: 1-800-561-0802
CruiseMates says: new ship and exotic itinerary!
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10-day Caribbean
Imagine yourself on a 10-night Holland America Caribbean cruise from only: $799 pp!
•  BUYCRUISES: 1-800-510-1786
CruiseMates says: new ship and exotic itinerary!
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Regent Seven Seas Cruises
7 night Tahiti, round-trip from Papeete. From $2,195, Feb. 9, 2008 sailing.
•  CRUISEMARKETPLACE: 1-800-826-4333
CruiseMates says: A top-rated luxury cruise line at a very special rate.
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Save Up To 61%
7-days Bermuda, Norwegian Crown, RT New York City from $619, save 61%! FREE upgrade to the best available cabin in category!
•  VACATIONSTOGO.COM: 1-800-338-4962
CruiseMates says: a top online cruise agency with consistent savings.
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Princess Bargains
Receive up to $150 shipboard credit & reduced deposit $100 per person for any Princess cruise.
•  Cruise & Tours Unlimited: 1-800-935-2727
CruiseMates says: special extras included with every cruise.
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14-night South America
14-night South America on Norwegian Dream to Chile and Argentina. Best available upgrade and ship credit.
•  AMERICA'S VACATION CENTER: 1-800-753-1176
CruiseMates says: steal this exotic 14-day South America cruise for $749 oceanview!!
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Labor Day Cruise
5-nights to the Caribbean departing Labor Day Monday for just $279 pp! New Orleans to Costa Maya and Cozumel
•  CRUISEDEALS: 1-800-668-6414
CruiseMates says: a steal of a deal for a weekend getaway!
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Princess Perks!
Package of perks on new Princess bookings! $100 deposit this week only, call icruise to book!
•  iCruise.com: 1-888-icruise
CruiseMates says: special bonuses when you book a Princess Cruise.
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Hawaii with Airfare
Air Included -7-nt to 11-NT NCL HAWAII –FALL Cruise & Air Packages ---$949 IN; $1199 Balcony
•  CRUISES-N-MORE: 1-800-733-2048
CruiseMates says: great price for Hawaii cruise with airfare included.
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Carnival Sale!
See all of this week's bargains here; Celebrity, Holland America, Royal Caribbean and Princess.
•  CRUISEVALUE: 1-800-231-7447
CruiseMates says: one of the biggest discount agencies on the web.
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Family Alaska
$449 for Holland America to Alaska with 3rd and 4th person for $99
•  CRUISEMAGIC: 1-800-474-5678
CruiseMates says: great price on a family cruise vacation!
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South America
12-night Oceania Cruises: Rio to Buenos Aires. 2 for 1 rates and AIRFARE included.
•  DESTINATION OCEANS: 1-800-374-3740
CruiseMates says: Great price plus $100 shipboard credit included.
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Europe Bargain
$1,049 - 12-Night Western Mediterranean cruise. Only $50 to upgd to oceanview.
•  CRUISE LOCATORS: 1-800-955-7447
CruiseMates says: best price on a 12-night Europe cruise yet!
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New Years Cruise
6 day Western Caribbean, Sail Dec 30, 2007. Royal Caribbean's Radiance of the Seas, from $1,019. Plus $100 credit with certain cabin categories.
•  VACATIONSTOGO.COM: 1-800-338-4962
CruiseMates says: a top online cruise agency with consistent savings.
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Bargain Specialist
Huge cruise discounts! All major Cruise lines. All Destinations.
•  CRUISEADVENTURE.COM 1-800-545-8118
CruiseMates says: Try the web site for new cruise bargains.
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You can access all of these specials above - or go to CruiseMates' Cruise Bargains for even more!
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Shore Excursions

By PAUL MOTTER

We just finished a cruise in Europe, and while we all know the price of traveling in Europe is exhorbitant with the current exchange rate, it didn't occur to me until we got there how much it was going to affect the price of shore tours.

With the "convenience" of cruise lines now offering us the ability to book shore excursions online well in advance of the cruise, they have created an unexpected drawback for those of us who like to get as much information as possible on the ship before we commit to any one tour.

Emerald Princess has a wonderful port lecturer who gave us plenty of wonderful ideas and great recommendations for what we should see and do in each port of call. His lectures were always presented with a few days notice and shown repeatedly on our in-cabin television sets. The problem is that many of the tours he recommended were already marked as sold out by the very first day we arrived on the ship and opened our tour information booklets.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most comprehensive, and hence expensive, tours were the first to sell out. Well, I have always said, if you are going to spend thousands of dollars to travel half-way around the world, it doesn't make any sense once you are there to suddenly get penny-smart and pound-foolish, missing an opportunity you may never get again just to save a few dollars.

I do wonder, however, if today's ships may be allowing people to over-extend themselves with pre-cruise tour bookings and that some people may be booking them impulsively.

I received a letter from a woman who was on the same cruise we were, who was upset with the quality of the tours being offered on the ship. Not only were they pricey in some cases (as much as $300 per person), but the weather was working against us with an unprecedented heat wave. We found ourselves climbing the Acropolis and walking the Plaka (the shopping district in old city Athens) with the temperature hovering near 110 degrees.

This woman contended that the cruise line should have offered people the option of cancelling their tours based on the heat. Well, they don't, that is if it is less than 24 hours before the tour leaves. But you can cancel for any reason at all as long as it is more than 24 hours before the tour leaves. That is enough time to do your research and figure out if you really want to go. You can watch CNN international in your cabin, and our ship even had a channel that runs international temperature reports every 10 minutes. If you think you might want to cancel, then be vigilant about following the ship's rules about cancellation.

The woman also mentioned that she had two younger people with her, one teen and one barely older. My guess is that they were not very cooperative with her when it came to going on these tours, and at the cost of several hundred dollars apiece there was some buyer's remorse which she wanted the cruise line to make up to her - blaming it on the weather.

Well, it happens this cruise line will authorize a last minute cancellation if you get a note from the ship's doctor saying you are unable to go due to health reasons. A visit to the infirmary is not that expensive, and if you have health problems you might save some money by going to the doctor and simply asking for a note.

In any case, with a family of four, some of them possibly being less-than appreciative teens (I am well acquinted with the teen mindset) one should think carefully before loading up on thousands of dollars worth of shore tours - especially in advance of the cruise. Keep in mind that no vacation destination gives you a weather guarantee. Sometimes it rains for a week in Hawaii, for example, and that's just too bad.

Frankly, I would prefer it if I didn't have to make any decisions at all before I got on the cruise ship - especially about shore tours. I like to see what I am buying before I commit. But pre-planning is part of the artistry of being a great vacation designer, and the reason why web travel information web sites are so popular.

It has never been easier to find out information about a destination in advance than it is now. Before the Internet how would you ever find a review about a particular motel in Alabama, get a restaurant recommendation in Katakolon, or find out how any single hurricane affected a particular beach in Cozumel? How easy is it to find out what the weather will be in any place in the world 48 hours in advance these days?

Her argument also reminded me of the woman who wanted the cruise line to compensate her because a hurricane caused the ship to change itineraries. She was mad because they didn't go to St Martin whent at the time the winds there were gusting at 130 mph. I had to ask her, if the ship had offered to take her there, would you still really want to go?

Well, this woman's complaint about shore excursions is similar, but in reverse. Since she paid all that money to take four people to Athens, does she really want to miss the Acropolis just because there is a heat wave? How much would it cost her to go back when the weather is more agreeable?

In any case, this dual-edged sword of Internet information means people are booking more cruise shore excursion tours in advance than ever before. When we arrived on the ship most of the more expensive and comprehensive ones were marked as sold out in our tour booklet - before we even arrived! However, we subsequently discovered that all of them were actually available, so I am guessing that many people are booking a lof of tours in advance, and also cancelling a lot of tours as soon as they get to the ship.

I urge people not to be so impetuous about shore tours. Think about alternatives before you rush in and book them online. If a lot of people are loading up on tours online with the idea of cancelling them the day they arrive on the ship, once they actually talk to the shore excursion department, then this means that a lot of tours are being marked as sold out when they really are not.

The exception, of course, is the tour you are sure you want - book it online as soon as possible.

If you were not on a cruise ship you would be taking taxis and paying your own way to museums. That is often fine. In Santorini we took the tram lift to Fira, got out and walked to the best museum on the island with authentic murals from Akotiri for a 5 Euro entrance fee. For a total of 20 Euro we got the same thing people on tours paid $100 apiece for.

If you have a family of four, a taxi to the Acropolis for $20 and a $10 entrance fee is certainly a better deal than paying $150 per person for a guided tour. You will likely find you actually have more time to do what you want to do rather than waiting for a group of people to make up their minds.