This week’s value deal is from Travelzoo.  The headline reads, “$949 — 10-night Caribbean Cruise on Luxe Ship w/$100 Credit.”  The fine print indicates that the deal is good for select sailings in February, March and April on the Celebrity Equinox in an interior stateroom.   There is no doubt this is a discounted fare.  A quick search of 10-night Caribbean cruises on Cayole did not yield a better deal.

When purchasing a cruise, you must always consider additional costs in determining the total trip costs.   This particular cruise leaves from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and airfare is not included.  Roundtrip airfare will cost approximately $300. Additionally, gratuities are generally pre-paid (and thus, not truly optional). Although most food is included, there are “premium” restaurants which require a cover charge.  Alcohol, soft drinks and specialty coffees are generally extra.   Cruise excursions are extra.  Laundry is extra.  Bingo is extra… you get the idea.

Some less obvious extra costs include airport transfers (how will you get to the ship from the airport?), airport parking, taxes, port fees, and trip insurance.  I’m not a huge fan of travel insurance, normally, but last time Tom and I cruised, he developed an eye infection on our first night.  The trip to the ship’s infirmary was $95, and the prescription eye drops were $35.   Had something more serious happened to him, we would have had to look for a doctor in Mexico.   None of these costs were covered by our health insurance.

Despite all this, cruises are still an amazing deal.   I would anticipate this particular cruise to price out for approximately $1500 per person.  For a 10-night trip, that’s not too bad.  For me, it’s still a little out of reach, primarily because I cannot spend 10 nights away from my business.   Not to mention the fact that Tom gets bored with me when we take longer vacations.  A seven night cruise is just about as long as he can tolerate.

The one problem I have with this listing is the description of Celebrity as a luxe vehicle.  I tend to think of cruises in three categories:  superluxe, refined, and fun.  Superluxe cruise lines include Seabourne or Crystal.  These cruise lines tend to be more Martha’s Vineyard than Wisconsin Dells.  Their prices tend to be more inclusive and they cater to people who have to worry about the alternative minimum tax.   Lately, there have been some really good deals, as the double dip recession has hit the AMT set’s portfolios.  A 10-night Carribean cruise on one of these lines will normally cost closer to $3,000 per person.

The refined lines include Cunard and Azamara, featuring longer voyages.  Cunard is the leader in trans-atlantic voyages, for example.

The rest of the pack includes Celebrity, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess, Royal Carribean, Holland America, and Carnival.   There are rabid cruise-line fans out there (if you have any doubt of this, just read the boards at Cruise Critic), but all of these lines offer basically the same offerings for about the same price.

I’ve cruised on both Princess and Carnival, and while Princess sometimes costs more than Carnival, I cannot say that Princess offers a better product.  I am looking forward to trying the other lines in the future.  Similarly, I love Celebrity’s branding.  I have no doubt that I would really enjoy a Celebrity cruise.  This particular cruise is very well priced.  But I cannot say it is a luxe vacation, unless luxe means that I’m going to have a room steward, turn-down service with a mint on the pillow and a towel animal, and you get that kind of luxe treatment on any cruise.

Happy sailings!

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