December 19, 2006

Live large on QM2, except for the cabin

Live large on QM2, except for the cabin

The keys to affording a transatlantic voyage are knowing when and how to book and which direction to sail.
December 17, 2006

ONLY one cruise ship — Cunard Lines' giant QM2 — makes regular crossings of the Atlantic, and those voyages are a luxury product. There's no steerage class for the poorest of the poor, so there's no chance of dancing with Leonardo DiCaprio on a level near the engine room. Everything is elegant, and tuxedos are suggested for dinner on several evenings.

But a trip across the Atlantic is not out of reach for budget travelers. Cunard sets aside many cabins for passengers who don't need frills. The trick is knowing how to manipulate the cabin pricing system:

Except on infrequent occasions when cabins are assigned to discount cruise brokers, the lowest price for a one-way crossing is $1,299. That cost is per person, based on two people traveling together — the standard cruise method for pricing — so single travelers must find a companion or pay almost double.

The inside cabins, Category D, cost the least. Most of QM2's inside cabins don't have windows, but they have luxury appointments. And you can eat all you want and use nearly all the ship's amenities. (Remember that you must purchase one-way airfare across the Atlantic, since you'll be cruising the other way.)

The least expensive crossings are in April and late October, both months in which the air will be cooler but no less fresh. (On April trips, you have a chance of seeing the North Atlantic icebergs as they melt in the spring.)

The lowest tariffs go to the first people who book inside cabins. Once the quota of cheap prices has been reached, the bottom rate rises to $1,998. The key to that $700 savings is planning far ahead.

Inside cabins have sizable double beds but also twin beds that drop down from the ceiling for third and fourth passengers, who pay around $650 each.

So if you have the fortitude to squeeze four passengers into a space half the size of a standard hotel room, you can split the combined costs and it would be like receiving a 25% discount; everyone pays $975.

If you want a window, the cheapest way to go is to pay $130 more for an "Atrium View" cabin, which gives you a vista of the ship's bustling indoor mall.

The least you can pay for an ocean view is in Category C, which starts at $1,449 ($150 more than a windowless inside cabin). The windows in that category (panels, not portholes) won't open, but amazingly, just $50 more ($1,499) will take you to Category B, which has roofed, semi-enclosed outdoor balconies, close to the water line, with room enough for two chairs.

That means the lowest price for a balcony is only $200 more than the lowest price for a room with no window.

Remember that fares include meals and drinks except soda and alcohol, which you must buy. They also include entertainment and lectures, standard offerings on every run, so you won't be twiddling your thumbs in your cabin. Fares include room service, which you can take for every meal if you don't feel like heading to the dining room.

Westbound journeys are a better buy. The clocks go back an hour each night as you head across time zones, essentially giving you an extra hour to use to play in the evening. Also, cruising to the U.S. enables you to skirt the international airlines' strict new baggage-weight limits, and you can load your luggage with British souvenirs.

The all-new Yahoo! Mail goes wherever you go - free your email address from your Internet provider.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...