Well, as mentioned here before, we currently don’t have a cruise booked yet for 2009. We have been planning on waiting until around the September time frame to see if prices were any better due to being inside 90 days for the cruise. That all sounded good and well, until this weekend when we decided to start researching now.
A couple of things have driven us to ‘consider’ booking a cruise now. One, the economy seems to have quit bottoming out and the cruise prices may have hit rock bottom already. Cruise occupancy rates seem to be inching back up. And two, but more importantly, I am planning on using frequent flier miles for any required air fare to and from the cruise. I have been periodically checking availability of free air fare just to make sure that is doable. Over the past month or so, the amount of available frequent flier tickets has been dwindling – especially if the cruise starts or ends overseas. So, this weekend we began researching and found some combinations of potential cruises and frequent flyer tickets already not available.
Thus, we figured we better do a full research effort and consider booking the cruise now based on those two items. So where are we thinking about cruising this year? Good question! We know we want to cruise in the last quarter of this year, which narrowed it down considerably. We also want a cruise duration of 10 days or more. We didn’t have any pre-conceived notions about where to cruise. We were happy to consider repeating a cruise if it fit in right – remember our favorite cruise days are days at sea! We also decided that we wanted a balcony cabin. We also wanted to cruise our favorite cruise line Celebrity.
Throwing all that data into the mix and considering the options, we were pretty quickly able to weed the list down to about half a dozen cruises:
- 15 Day Panama Canal Cruise
- 14 Day Transatlantic Cruise from Barcelona (very similar to what we did last year)
- 12 Day Eastern Caribbean Cruise
- 10 Day Mediterranean Cruise
- 14 Day Transatlantic Cruise from Rome
- 11 Day Western Caribbean Cruise
After some more detailed research, we have narrowed it down to two or three. They would be the Transatlantic from Rome, the Eastern Caribbean and the Panama Canal cruises. We have been wanting to do the Panama Canal cruise for some time, but it is quite expensive compared to the others. In the end, I think that will eliminate it. The Caribbean cruise is on the Mercury and there is always a limited number of cabins with balconies on the Mercury that can sleep 4, so we may run into issues there. Both of those cruises start and end in the States, so the free air fare is no problem. The Rome transatlantic is very intriguing. I have been to Rome half a dozen or so times and would love to show the kids around Old Rome. Free air tickets are already scarce though. We already have to fly in 3 or 4 days before the cruise to get free tickets. That actually works in our favor if we want to tour Rome beforehand, but is a good indicating that the limited free air tickets will disappear soon. The cruise itinerary is also quite different from last years TA with numerous different ports plus it has 8 straight sea days! Along the same lines, if we did the Eastern Caribbean cruise, since its out of Baltimore, we would likely tack on a few days beforehand and take the kid around Washington DC.
We also want to check on a Nordic Circle cruise in the Spring that had caught our eye before. This is probably the last year for a while that we will cruise during the school year as Sean will be entering High School and we aren’t as likely to pull him out of school for a cruise. Which means shorter cruises over holidays or cruising in the Summer. The kids are heavily voting for the ROME TA as their favorite which surprised us since they do want to see DC. I believe Suzanne is leaning towards the Panama Canal cruise as her favorite but also sees it quite expensive. Me, I am probably leaning towards the Rome TA as I haven’t been to Rome in over 5 years and would like to see the city again. Of course, more sea days is good too. However, food and lodging in Rome will add to the expense so we have more research to do.
Anyways, no cruise selected yet, but we have begun the process. Its still possible we won’t do anything currently and delay a bit or perhaps go for the Spring cruise. Stay tuned as we go through our decision process!