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Real Deals

The time to set sail is now

Peter Deilmann Cruises include one on the Seine, where the MS Cezanne serves as a floating hotel in Paris for two nights. Peter Deilmann Cruises include one on the Seine, where the MS Cezanne serves as a floating hotel in Paris for two nights.
Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / January 21, 2007

We are awash in the Wave Season. January, February, and March are when many people book cruises for the rest of the year. Cruise lines and travel agents compete for your attention by dangling the promise of discounts and perks. Some offers in the rising tide:

Expedia.com is having its 2007 Cruise Getaways Sale through February, starting at $189 (for a three-night Carnival Caribbean cruise ) and onboard spending money and free upgrades on some sailings. For example, you can get up to $100 onboard credit with Princess Cruises and, with Royal Caribbean, up to $200 off plus gifts such as robes and water bottles. Note those words "up to"; the biggest discounts come with the higher-priced cruises.

Travelocity.com is also having a sale, through Feb. 15, and sweetening the pot with 56 daily sweepstakes prizes of $2,500 and a grand prize of $125,000. You can get such goodies as $400 off and a vest with a Celebrity cruise tour of Alaska, free stateroom upgrades with Carnival, and up to $150 onboard credit plus an upgrade with Norwegian Cruise Line.

Orbitz.com is likewise having a Winter Getaway Sale with similar offers, most of which will be available at least through mid-February. If you book a cruise totaling $2,000 or more with an American Express Card, you get double Membership Reward points, good for assorted merchandise, and a free portable DVD player.

There are cruise-specific websites as well, such as Rhode Island-based cruisebrothers.com . Those who prefer brick-and-mortar travel agencies may find similar deals, but wherever you book, remember that many offers are limited and the best ones go the fastest. Remember too that air fare and various fees may raise the total price.

An air-inclusive, four-day Norway Winter Wonderland getaway at $699 per person, single or double occupancy, is available from Norwegian Coastal Voyage . The itinerary along the fiord-filled coast is from Bergen , a charming Hanseatic port, to Trondheim , the country's first capital. Included are round-trip SAS flights from New York, local flights in Norway, leisure time in Bergen, two nights and breakfast daily aboard ship, port charges, airport transfers , and air taxes. Daily departures are scheduled through March 31. Call 800-666-2374 or visit norwegiancoastalvoyage.us . If you are 67 or over, ask about senior and AARP discounts on various NCV cruises.

If you can book by Jan. 31, you can save up to 20 percent on some Mississippi River cruises aboard vessels of the Majestic America Line , formerly the Delta Queen and America West steamboat companies . (Past guests on either line can save an additional 5 percent.) With the discount, and depending upon the cruise, fares start at $1,549. Call 800-434-1232 or see a travel agent. For details on discounts and various cruises, visit majesticamericaline.com.

Cyclists may appreciate VBT Bicycling Vacations' 12-day Holland Bike & Barge Amsterdam-Bruges trip that starts at $2,795 including air fare, transfers, 20 meals ( a glass of wine with all dinners aboard the barge), free use of a custom VBT bicycle and helmet, the service of two bilingual trip leaders, six days of cycling with full van support during the weeklong cruise portion of the trip, and sightseeing and cultural activities. At this writing, there was a Web special of $400 off per couple on the April 5 departure. Call 800-245-3868 or visit vbt.com .

Victoria Cruises has a Winter Specials sale with more than 40 percent off selected sailings on China's Yangtze River, a cruise I took years ago that remains marvelous in my memory. One example: A seven-night Chongqing-Yichang-Chongqing sailing starts at $800 per person in a standard cabin (including accommodations, meals, entertainment, onboard lectures, and port taxes) for departures through mid-March. Travelers will experience the Three Gorges and Three Gorges Dam project in addition to old cities steeped in culture and new cities built for the people relocated because of the project. Call 800-348-8084 or visit victoriacruises.com .

For those looking for some culture with their cruising and who don't mind starting at $5,900, Peter Deilmann Cruises is offering free air and free shore excursions on its classical music cruise aboard the MS Deutschland on a Mediterranean sailing to Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France April 21-May 5. The 13-night cruise will feature performances of orchestral works and by vocalists and instrumental soloists. The free air is from 17 cities, including Boston, and the free shore excursions are worth up to $600. Free air is also being offered on 19 other Deilmann sailings. Call 800-348-8287 or visit deilmann- cruises.com and click on Theme Cruises.

Grand Circle Travel is offering savings of up to $600 per couple on its Great Rivers of Europe cruise. The 14-night voyage, which has been the Boston-based company's most popular vacation for six years, could thus cost $1,995-$3,995 per person including air fare from Boston, transfers, two weeks aboard a private Grand Circle river ship in an outside cabin, 11 sightseeing tours, cultural events, and other amenities. The price s of July-September departures have been cut by $400 per couple and the October-November sailings by $600. The tours are in Amsterdam, Cologne, Koblenz, Mainz, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, and Melk Abbey.

Call 800-248-3737 or visit gct.com. A small-ship catalog or DVD is free.

Vegas valentines
If you're taking your beloved to Las Vegas for Valentine's Day or thereabouts, here are a few possibilities: The Madame Tussaud s Romance Package includes admission into the museum, a 15-minute outdoor gondola ride at the Venetian , and a $20 meal voucher per person at Zeffirino Ristorante or Tintoretto Bakery . Tickets are $53 each. Or you could ride a gondola on Lake Las Vegas with a Champagne and Cruise Package starting at $135 a couple. You can even pop the question in a semi private area of the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas . The Eiffel Tower Marriage Proposal Package starts at $350 and can be enhanced with long-stemmed roses, champagne, and a photographer for a total cost of $700. For other options and details, visit vegas.com and click on Attractions near the bottom of the page.

When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Check boston.com Monday- Friday for a Web-only New England Real Deal. Contact Richard P. Carpenter at carpenter@globe.com .

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