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On a Budget

If You're Willing to Fly, Cruise Deals Are There for the Taking

July 07, 2002|ARTHUR FROMMER

There's a bonanza in cruise ship bargains available for travelers who don't mind taking a plane before they board their ship.

Because many Americans still fear flying, especially flying outside the continental United States, the cruises departing from mainland ports that can be reached by car or train--Los Angeles; San Diego; Miami; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.--are doing fairly well. But departures from locations requiring a long flight--San Juan, Puerto Rico; Hawaii; Barcelona, Spain--need help. Lines are turning to major discounts to sell cabins.

Here are some of the biggest cruise bargains awaiting the fearless flier:

* From Hawaii: GalaxSea Cruises and Tours, (800) 662-5450, www.cruisestar.com, is offering discounted rates on 10-night Norwegian Cruise Line trips that visit the most popular ports of the Hawaiian Islands and Fanning Island in the Kiribati chain. The fall cruises are by the Norwegian Wind, sailing round trip from Honolulu and visiting Maui, Kauai, the Big Island and Fanning. The price is $1,542 per person, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles and port charges. The Norwegian Wind is known for its cooked-to-order meals, which run the gamut from French to Hawaiian.

* From San Juan: If you're looking for a good buy for a family foursome willing to share a cabin, another Norwegian Cruise Lines trip may be for you. For departures Nov. 3 and 17 and Dec. 1, Cruise Value Center, (800) 231-7447, www.cruisevalue.com, offers a weeklong sailing for $470 per person, including port charges. Air fare add-on from LAX is $529 to $599 per person, round trip. The vessel is the Norwegian Sky, launched in 1999, which has six restaurants, golf driving nets, two pools, four hot tubs and lots of bars (martini bar, wine and tapas bar, cigar bar, sports bar). The ship sails round trip from San Juan to St. Lucia, Dominica, St. Kitts, Barbados and St. Thomas.

If there are two of you rather than four, you might want to check out the Carnival Destiny's itinerary. Cruise Value Center is selling weekly sailings throughout autumn that start at $590 per person, double occupancy, including port charges. Again, the air fare add-on is $529 to $599 from Los Angeles. The seven-night itinerary is San Juan to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; Martinique; Barbados; and Aruba, then back to San Juan.

* From Barcelona: On Sept. 29, Cruise.com, primarily an Internet cruise discounter, offers a seven-night Mediterranean sailing of Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas for $940 per person, including port charges. The ship goes round trip from Barcelona to ports within visiting distance of Nice, France; Florence, Italy; Rome; Naples, Italy; and Malta. Air fare add-on from Los Angeles is $1,374. To find out more, contact (800) 303-3337, www.cruise.com.

* From the Bahamas: If you're looking for a sailing that's also an educational experience, you might choose World Explorer Cruises. Beginning Dec. 12, World Explorer will host an 18-night Mayan History and Bird-Watching cruise, departing Nassau and sailing to Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, Mexico, then on to Belize City and Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, before transiting the Panama Canal. Once in the Pacific, the ship stops at Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; and Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, before disembarking passengers in Ensenada.

On board throughout the cruise will be naturalist Chuck Leavell and Mesoamerican archeoastronomer Anthony Aveni. The price, based on a companion-sails-free policy, is $2,450 per couple, plus taxes. Third and fourth persons per cabin can sail for $895 each. Air fare add-on from Los Angeles is $690 to fly from LAX to Nassau and from San Diego to LAX. For more details, call (800) 854-3835, www.wecruise.com.

The few cruises mentioned here aren't all there are. Other deals are available from the discounters mentioned above. Shop and compare.

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