‘Tis the season of goodwill to all passengers and cruise lines have an array of seasonal gifts all wrapped up ready for the big day.
I’ve made my cruising Christmas list in the hope that one or other of my dream gifts will magically appear under the tree next Sunday.
The festive season is always a time for giving and this year is no exception thanks to the vast array of generous offers being provided from cruise lines of all shapes and sizes.
This is always one of the busiest times for the travel industry as tour operators and cruise companies deliver presents in the form of special deals to entice us to thank about sun and calm seas in the depths of the British winter.
For cruise companies, which always plan well ahead – unlike my totally dis-organised Christmas present purchasing – there’s even cruises for next winter to shout about as well as plans for summer 2013.
Virgin Holidays Cruises is undoubtedly your first port of call for all the best deals through the year, but more specifically during what the cruise business describes as its ‘wave’ peak booking season. For example, there’s £150 off on selected fly-cruises with Carnival Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Line Royal Caribbean International, including the exclusive Rockstar Service on many holidays.
My top tips
Additionally, I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight my selection of the top offers being made by a number of the well know cruise companies.
First, and in no particular order, I’m going to highlight the ultra-chic Celebrity Cruises, which will have two ships sailing from Southampton for the first time in 2012 in addition to a considerable fly-cruise programme in the Mediterranean and other parts of the world.
These ships are the ultimate in chill out zones, brilliant for relaxing and revitalising with special spa suites and an impressive range of classy restaurants and bars, complete with cutting edge technology such as menus provided by iPad in the quirky Qsine eatery. If you’re a style guru, then look no further.
Sailing under the new tagline of Modern Luxury, Celebrity is providing cheap European flights and free cabin upgrades on many 2012 sailings.
If you opt for a departure from the UK, there’s an early booking offer of free car parking or coach transfers to the port of Southampton for cruises on Celebrity Eclipse and the newly-refurbished Celebrity Constellation.
Sip on ship
Celebrity Constellation will be making its UK debut in September and October with a series of new wine-themed cruises.
The ‘Immersive Europe Wine Cruises’ coincide with the early autumn grape harvest season, allowing wine buffs to experience the flavours of the best vineyards of France, Spain and Portugal. The ship will make overnight stays in Le Havre for Paris and Normandy, Le Verdon for the Bordeaux wine region and Bilbao to sample the best Rioja wines. The ship will also dock in Porto, home of arguable the best Port wines in the world.
The on board offering will reflect each destination with wine tastings, Champagne brunches, food and wine pairing dinners and special events in the ship’s Cellar Masters bar featuring a wine by the glass Enomatic serving system – which means being able to taste a range of different wine without having to splash out on a bottle each time.
Celebrity’s big sister Royal Caribbean International has 20% off 2012 cruises booked by February 29 in addition to free car parking or coach transfers on departures on Independence of the Seas from Southampton and complimentary cabin upgrades.
The line will be taking to the TV, newspapers and radio with an advertising campaign encouraging people to ‘pack more’ into their holidays, highlighting all that’s included in a cruise such as food, entertainment and on board activities.
Mainstream cruise favourite Thomson Cruises is providing upgrades to all-inclusive service on board all Palma and Turkey sailings on Thomson Celebration, Thomson Dream and Thomson Spirit and for £99 on Thomson Destiny itineraries from Corfu for those making early bookings on summer 2012 fly-cruises.
With Thomson Spirit also sailing from the UK, free car parking is being offered at the port of Harwich as well as upgrades to ocean view cabins from £49.
While Thomson Cruises is an all-out family experience, the line is taking the opportunity to go child-free for the first time on selective sailings in the Red Sea, Canary Islands and Cyprus in January and March 2013 when schools are back in full swing.
For an Italian flavour, MSC Cruises is providing a Christmas bonus of either all-inclusive drinks packages, free connecting flights, £200 off or £250 on board spend as part of its early booking campaign.
This is of particular interest to me as I hope to be experiencing the MSC Yacht Club ‘ship with in a ship’ concept in 2012 and will be reporting back in a blog just after Easter.
Norwegian Cruise Line is urging us all to ‘cruise like Norwegians’ by knocking up to £400 off European sailings of six nights or more in 2012 if booked the end of February. This covers the line’s record four ships in Europe next summer with departures from Barcelona, Venice and Copenhagen including the mega vessel Norwegian Epic, which I struggled to get my two children off after a week in the Med in July as they loved it so much.
I hope you’re also looking forward to summer at sea and wish you a Happy Christmas and a prosperous 2012.
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