Eastern Mediterranean Cruises for 1 Quid?

July 7, 2009
Louise Cruise Lines' Orient Queen (2:33 p.m. EDT) -- That's the latest offer from Louis Cruise Lines, the Cyprus-based operator known for its port-intensive Mediterranean itineraries, budget prices and casual onboard feel. Basically, full-paying passengers on select sailings can include a third and fourth guest in the same cabin for just £1 each.

We've seen these cruise-for-a-quid promotions before, most recently with MSC Cruises. And it sounds like a great deal for families and friends looking to cruise the Mediterranean on the cheap.

But is there a catch?

The Deal

Passengers can pick from two 10-day "Mediterranean Jewels" sailings -- roundtrip Marseille departing 29 August or 28 October -- aboard the 15,781-ton, 912-passenger Orient Queen. The £1 offer is being extended to third and fourth passengers sharing a cabin with two full-fare paying adults. The port-heavy itinerary includes visits to Genoa, Naples, Athens, Kusadasi, Patmos, Mykonos, Santorini, Katakolon and Messina.

The offer is available on a range of three- and four-berth cabins, with per-person fares for the first two passengers starting at £439 for an inside cabin on the October cruise and £459 for the August sailing. A spokesperson for the line tells us that roughly 200 cabins are eligible (categories L, J, I, F, D, A); suites are not included in this deal.

The Fine Print

Sounds like a bargain, right? Well, there are a few things to consider:

First off, if the third or fourth passengers in a cabin are under the age of 18, they already sail at vastly reduced rates with Louis. For the August cruise, brochure rates for the under-18's are £99 per person (as opposed to £369 per person for third and fourth adults). So when a family is involved, the deal becomes slightly less special.

Passengers wishing to take advantage of the deal have to book the brochure rates. So if you find a great fare for a particular date, you won't be able to combine that deal with this one.

Of course, flights to Marseille will be extra -- Louis only offers cruise-only packages.

Finally, there are only eight four-berth cabins available at the lowest rate (category L, lowest deck, inside cabin) and prices do jump somewhat quickly as you work your way up through the cabin categories. For example, the best category eligible for the deal, an outside superior, starts at £949 per person for the first two passengers -- and not all of those have third or fourth bunks.

The Bottom Line?

Despite the qualifiers, for the right group of travelers, the deal is still pretty impressive.

If you can snag one of the cheapest accommodations, four adult friends can enjoy the 10-night August cruise for £920 total. That's an impressively low £23 per person, per day, for all meals and onboard entertainment (port taxes are included). Likewise, families sharing a cabin can save a couple hundred pounds.

So some savvy shopping could score you a great deal -- and an Eastern Mediterranean cruise in late August/early September is a fine time to sail, past the most oppressively hot and crowded July and early August high season, but still warm and sunny. October will be chillier, but not bad weather for sightseeing -- plus the cruise fares for the first two guests will be slightly cheaper.

--by Dan Askin, Associate Editor