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Cruise prices take a dip

If you want an affordable late-summer, fall or winter getaway, consider a cruise vacation.

Airfares drop after the peak summer season of July and early August and cruise prices drop because demand is lower.

Even though we’ve seen some negative news about cruise line incidents in recent months, peak July rates can be tough because it is the big family getaway time and the demand is still there. In the next 60 days, cruise prices will be at some of the highest levels of the year and so will airfares.

Once we get into the fall, some cruise rates will drop up to 50 percent compared to peak July rates.

We should see cruise prices dip around Aug. 26 and we could see deals for sailings all the way up until a week before Christmas. Thanksgiving will be higher, however, because some families cruise during the holiday and demand is greater.

Christmas and New Year’s Day fall on Wednesdays this year, so more people will be able to take these cruises and still be home before school starts.

We should also see price breaks in January and February, before the peak spring break season.

Airfare to Europe will go down starting around Aug. 22. We should see fares to Barcelona, Rome and London drop by up to $500 round trip, compared to peak July fares.

The cruise prices from these ports will also go down by 30 percent to 50 percent, giving you a double savings on European cruise vacation prices.

When you combine the airfare and cruise discounts, you could save up to $1,000 per person compared with the exact same cruise departing in July.

If you have a lot of time to vacation, look at repositioning cruises out of Europe because the daily prices can be a bargain. At press time, the cheapest cruise we found was on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas, which departs from Barcelona on Nov. 10 and sails to Galveston. Rates for this 14-night cruise were as low as $449 for an inside cabin and $999 for a balcony cabin. Rates are per person, based on double occupancy.

One thing to remember when you are considering a repositioning cruise is that you do not have as many stops, so there will be several days at sea. You still get food 24 hours a day, the same living quarters that are like a hotel room on the seas – and it’s hard to beat paying $32 a day for your vacation. Most of these cruises will take off in October and November for the fall season.

When we checked prices, we found that oceanview cabins on some of these cruises were more expensive than balcony cabins, especially on Celebrity. In some cases the prices were only $50 to $100 higher, so be sure to leave the cabin type open when you check prices because you may get a better cabin for less.

Most repositioning cruises in Europe depart from Barcelona or Rome. There are several repositioning cruises that sail out of Harwich and Southampton, which are both near London.

If you want to take a European repositioning cruise, look for one-way airfares to Barcelona, Rome and London. We have been seeing cheap one-way fares from New Orleans, Fort Lauderdale and Houston (for sailings into Galveston) so these can be good final port destinations.

One thing to note about repositioning cruises is that the prices do sometimes drop even further as we get closer to the sail date if the cruise is not selling.

When I looked at prices for weeklong cruises in late summer and fall, you could save anywhere from $200 to $500 per person over peak rates in many categories of cabins.

One category on the ship that may not change that much is suites, especially on cruises from Florida, Galveston, Los Angeles and San Juan.

Inside cabins, oceanview cabins and balcony cabins will go down, but suites may not be discounted by as much.

On some cruise lines, such as Disney, suites maintain a high demand. On other cruise lines, though, you may find a price drop.

We looked at Disney prices for a seven-night cruise out of Galveston in October, and it cost $899 for a balcony and $2,875 for a suite. At Christmas, suites on a seven-night cruise out of Galveston were as high as $5,000 per person. The balcony cabins on Disney do offer a little luxury, but they are more reasonably priced.

Except for Thanksgiving week, Christmas week and New Year’s week, if you are looking for a cruise deal for travel Aug. 22 through Feb. 28, I think you’ve got it made in the shade.