Wave Season Round-up: Fly-Cruise Deals

January 21, 2011
(11:53 a.m. EST) -- January's Wave Season continues to offer some outstanding bargains across the cruising board, making now a great time to look for deals. This week, we're looking at some of the very best fly-cruise deals out there.

A fly-cruise deal offers you a complete travel package, in which the cruise line includes the cost of your air ticket and transfers to and from the ship. In many cases -- especially cruises starting in America -- the line will also supply you with a hotel room on the night before you sail. Also, a few fly-cruise offerings include a sightseeing tour before you join the ship, while others allow you to spend three or four days pre-cruise at your boarding port (again, sometimes with local excursions included).

Be sure to also keep an eye out for deals roundups throughout the year, and check our Cruise Deals section, which is updated daily.

A few points: Fares are per person, per night, with two sharing a cabin. And, mind you, these deals can sell out at any time. The early bird most definitely gets the worm. Luxury and Languid Days in the Summertime Med

The Trip: Regent's Seven Seas Mariner will spend 10 nights cruising from Rome to Athens via Monte Carlo, Amalfi, Sicily, Malta, Santorini and Kusadasi, from June 7 - 17.

The Deal: Fares start at £2,723 and include flights and transfers, all drinks onboard, prepaid gratuities and unlimited shore excursions at each port of call. Must be booked by March 31.

Best for: Lovers of history who like to explore in depth without compromising on comfort.

What You Need to Know: Regent offers a stylish, sophisticated ambience with a dress code that is typically country club casual at night. The mid-sized ship is incredibly spacious both inside and out, offering all-suite accommodations, all with balcony. Numerous high-end dining options are available for no extra cost.

Caveats: This is a really busy, port-intensive itinerary with a lot of time spent ashore in different ports. The actual amount of sea time is minimal, so the cruise won't be ideal for those seeking total relaxation.

Click here for booking information.

Magnificent Alaska Roundtrip From San Francisco

The Trip: Crystal Symphony departs May 9 on a 12-night Alaska cruise. Eight similar sailings are also available.

The Deal: Fares start from £3,550 and include return flights and pre-cruise overnight hotel stay, plus $1,000 onboard credit per cabin.

Best for: Wildlife enthusiasts who like to get up close and personal without sacrificing on comfort and space.

What you need to know: Crystal Symphony offers some of the finest food and service at sea, and has all outside accommodation, most with balconies. The mid-sized ship is ideal for cruising close to the Alaskan scenery. Symphony is rightly renowned for the quality and scope of the enrichment and lecture programmes on each sailing. Entertainment is more extensive than on some other luxury cruise ships, with good production shows every third or fourth night.

Caveat: Though Crystal includes an onboard credit that can be used for drinks, shore excursions, etc., it is not all-inclusive in the same way as lines such as Silversea and Regent. Gratuities are not included, nor is wine with dinner. Comparatively, the cabins are also mostly smaller than the same class of staterooms on other luxury ships.

Click here for booking information.

Colours of the Caribbean

The Trip: The 14-night fly-cruise aboard Fred. Olsen's Braemar, departing on 8 December, sails from Montego Bay and calls in Cozumel, Tortola and Antigua, with an overnight onboard stay in Havana.

The Deal: Fares start at £1,362 per person, inclusive of flights and transfers.

Best for: People looking for value and a good variety of destinations in one easy package.

What You Need to Know: This is a cruise that packs a lot of ports into a full two weeks' sailing. Braemar is relatively small at 24,000 tons, and caters almost exclusively to the British market. The relatively intimate size means that it can get into the smaller, more out of the way places bigger ships can't reach.

Menus are not as extensive as on other ships, but the food and service is usually very good. There are two sittings for dinner, and an alternative causal option in the Lido. Drinks are priced very reasonably, and in sterling. Tips are not included.

Caveat: Cabins are relatively small and have poor soundproofing, and entertainment is definitely not the ship's strong point. The ship has a tendency to roll in even moderate seas.

Click here for booking information.

Tantalising Transatlantic

The Trip: Spend 13 nights aboard the luxe-lite Azamara Journey, when it sails from Miami on April 4 to Rome via Gibraltar.

The Deal: Fares start from £1,301 for an inside cabin. The price is inclusive of flights, complimentary wine with both lunch and dinner, and gratuities.

Best for: Lovers of retro transatlantic crossings looking to chill out in an elegant environment. What You Need to Know: Azamara Journey offers superb food and service in surroundings that resemble an Edwardian country club, with a number of alternative dining venues. The elegant, mid-sized ship is relatively spacious inside and out, with a good spa and expansive open decks. Nine straight days at sea between Miami and Gibraltar allow ample time for relaxation.

Caveats: There is only one port of call -- Gibraltar -- during the entire crossing. Nine straight days at sea might be too much for some aboard a relatively small ship that lacks the time-killing diversions of the resort-style ships. Inside cabins are quite small.

Click here for booking information.

Casinos and Sombreros!

The Trip: Combine a seven-night cruise roundtrip from Los Angeles to Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas aboard Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess with a four-night pre-cruise stay in Las Vegas, including a full-day tour to the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. Itineraries run from April 11 to May 12, 2011.

The Deal: Fares start from £1,179, based on the April 26 departure, and include all flights and transfers.

Best for: First-timers looking for a great-value cruise-and-stay trip offering high-octane excitement on land and sea.

What You Need to Know: Sapphire Princess is a big, resort-style ship brimming with different dining venues -- some at a surcharge -- and a wealth of onboard entertainment, including a spectacular nightclub suspended high above the stern and lavish onboard revues. Passengers are offered flexible dining in the main restaurants, as well as the traditional two sittings for dinner.

Caveats: Onboard, expect to be charged extra for almost everything, from postcards to bottled water. Lines for getting on and off the ship are inevitable, especially at anchor ports like Cabo San Lucas. Peace and quiet will be in short supply, given the lively atmosphere onboard.

Click here for booking information.

-- By Anthony Nicholas, Cruise Critic contributor