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Fares drop for Caribbean cruises in fall

The Baltimore Sun

Caribbean cruise prices always are low in fall because summer vacations are over, kids are back in school and some people are leery about going to sea during hurricane season. Then, too, more cabins are available in fall because cruise ships are returning to the region from summers spent in Europe and Alaska.

This year, early indications were that fall prices would be even lower than usual because the demand for Caribbean cruises had fallen off. But that hasn't happened. Instead, fall fares are up slightly.

"There are no $399 fares out there" for seven-night Caribbean cruises, Stewart Chiron, a Miami-based cruise expert, said. Usually in autumn, he explained, some cruise lines will drop their fares to that level.

Why hasn't that happened?

"I think we're seeing a pent-up demand," said Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Carnival Cruise Lines. "There are great values now."

You can find a few $449 fares for seven-night Caribbean cruises and quite a number at $499. The same rooms in other seasons, or on holiday cruises, could be several hundred dollars more.

Low fares like these are for inside rooms. Ocean-view and balcony cabins are priced higher, but this is where fall cruisers may score. Upgrades are easier to obtain, and price differentials between inside, ocean-view and balcony cabins are more affordable in autumn.

On several seven-night Holland America sailings, for example, the fare for an ocean-view (window) stateroom is $549, only $50 more than the inside rate ($499), and a balcony cabin goes for $749.

Who goes cruising the Caribbean in the fall? Passengers come from all walks of life, but some categories are seen more at this time of year, including singles.

What you won't see many of in fall are school-age children. One exception: Disney Cruise Line gets kids all year long.

Cruise fares typically drop after Labor Day, but the best deals come between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Brown. But holiday sailings - those at Thanksgiving or in the Christmas-New Year's period - are priced substantially higher.

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