An ocean crossing on Seabourn offers great value. // © 2013 Cunard Line
To some, a transoceanic cruise may conjure up a romantic image of women in sweeping skirts dining under glittering chandeliers. While some details might have changed, the romance is still there, and these days ships sail between the continents on increasingly varied and exotic itineraries with a variety of price points.
Today’s ocean crossings range from seven days to several weeks. Most cruise lines feature repositioning sailings in early spring and late fall, but Cunard Line offers transatlantic service year-round, connecting several homeports. The line’s Queen Mary 2 sails regular crossings of seven to eight days, with some exceptions. It features a 19-day holiday sailing this year that leaves New York on Dec. 22 and includes a week spent in the Caribbean that can be booked separately as its own cruise, starting at $3,349. Ports of call include St. Thomas, Antigua, St. Kitts, St. Maarten and Tortola.
In 2014, luxury and contemporary lines alike are offering trans-oceanic cruises that are vacations in themselves. Those who enjoy days at sea and the diverse range of onboard entertainment — spas, enrichment activities, casinos, shows and dining — find that cruises with a large number of sea days offer an impressive value. Holland America Line (HAL), for instance, has a 14-day cruise on the Noordam that departs on March 21 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with eight days at sea and calls in Cartagena, Colombia; Ponta Delgada, Portugal; and Cadiz and Malaga, Spain, before docking in Barcelona. Pricing starts at $699.
Likewise, Seabourn’s Quest sails from Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona on March 22, calling only once, in Funchal, Portugal. For two weeks of onboard pampering, the luxury line’s Oceanview Suites are priced from $3,499 and the Owner’s Suite from $8,399. By comparison, a 12-day Mediterranean cruise on Sojourn in May starts at $5,999 for Oceanview Suites and $13,699 for Owner’s Suites.
In addition to enticing value, the extra time onboard allows guests to thoroughly enjoy the ship’s offerings. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance of the Seas, for instance, has so many features that it takes two weeks to sample all of them, and the 14-day April 30 cruise from Tampa, Fla., to Harwich, England, gives guests the chance to indulge and repeat experiences if they prefer. Calls include Boston; Cork, Ireland; Cherbourg, France; and Zeebrugge, Belgium, at a cost from $1,059.
Crossings visiting a wide range of destinations tend to be priced higher, but special offers sweeten the value quotient. Oceania’s Marina sails 16 days from New York to London on May 22 with calls that include Bar Harbor, Maine; Halifax, Sydney, Quebec City, Corner Book and Newfoundland, in Canada; Cork and Dublin, Ireland; and Falmouth, England. A special promotion is available until Dec. 31, offering cruise fares from $5,299 plus free air travel.
It’s not only Atlantic crossings that offer tempting price points. Celebrity Century’s 23-night cruise, sailing from San Francisco to Sydney on Sept. 16, calls in Maui; Papeete and Bora Bora, Tahiti; Fiji; and New Caledonia, and is priced from $2,629. Crystal Cruises, renowned for its competitive onboard product, is offering Crystal Symphony’s 14-day Tokyo to Los Angeles cruise from $3,720. The ship departs May 1 with an overnight in Oahu.
Most crossings feature an additional itinerary that guests can book for an extended vacation. On Sept. 9, Silversea Cruises offers a 17-day cruise onboard Silver Whisper from Southampton, England, to Montreal, priced from $8,550. The crossing spends only three days at sea and stops at unusual ports in Iceland; Greenland; Newfoundland; Cork and Dublin, Ireland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Fowey, England; and more. Guests can then add on a 10-day cruise to Boston. Likewise, Celebrity Cruises’ 13-night Tokyo to Vancouver cruise, priced from $799 on the Celebrity Millennium, departs May 10 and can be linked with a seven-day Alaska cruise.
Shifts in deployment create some unusual opportunities for transoceanic cruises. Carnival Cruise Lines has a rare sailing next year: 23 days from Long Beach, Calif., to Sydney onboard the Carnival Legend, which will be fresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation. Calls will include Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Papeete, Bora Bora and Morea, Tahiti; Fiji; and New Caledonia. The cruise departs Aug. 30 and starts at $1,729. Guests can choose from either a succeeding cruise in Australia or a preceding 13-day Panama Canal cruise from Tampa to Long Beach that includes visits to the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico.
One note of caution: Ocean crossings are selling out earlier as travelers realize their value, so if your clients want to take advantage of them, they may need to make decisions well in advance.