Travel

With airfares going sky high, taking a cruise might be a more affordable travel option

If you’re looking for a travel bargain these days, you might want to skip checking on airfares.

Here’s the short story: They’re going up.

If you’re headed to Seattle, there are a few dates with good prices. Fly between May 26 and June 26 for between $99 and $139 one-way on either Delta or Alaska.

The return flights are really expensive, between $325 and $426 one-way.

While prices are going through the roof on air tickets, cruise berths are selling at all-time lows. Prices are so low, in fact, that you can take a one-week cruise north from Vancouver for about the same price as a weeklong, one-way Seattle-Anchorage air ticket.

Princess has northbound sailings later this month starting at $399 per person, double. On May 25, cruise north on the Grand Princess, stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway before docking in Skagway. The Royal Princess follows the same itinerary on May 28.

Taxes and port charges are extra: about $261 per person. Also, the cost of a shuttle from Seattle to Vancouver is $35-$45 per person.

Royal Caribbean cruises offers a sailing on the Radiance of the Seas on June 17 for as little as $348 per person, double. Port charges and fees are less: $215.19 per person. Ports include Juneau, Icy Strait Point (Hoonah), Sitka and Skagway. The ship docks in Seward.

Of course, your weeklong cruise vacation takes longer than a three-hour plane ride. But if you’re looking for a relaxing way to travel that includes your meals and accommodations, lots of the big ships are deeply discounted this summer. Never mind that the scenery along the Inside Passage is positively stunning.

Stewart Chiron is known as “the cruise guy” in Florida. He’s been in the cruise marketing business for more than 32 years. I caught up with him on his 249th cruise, aboard the brand new “Celebrity Beyond” ship. “This is the ship’s third sailing,” said Chiron. “We’re sailing through the Greek Islands right now, on our way to Athens, Mykonos and Naples.”

There are several reasons cruises are priced so low right now. According to Chiron, the prime selling season for cruises was disrupted by COVID-19, as well as the CDC’s guidelines, which steered people away from cruises.

“If you’re vaccinated, you have a passport and some money, now is the time to go on a cruise,” he said.

Because much of the traditional cruise sales season was hobbled by COVID-19 and the CDC, many of the ships are sailing with fewer passengers.

“The ship I’m on now (Celebrity Beyond) has a capacity of about 3,000 passengers,” said Chiron. “I’d say there are about 1,500 on board today.”

[Alaska’s first large cruise ship of the season was half full as it docked in Juneau]

These last-minute cruises to Alaska from Vancouver are deeply discounted. But Chiron encourages cruise travelers to look at other destinations, including the Mediterranean, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The Regal Princess has several sailings between Barcelona and Rome, with stops in Genoa, Naples and Marseille. On July 23, berths start at $499 per person, double occupancy. There’s an additional $120 in port charges and taxes, per person.

Holland America Line has a July 9 sailing of the Oosterdam in Trieste, Italy near Venice. Ports include Dubrovnik, Kotor, Montenegro, Nafplion, Greece and Split, Croatia. The ship returns to Trieste on the morning of July 16.

Inside cabins on the Oosterdam start at $499 per person, double. Port fees and taxes are an extra $145 per person. But it’s just an extra $100 per person for an ocean view room. Get a room with a veranda — balcony — for $829 per person, double.

Make your way to Houston and board the Grandeur of the Seas, which sails the Western Caribbean on June 1. Ports include Costa Maya (Mahahual) and Cozumel on this five-night cruise. Inside cabins are available for as little as $168 per person, double. Upgrade to ocean view for an extra $30 per person.

Sail from Fort Lauderdale aboard the Celebrity Equinox on June 26. This Western Caribbean cruise goes to Key West, Cozumel and George Town in the Cayman Islands. Prices for inside cabins start at $349 per person, double. Oceanview cabins start at $449 per person.

“This is an extraordinary moment in time,” said Chiron. “The fact that anything is available for less than $1,000 is very unusual. Normally these ships are close to full — and any space left sells for a premium price.”

Chiron is a big proponent of travel insurance. He recommends making sure that any accident, medical or medevac insurance is the “primary” insurance to minimize out-of-pocket expenses. He bought his trip insurance this week using the comparative insurance website Squaremouth.

Are you ready to go on a cruise? You’re certainly getting more for your money when compared to the one-way Seattle-Anchorage air tickets.

But many travelers still are not ready to cruise, because of ongoing concerns regarding COVID. Also, those who are not vaccinated cannot cruise. Those are two reasons there’s extra room on the ships.

So while airfares are going up, up and away, cruise lines beckon with deals and discounts.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

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