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REAL DEALS

Europe's ports of call beckon

Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / September 24, 2006

Seeing Europe by ship makes sense. At a time when the dollar will buy you just 3/4 of a euro, it's nice to know that most of your costs have been prepaid and you won't be shelling out euros galore for dining, since meals are included in the price of a cruise. Whether it's a relatively small river ship or a giant ocean liner, chances are the price will be reasonable and the ports will be inviting, even if you don't always spend as much time on land as you might like. Here is a sample of ways to see Europe by sea:

Princess Cruises' 12-day Grand Mediterranean sailing visits Venice; Athens; Kusadasi, Turkey; Istanbul; Mykonos, Greece; Naples/Capri; Rome; Florence/Pisa; Marseille, France; and Barcelona. In addition, there are two days at sea. The ship is the 3,080-passenger Emerald Princess, with the wide variety of dining and entertainment options that megaships offer. The Emerald Princess will take to sea in 2007 and its Grand Mediterranean cruises begin in May. Starting prices are listed at $2,290 but big ships often have lower-priced deals. Princess offers other European itineraries, as do most of the major cruise lines.

See a travel agent, visit www.princess.com, or call 800-PRINCESS.

Grand Circle Travel, which has its own fleet of river ships, starts its 2007 pricing for the 16-day Great Rivers of Europe cruise at $2,395. Unlike offers from most big ships, that price includes round-trip air fare from Boston and sightseeing tours in Amsterdam; Koblenz, Mainz, Wertheim, Wurzburg, Bamberg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, and Passau, all in Germany, and Melz Abbey in Austria. One highlight is a home-hosted visit. Ships hold 120-164 passengers.

Call 800-248-3737 or visit www.gct.com. A European River Cruise catalog is free.

Peter Deilmann Cruises is repeating its offer to Americans to sail its European ocean liner, the 286-cabin Deutschland, and get free air from Boston and 16 other cities, along with free shore excursions on 20 sailings in 2007. If you arrange your own flights, $750 per person will be deducted from cruise rates, which start at $3,140 for a six-night sailing in Spain's Canary Islands. There are several other destinations in Europe and South America.

Call 800-348-8287 or visit www.deilmann-cruises.com.

Vantage Deluxe World Travel has an offer for 2007 that combines a week's stay in Ireland with a weeklong trans-Atlantic cruise aboard the 3,056-passenger Queen Mary 2, with prices beginning at $2,799 per person, including air fare from Boston. Participants stay four nights in Killarney and three nights in Dublin, then take an included flight to London and cruise from Southampton, England, to New York. (On certain dates, the itinerary is reversed.) In Ireland, a Ring of Kerry tour and Dublin sightseeing excursion are included.

Call 800-322-6677 or visit www.vantagetravel.com/cni07.

Cruising America
The Delta Queen Steamboat Co. and the America West Steamboat Co. are combining into one presumably happy family, called the Majestic America Line. There are now six US-flagged ships that ply the nation's coastal and inland waterways and rivers, from the Mississippi to the Willamette, as well as Alaska's Inside Passage. Published prices begin at about $1,000 and go beyond $7,000 depending upon the cruise and cabin category. If you make decisions quickly, you can save 10 percent by booking by Saturday.

For America West trips, call 800-434-1232 or visit www.americaweststeamboat.com. For Delta Queen sailings, call 800-543-1949 or visit www.deltaqueen.com. Soon there will be a common website.

Hawaii for $649
You have to get there first, but prices for a weeklong cruise of the Hawaiian Islands aboard NCL's Pride of America and Pride of Aloha begin at $649. Prices for the new Pride of Hawaii start at $699. The US-flagged ships visit four islands in a round-trip sail from Honolulu.

See a travel agent, call 888-NCL-HAWAII (625-4292) , or visit www.ncl.com.

Check 'em out
Many cruise line websites have sections named Hot Deals, Specials, and the like. They are well worth checking, especially if you are flexible in your travel plans. For instance, by clicking onto Carnival's specials sections, I was able to find a four-day Bahamas cruise, offered on four Carnival ships for a starting price of $199. Such prices usually mean an inside cabin and limited availability, but lower starting prices also usually mean lower prices all around.

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. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at carpenter@globe.com.

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