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Is the Europe cruise market soft?

Last summer, Europe was one of the most popular cruise destinations. Not surprisingly, cruise fares reflected that demand with per-night prices consistently higher than those in the Caribbean. To capitalize on traveler interest in Europe, many cruise lines chose to launch new ships out of European ports and send extra ships overseas.

For 2008, Europe is still quite popular, in part because cruise fares are payable in dollars allowing cruisers to avoid high-priced euro rates. But are the cruise lines satiating Americans’ desire to travel abroad or does the 23 percent capacity increase mean there are too many ships sailing Europe?

One sign is the abundance of Europe deals during Wave Season. Luxury-line [% 13516 | | Crystal %] has already discounted peak summer sailings by 10 percent. According to an article in Travel Weekly (registration required), Crystal executives claim the market is soft and all the lines are feeling the pressure.

However, industry newsletter Cruise Week (subscription only) says results are mixed. Celebrity, MSC Cruises, Princess, and Royal Caribbean are selling well in Europe, while Norwegian and newcomer Azamara are struggling more.

For would-be cruisers, the advice is clear. Increased competition in the Europe cruise market means lower prices and extra perks as cruise lines scramble to fill cabins. If you can afford the skyrocketing airfare to the Continent, now may be one of the best years to cruise around Europe. Just don’t settle for anything less than a great deal.

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