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European Cruise Recommendations from Oceania

| June 18, 2008

How is the current economy affecting the biggest cruising season in Europe ever? Cruisemates interviewed Oceania Cruises' Tim Rubacky to find out.

Never before the summer season of 2008 have so many cruise ships sailed in Europe. The reasons why Europe is a "hot" cruise destination this summer are evident, some of them perennial and some unique to the current economic conditions.

How does Oceania Cruise Lines view the current European season? We talked to Tim Rubacky of Prestige Cruise Holdings, the Apollo Management company that oversees Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

   
The Oceania Insignia   The Insignia Visits Venice   the Insignia in Dubrovnik Harbor

CruiseMates: Tim, cruising as a means to see Europe has been growing year over year for decades now. Why is a cruise a good, or arguably the best way to see Europe?

Tim: One of the current benefits of taking a cruise in Europe is well-known to those of us in the industry. I'm talking about the economic advantages of pre-paying for the bulk of your vacation in Dollars rather than the much more expensive Euros. Due to the 1 Dollar to 1.6 Euro conversion ratio, cruising is the most affordable way to see Europe possible. A cruise includes all of your meals, entertainment and transportation, so you are pre-paying for all of those things in our own U.S. dollars.

Another completely different but equally important benefit is the convenience factor. A cruise is the most hassle free way to get around Europe possible. The logistics of European travel for Americans is that we can't drive our cars there, so we pretty much have to fly in. Unless you take a cruise you can't easily get around the continent unless you rent a car, take the railroads or continue to fly. If you think gas is expensive in the U.S., it is about twice as expensive in Europe. And renting a car means you have to drive yourself through unfamiliar territory with road signs in foreign languages. Basically, forget about renting a car unless you just love driving.

And no matter how you choose to travel, other than a cruise, you still have to find a place to sleep every night. That means you have to make hotel reservations and pay for a lot of taxis to and from the airports or train stations to your hotels. You also have to carry your luggage with you everywhere you go, unpacking and packing again everytime you go to a new location.

Hotels in the UK

But then there is cruising. Once you board your cruise ship you can unpack just once and forget about packing or unpacking again for the next two weeks. There are no hotels, flights, trains or rental cars to worry about or to pay for as you go. Cruises have your lodging, transportation between cities and meals all pre-paid, as I said, in U.S. dollars.

Also, in the case of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas, right now we are even including free or discounted economy class airfare from the U.S.

Cruisemates: Wow, all that savings and convenience and airfare included, too. Sounds like a hot ticket to me, and I have been on four of your cruises before. Now, the convenience of cruising is true no matter where you go, and the particular advantage of pre-paying for everything in dollars is especially beneficial this year. But how are cruise prices for cruises in Europe this year as compared to previous years?

Tim: A 10-day cruise in Europe can cost as little as $229 per person per day. That is easily HALF of what it would cost for a land-based vacation in Europe. To stay in an equivalent 5-Star hotel, you will probably pay at least 400 Euros for a hotel room. Add the cost of meals to that - to dine in restaurants that are equivalent to what we offer on Oceania and Regent - and you would easily be spending another 150-200 Euros per person per day.

   
Boarding the Nautica   Buffet Magnifique   the Nautica!

Cruisemates: I agree. I was shocked at the price of restaurant food in Europe last summer, and the Euro is even higher this year. Everything on the menu is a la carte, and even a bread basket will cost four to six Euros ($10), a salad is eight Euros, the entrée is 20, and then there is dessert, a beverage and coffee. After all that, they add a mandatory 18% service charge to every check.

Tim: Talk about sticker shock! Still, no matter what, if you go to all the trouble to get to Europe you are going to have pay for some sight-seeing. Once again, the exchange rate comes into play here. On a cruise, all of your tours are priced in DOLLARS, not Euros. And many of the ship's tours include meals and refreshments, which is yet another meal you do not pay for at European prices.

Cruisemates: That's right. In Europe you pay just to sit in a restaurant unless you take the food away with you. For that reason, a simple espresso can easily set you back 10 Euros. But getting back to cruise prices, are there really any bargains out there this year?

Tim: Absolutely, Oceania Cruises typically sells out a year in advance, but we still have some limited availability on our autumn cruises in the Mediterranean. These are very popular because they include FREE airfare and savings of up to 50% off. Prices start at only $2299 per person and they visit the greatest destinations in Europe; like Rome, Venice, Athens, Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Provence, Florence, Pisa, Mykonos, Santorini -- the list goes on and on.

Cruisemates: I can tell you that when we climbed the steps of the Acropolis in Athens last August it was 110-degrees in the shade. The Mediterranean is much more user-friendly as the weather cools down and the crowds thin out in Autumn. Plus, the Europeans vacation in August themselves and come back to open their shops in September.

Tim: And here is something even better for you to think about. Regent Seven Seas also has a few suites left on each of its Autumn Sojourns in the Mediterranean. These range from seven to 17 days, and each voyage is personally hosted by a top executive from the line. Euros can be purchased at a 1:1 exchange rate and there are special shipboard and shore side events. Fares start at $4995 per person and include airfare.

Cruisemates: Regent Seven Seas includes airfare and also a lot more, correct? It is is an all-inclusive, six-star ultra luxury cruise line.

Tim: The cruise fare pays for cruise and the airfare, plus all beverages including soft drinks, wine and cocktails anytime, and even the staff gratuities are included. Of course all the meals onboard are included in the fare, too.

   
the Oceania Nautica in Marseille   Food choices on the Nautica are virtually unlimited   the Nautica explores Katakolon Greece

Cruisemates: Now that sounds like the most convenient way to see Europe of all. You hardly have to worry about anything at all during your cruise.

Tim: Also, by the way, Regent has a few suites available on some of its Alaska voyages with savings of up to 35%, once again with airfare and all those other things included. Fares start at just $3895 per person.

Cruisemates: Thanks, Tim. The most intimidating factor for most people this year is the price of airfare. But with your airfare included offers that isn't a factor. So it really isn't too late to see Europe or Alaska this year.

Tim: Not at all, just look us up at www.oceaniacruises.com or at www.rssc.com or call your travel agent.


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