I've heard about travel auction sites where you can bid for luxury hotel and resort stays. Can you bid on cruises, and will you get a good deal?
Answer: Luxury Link is the only online travel auction that routinely includes luxury cruises in its inventory. SkyAuction and eBay may have the occasional luxury itinerary, but mostly focus on mass-market cruises. On Luxury Link, you'll typically be able to bid on cruises on Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Uniworld River Cruises. Sales take the form of "buy now" travel deals or three types of online auction.
As for a good deal ... it mostly depends on how the auction turns out, but as all auctions have fairly high minimum bids, you're unlikely to get an amazing steal. Here's an example: A seven-night summer Mediterranean cruise in a class H suite on the Seven Seas Navigator requires a minimum bid of $9,395 (Luxury Link claims a retail value of $13,390). The offer is for two people sharing a cabin and includes a $400 Luxury Link gift certificate for a future purchase, but the price does not include a $30 handling fee, extra taxes and charges equal to $565, airfare or transfers. The best available fare for a category H suite on Regent's website is $9,990 for two -- also without the not-inconsiderable extra taxes. If you're not a regular Luxury Link customer and won't use the gift certificate, the most you'll save is less than $300 per person.
Luxury Link President Dianne McDavitt tells us that most of the company's customers are affluent and bid on travel for the thrill of the game, rather than to find a rock-bottom rate on a luxury vacation. The extra savings are just gravy for most Luxury Link travelers. McDavitt reports that customers save an average of 30 percent off retail value for cruises (compared to 40 percent for hotels and resorts). However, the "retail value" is akin to the brochure rate -- and doesn't necessarily reflect the true amount most people will ultimately pay for a similar cabin.
If you are interested in throwing in your bid for a high-end cruise, Regent and Silversea told us that they do have partnerships with Luxury Link and provide them with cabin space on itineraries that aren't selling as well as others.
We recommend SeaDream Yacht Club for a very romantic, yet laidback and fun luxury cruise. The twin ships carry no more than 110 passengers and passenger ages range from 30 to whatever. The ship is ultra-luxe and romantic: very nearly all-inclusive (save for spa treatments and premium wines and liquors), caviar and champagne always available, plenty of tables for two at dinner, Balinese beds on an upper deck (great for reclining on at sunset with flutes of Champagne and caviar, with all the fixings perched nearby) and beautifully decorated cabins. Dress code is resort casual. One of the best aspects of both SeaDream ships is their water sports marinas with everything from jet skis to kayaks available for use when the ship is docked in deep water.
We'd also suggest Paul Gauguin, which tends to have a younger, livelier feel than some of the other luxury lines, and honeymooners of all ages sign on for the Tahiti cruises. Look for shorter, seven-night sailings; these will attract travelers who can't take a lot of time off from busy careers. Longer cruises on any line tend to appeal to an older crowd.
Alternately, book a Princess Grill or Queens Grill stateroom on the QM2. The large ship offers plenty of activities and nightlife for all ages, and with one of these upper-level cabins, the service, accommodations and dining experience will be upper-class all the way.