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ON A BUDGET

War Jitters Cut Prices on Many European Cruises

May 30, 1999|ARTHUR FROMMER

It's an open secret among travel professionals that events in Yugoslavia have decimated bookings this year for Mediterranean cruising. One cruise line after another has transmitted frantic, almost hysteric, bargain offers to selected travel agents and cruise brokers.

These discounters are, accordingly, able to place you in the next several weeks on European cruises on some of the most luxurious cruise ships afloat for about $100 per person per day plus air fare. In two astonishing instances, the price is only $75 a day.

And yet these cruises are all occurring far from any conflict--in one instance, 2,000 miles away.

The tendency by many travelers to harbor such extreme concerns is to me a puzzle.

I contacted one of the major cruise discounters, Cruises of Distinction, telephone (800) 434-6622, and asked about such current discount offers. They responded with five examples:

* On the Grand Princess--newest, biggest, fastest and one of the most expensive ships at sea--for its 12-day July sailing from Barcelona, Spain, to several ports in Italy and then to Greece: $94 per person per day (plus air fare) for an inside cabin.

The same rate is available on a similar itinerary in June sailing from Venice.

* On Holland America's newest ship, the Rotterdam: a 12-day cruise in mid-June from Copenhagen, Denmark, to London--1,500 to 2,000 miles from the conflict in Yugoslavia--for $75 per person per day, inside cabin, plus air fare.

* On Holland America's Maasdam, again in mid-June, a London-to-Scandinavia itinerary (visiting Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and other ports, including St. Petersburg, Russia) for $118 per person per day (plus air fare), in an outside cabin, no less.

* Around the same time, a 13-night sailing on the Century, of Celebrity Cruises, from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Genoa, Italy, for $101 per person per day, inside cabin, plus air fare.

* For seniors only--passengers 55 and older--a 14-day transatlantic crossing by the Splendor of the Seas in September, starting in England, then going to Norway, Iceland, Newfoundland, Bar Harbor, Maine, and Boston, for $75 per person per day in inside cabins, plus air fare. (Younger travelers can book for $100 a day.)

These are breathtaking bargains, with discount air fares available, and from a distinguished cruise broker.

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