(2:30 p.m. EDT) -- The leaves are changing colors, you've just put the finishing touches on your summer vacation scrapbook, and you're dreaming about the warm-weather Caribbean cruise you've got planned this winter. Why on earth should you be thinking about Alaska now?
Would the words "luxury-cruise fare war" get your attention? We've noticed that several luxury cruise lines -- including Crystal, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas and Silversea -- are offering discounts and extra perks for booking early. And, while even discounted fares are pricey on luxury lines, you'll get amazing value for your dollar with included airfare, onboard credit, shore excursions, spacious cabins, personalized service and/or fee-free specialty dining.
Plus, with Oceania sailing its inaugural Alaska season and Crystal returning after a six-year absence, there's never been this much choice among luxury sailings in the region. Here's how you can save on four lines.
Crystal. Crystal Symphony will sail nine 12-night cruises, roundtrip from San Francisco, between May 9 and August 13, 2011. The line is promoting two-for-one cruise fares, $1,000-per-couple onboard credit and free airfare. Fares start at $4,650 per person for an outside cabin (after the two-for-one discount).
Oceania. The line's inaugural Alaska season includes 10- to 14-night sailings out of San Francisco and Vancouver between May 12 and August 26, 2011, onboard Regatta. Like Crystal, Oceania is offering two-for-one fares, $1,000 onboard credit per cabin and free airfare. It's also offering additional discounts of $1,000 per couple and third- and fourth-passenger fares, starting from $999 each. Regular fares, including the discounts, start at $2,999 per person for an inside cabin.
Regent Seven Seas. A longtime Alaska operator, Regent Seven Seas will bring Seven Seas Navigator back for yet another summer season, sailing from San Francisco, Vancouver and Anchorage between May 13 and August 31, 2011. Special promotions include free, unlimited shore excursions; two-for-one fares; free airfare; and additional, per-person savings, ranging from $200 to $1,700. Discounted fares start at $3,899 per person for a 301-square-foot window suite.
Silversea. Silver Shadow returns to Alaska with cruises out of Anchorage, Seward and Vancouver from May 30 to September 1, 2011. All cruises include free airfare. Silversea is not discounting as heavily as the other three lines, though it always includes drinks and tips in its prices. Fares start at $3,558 per person for a 287-square-foot window suite.
For all the latest luxury deals, don't forget to keep checking Cruise Critic's Luxury Deals page.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor
Luxury Alaska Fare War: Book Now for Some Great Cruise Values