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Cruising

Travel Clubs Can Save You Up to 40%

March 02, 1997|LARRY FOX and BARBARA RADIN FOX | WASHINGTON POST

Looking for a discount on that next cruise? Check into some of the packages offered by travel clubs, which often have cruises discounted as much as 40% off the brochure rates.

The clubs offer packages through periodic mailings and newsletters. A membership fee is usually required to receive the newsletters. But before booking any cruise through the clubs or even through a travel agent, take these steps:

* Get brochures from the cruise lines and familiarize yourself with the brochure rate, the cabin layouts and classifications. Many of the best deals the clubs offer are for smaller or inside cabins.

* Ask whether the package includes air fare to and from the ports of embarkation and debarkation. Savings you may get on the cruise could be offset by your air fare, particularly on last-minute cruises.

* Ask whether there are more fees, taxes or port charges to pay.

* Get these details in writing.

Here is a sampling of some of the larger travel clubs:

* Moment's Notice, a New York company with 50,000 members, has been booking discount travel packages around the world for 18 years and offers trips with discounts of 10% to 50%. Arthur Berman, director of Moment's Notice, says members get a package detailing discounts on cruises, package vacations and airline travel for an annual membership fee of $25; telephone (212) 873-0908 or (718) 234-6295.

* Encore, a travel club based in Lanham, Md., charges $49.95 to be part of a million-member club that offers savings of 25% to 60% on cruises. The packages are detailed in the quarterly newsletter, Preferred Traveler. "The cruise lines work with us closely because we have a very high volume of cruise bookings," says Judy Nielson, director of travel; tel. (800) 444-9800 or (301) 459-8020.

* Vacations to Go in Houston offers discounts and last-minute specials on cruises. "We focus on last-minute bookings," says Karen Northridge, manager of public relations. "We're able to offer large discounts on cruises because we specialize in cruises." Club members learn about the cruise offerings through periodic mailings--18 in 1996--that describe last-minute packages, she explained. Discounts on trips on all the major cruise lines range from 30% to 70% off the brochure rate, and sometimes include air from gateway cities. The membership fee is $5.95; tel. (800) 338-4962.

* TravLtips Cruise & Freighter Assn. has 27,000 members in North America who are interested in freighter travel and unusual cruises. The Flushing, N.Y.-based club publishes TravLtips Magazine, a bimonthly publication with articles on freighter travel and an updated listing of passenger-carrying freighter services. Current offerings include seven 66-day sailings on the Blue Star Line's three container ships from Savannah, Ga., to New Zealand and Australia, returning to Philadelphia. Cruise-only fares range from $4,050 per person, double occupancy, to $4,575 per person for a single traveler. The age limit is 79. The ships do not carry a doctor.

Another voyage is the 16-day cruise on the 75-passenger Aranui from Papeete, Tahiti, to the Tuamotu and Marquesas islands. The 23-day air/land/sea package includes chartered air service from Los Angeles, a seven-night hotel stay in Papeete, and the cruise. Rates start at $4,485 per person, double occupancy. This itinerary is offered all year, with some variations. Membership rates are $20 a year; tel. (800) 872-8584.

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