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Europe Cruises Get Cheap in 2009

If you have ever dreamed of a European cruise on an upscale ship, or yearned to pull into secluded harbors in Capri or Portofino and enjoy small-group tours to the Continent’s famous attractions, you may find that this is the year you can actually afford to go. In the past, “luxury cruise to Europe” and “affordable” have hardly been synonymous, but a rash of deals for 2009 summer sailings may put small-ship journeys to the Mediterranean and Baltic within reach for travelers who are hardly rich or famous.

Luxury lines are enticing Americans to cruise Europe this summer with early-booking discounts, free or reduced airfares, reduced deposits and extended cancelation periods. While upscale lines have certainly offered these kinds of deals in the past, today’s discounts are deeper or airfare promotions are more widely offered than ever before. Whether you’re considering a Mediterranean sailing, a Baltic adventure, or a river cruise in France, you’ll find deals that will take the edge off the typically pricey cruise fares.

Here are some of the top sales we’ve seen for luxury Europe cruises this summer:

Silversea Cruises:

For a limited time, Silversea is offering free round-trip economy airfare from East Coast cities, and discounted airfare from other North American cities, on select Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Europe cruises departing between May and September. Given that summer airfare to Europe can be quite expensive—often over $1,000 per person—this promotion offers the potential for huge savings for travelers who don’t want to give up a spot of luxury in this weakened economy. Book soon and you may also be able to take advantage of Silversea’s early-booking discounts, ranging from 10 to 50 percent off published fares. This offer expires on March 31.

Seabourn Cruise Line:

If you book one of Seabourn‘s seven-night Mediterranean cruises departing between April and October, you can receive an additional $1,000 off the early-booking prices. You can choose from any of 50 sailings on Seabourn Spirit, Seabourn Legend or even the new Seabourn Odyssey. As Seabourn cruises are typically pricey—yet a good all-inclusive value—this offer is a great way to make a luxury cruise more affordable. This offer expires on February 28.

French Country Waterways:

Luxury river and canal cruise line French Country Waterways is offering early-booking savings on select departures between April and October. You can save 10 to 20 percent off the published fares of six-night sailings along the rivers and canals of France, and the offer is combinable with seasonal discounts as well. Early-booking fares range from $5,836 to $7,376. This offer expires on December 31.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises:

Regent typically has the same offers every year, but they’re still worth mentioning. Book a Europe cruise on Seven Seas Voyager or Seven Seas Navigator, departing between May and October, and you’ll receive free airfare. Passengers in cabin categories C-H receive free economy airfare or an $800 credit; passengers in cabin categories MS-B receive free business-class airfare or a $2,500 credit. Plus, kids sail free on select Europe cruises in July and August. There is no expiration date, but this offer is capacity controlled and can sell out.

Crystal Cruises:

Crystal is currently being more frugal with Europe cruise deals than it was earlier this year, but there are still deals to be had. Current promotions include a $500 to $1,000 discount when you book airfare through Crystal’s Air/Sea program on select September to November Europe cruises; this offer is valid through December 31. Or, you can save $265 to $505 with new rates for the May 31 Athens-to-Rome voyage; this offer is subject to availability.

Oceania Cruises:

Oceania almost always has select sailings eligible for free economy airfare from various U.S. and Canadian gateways and/or two-for-one cruise fares. Currently, six Mediterranean cruises in April, May and June are being offered with these perks. While free airfare can save you from paying pricey one-way flights to and from different cities in Europe, be careful of two-for-one offers, as they’re based on the brochure rates that almost no one else pays. A better deal may be found elsewhere, so be sure to do your research before booking. This offer expires on December 31.

Windstar Cruises:

Families can save on summer cruises to Europe with Windstar‘s offer on Wind Surf’s seven-night sailings. Families (consisting of two adults and two children ages 2 to 18) who book one stateroom at full price can book a second cabin for half off. Fares start at $2,749 per person on departures from June 7 through August 30. The offer expires March 31.

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