Cruise past the queues

The threat of long queues for security checks at some of Britain’s airports could give a last-minute boost to some of the big cruise lines – which are slashing prices drastically.

A glut of cabins has brought lower prices on ships sailing from Britain, where capacity has been massively increased in the last couple of summers.

Bob Atkinson at Travelsupermarket.com says: “The cruise market is weak because it is trans-European: if they aren’t booking in Spain, Italy and France, then you aren’t getting the numbers you really need to fill European cruises.

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“Book at short notice, and you’ll probably get a great price with cruise lines also chucking in free flights and on-board spending. Royal Caribbean voyages out of Southampton start at £699, which includes $100 on-board credit. It’s effectively a discount of 20- 30 per cent.”

However, he also points out that, to some extent, the cruise market is a reflection of the entire travel market.

“So many potential travellers are hedging their bets and spending cautiously,” he says. “You can pick up plenty of five-night cruises from £499 and seven nights from £599.”

Richard Downs at online agency Iglucruise.com says: “It’s been a really tough year for the industry, following the Costa Concordia disaster and fires on Costa Allegra and Azamara Quest.

“It has needed a continuous price stimulus to keep sales ticking over. Really, this is the summer to get a five-star cruise for two-star prices or an outside balcony cabin for the price of an inside.”

All levels of the market appear to be impacted by the slowdown.

For instance Celebrity Cruises, the upmarket brand of Royal Caribbean has launched an ultimate sale, with thousands of knockdown prices, and seven-night fly-cruises from £549.

Iglu offers seven nights on Seven Seas Mariner, ex-Athens to Santorini, Dubrovnik and more, with deluxe suite accommodation from £1,899 Ultra, including flights and up to 23 shore excursions.

Cruise & Maritime Services has discounts up to 60 per cent on its two ships, Marco Polo and Ocean Countess, sailing from ports around the UK in late May; eight nights on Ocean Countess ex-Liverpool on May 29 starts at £349, or £44 per night, while nine nights on Marco Polo from Leith (Edinburgh) on May 28 to sail around Britain starts at £399. There’s a full programme of Jubilee celebrations on both, including a cocktail party and dinner.