And other travel deals from the Travel Detective

When the going gets tough, the tough start traveling—especially this year. The current financial crisis has created a buyer’s market in travel—including airfares, hotel rates and cruises.

Example: A number of major cruise lines, including Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line, are selling four-night Caribbean cruises for as little as $249. Do the math, and that works out to about $62 a day—including breakfast, lunch, dinner and entertainment every day.*

CRUISES

Perhaps the best indicator of the strong buyer’s market is that a number of cruise lines are offering discounts throughout 2009 and, in some cases, beyond. There simply is too much capacity, and berths need to be filled.

Examples: Princess Cruises has a two-for-one deal on many of its Alaskan cruises this summer, and Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a shipboard credit—up to $250 depending on the length of the cruise and type of stateroom—for booking any cruise this year. The credit can be redeemed through 2011 if you book by March 15, 2009.

Another good bargain made great by the economy is a repositioning cruise. A repositioning cruise happens when a cruise line needs to move a ship from, say, the Caribbean to Alaska or from Europe to the Caribbean.

Repositioning cruises typically cost 50% less than regular cruises. These generally are 14-to-22-day trips with starting prices of a few thousand dollars. But this year, repositioning cruises can be an even bigger bargain.

Example: Princess Cruises’s Diamond Princess departs May 1, 2009, for a 23-night trans-Pacific cruise from Beijing to Vancouver. It stops in Dalian, Kagoshima, Pusan, Vladivostok, Muroran, Whittier, College Fjord, Glacier Bay National Park, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan. Prices start as low as $1,869 per person.

HOTELS AND RESORTS

Major hotel and resort chains have great deals…

Starwood is having a winter sale that extends through September 30, 2009, at properties in the South (Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee) and the Caribbean (Aruba, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, St. John and St. Maarten). For every night that you pay the regular price, you get the next night at half off.

Ritz-Carlton’s Reconnect Package runs through April 2009 and gives you breakfast for two and $110 to $200 in resort credit per night, which you can use at the spa or for food, beverage and gift shop purchases. This package is available at properties across the US, in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Sandals Resorts has a promotion for stays through December 26, 2009. All 12 properties in the Caribbean are offering special deals. Some properties offer two nights at no additional charge with a minimum seven-night stay. Several others are offering up to 55% off room rates (all meals included) if you book at least three nights.

Examples: Sandals Montego Bay, Jamaica, dropped its price 30% from $309 to $216 per night per person. Sandals Grande Ocho Rios—Manor Side, also in Jamaica, now costs $169 per night, half off of $338. 888-SANDALS (888-726-3257), www.sandals.com.

AIRFARES

Airfares are dropping to as low as $49 each way on airlines such as Southwest, JetBlue and United, with other carriers likely to follow. Also, for the first time in recent memory, it’s easier to redeem frequent-flier miles. No airline ever wants to displace “revenue” passengers, but if the number of revenue passengers drops precipitously, then award seats miraculously become available. And that’s what’s going on now—not just with the airline for which you have earned your miles, but with all of the partner airlines associated with your primary program.

FOREIGN TRAVEL

The US dollar is getting noticeably stronger against many foreign currencies, including those of Mexico, Iceland, Canada, Australia, Poland and South Africa, which have been hit hard by the global economic crisis. Argentina remains a bargain as well, with the currency at its lowest point against the dollar in more than five years. This translates into more buying power abroad.

TRAINS

Amtrak issues 15-, 30- and 45-day USA Rail passes that can be used for travel anywhere in the country within 180 days of the date of purchase. Until the middle of last year, these passes were sold only outside the US—but now you can buy them online at www.amtrak.com or by calling 800-USA-RAIL (800-872-7245).

Cost: From $389 to $749 for adults. The California Rail Pass will get you seven days of train travel within California over a 21-day period for $159.

*All prices and packages are subject to change.