Kempf - Wave the cold good-bye on a cruise

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Bitter cold! That is the weather today! Low 30 degrees and dropping! January and February is the time of year when we all sit back exhausted after the holidays and wait for our Visa bill to arrive. The holidays take their toll on everybody, people are just plain tired.

With the cold weather often comes a wave of realization to most folks that they are stressed out and ready for an escape. Most cruise lines have officially termed the month of January and February "Wave" month. Why? Because it is the busiest month of the year for cruise sales, so with that in mind pricing is at an all time low, especially for last minute getaways.

Below is just a quick review of cruising, what it entails, and some helpful tips if hitting the high seas is on your future travel list.

1. Decide what type of ship you want

Each cruise line has its own distinct type of environment, service, and entertainment. Are you wanting a very active ship or a more reserved classy experience. Also you need to decide if you want an older classic ship or a new mega liner with all the bells and whistles. The older ships offer a more intimate experience, with a mega liner there are more people and service staff but also more options for dining and activities. Please note the newer the vessel, normally the higher the cost. What is more important to you, the quality of the ship or the price?

2. What type of cabin do you want?

As a general rule the size of the basic cabin does not vary -- normal size is between 190 square feet and 200 square feet. What generally causes the pricing to vary is if you are using and inside or outside cabin and the location on the ship. Most ships have minimum inside rates and minimum outside rates and of course balcony and suites. You can often get a discount for allowing the travel agency/cruise line to pick your cabin day of sailing, and often this gives you the opportunity to get a possible upgrade. However if you are very specific in your need to know your exact location and to pick out let's say a midship cabin, then location may be more important than pricing. Make sure you let your cruise consultant know your priorities, and they of course should ask.

3. Where do you want to go?

The various itineraries are almost endless. There are some really exciting new schedules out this year including new ports of call in Central America and other new islands. I can not stress how important it is to consider where you want to go, and to learn about your ports of call. Cruise pricing tends to be pretty consistent on most ships, so you will not have a big price swing based on itinerary, the main difference on your price will depend on the age of the ship and what your airfare will cost you to get there.

4. Consider the Big Easy

This year a variety of 3-day, 4-day, 5-day and 7-day cruises are available out of New Orleans. The exciting experience here is that you can drive in a easy 8 to 9 hours and enjoy New Orleans prior to your cruise, and save the cost of airfare. Also some new ships have entered this market.

Cruising offers many benefits, convenience, safety, no hassle, lots of food, sampling of many islands, great entertainment, ooh and did I mention lots of food. So wave good-bye to the cold weather and book a cruise today ... and always be sure and use a professional cruise consultant for the best service and prices.

Carolyn Kempf is president of Elite Travel Inc. in Cape Girardeau. ( 334-1234 or www.elitetravelinc.com)

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