By the time the dog days of summer have arrived, most of us think that fall is years rather than weeks away. For most of the U.S., late summer is hot and sticky. That means it is the time to start planning a fall cruise vacation. The good news for cruise lovers is that there are many diverse locations from which to choose. The best fall cruise destinations are voyages along the coast of North America, the Mediterranean, European river cruises, or Caribbean cruises.
A fifth great option is a repositioning cruise.
Any area that is covered with hardwood trees comes alive in the fall with reds, oranges, and yellows. The green hills and valleys of spring and summer take on a whole new look in the fall. "Leaf-peepers" (tourists who love fall colors) come out of the woodwork and head into the mountains or the countryside to marvel at the natural beauty of autumn and to soak up the crispness in the air before winter descends on us all.
Most of us hop in our cars and drive out into the country or up into the mountains, but cruise lovers have another option. You don't have to use a car to see the autumn leaves. Instead of fighting the crowds on the highway, have you ever thought about taking a cruise?
Fall Cruises in New England and Atlantic Canada
Cruise lines offer fall cruises along the Atlantic coast of New England and Atlantic Canada and along the St. Lawrence River that will give you wonderful views of the fall colors.
Cruise ships usually sail between either Boston or New York and Montreal or Quebec City in Canada. Some shorter cruises sailing from the USA might just go as far as Nova Scotia, but the fall colors should be just as spectacular.
We sailed the small ship Le Boreal of Ponant Cruises on a fall cruise between Boston and Montreal a few years ago and loved the crisp feel of the air and how the leaves seemed to change as we sailed northward.
The ports of call in Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New Brunswick were delightful.
Fall Mediterranean Cruises in Europe
Another good fall cruise option is a Mediterranean cruise. Summer is the most popular time to visit the Mediterranean, and the ports are packed with tourists from Europe and from around the world. Airfare is also much more expensive from June through September.
The European fall weather in the Mediterranean is cooler and the crowds are fewer. Often in the summer, you can't even get close to many of the masterpieces in museums. In the fall, you can not only get close, but you can spend your time marveling at the artifacts, paintings, and sculptures rather than standing in line. The only downside--you won't be able to swim in the blue seas of the Mediterranean.
Fall Cruises on the Great Rivers of Europe
European river cruises allow you to even do some "leaf-peeping European style." The hardwood trees and vineyards along the rivers take on brilliant colors, and the weather is much like fall in New England.
The number of European river cruise ships has expanded dramatically over the past decade and the season has also expanded so that ships sail late into the fall. I promise the colors are just as gorgeous as in New England or Appalachia.
Repositioning cruises are a favorite of many experienced cruisers. Cruise lines must move their ships from their summer homes to their winter ones. These cruises usually feature fewer ports of call, and are often longer, lasting from 10 days to more than two weeks. However, they give you a wonderful cruise experience and are almost always a good bargain.
Some examples of fall repositioning cruises are sailings from Alaska to Hawaii, Hawaii to California, California to the Caribbean through the Panama Canal or from Europe to the Caribbean or from Europe to Asia.
Everyone has priorities when planning a cruise. If cost is the most important factor in planning your cruise, and you don't have the time to go on a repositioning cruise, then you need to look to the Caribbean for one of the best fall cruise bargains.
Don't be scared off by the threat of hurricanes! Cruise ships will alter their itineraries to avoid storms. After all, cruise lines don't want to put their multi-million dollar ships or their passengers at risk.
If you are looking for a fall cruise bargain and you only have a week or less to be on vacation, the Caribbean is your best bet. Although any time is a good time to cruise, this fall could turn into a great buyers' market. Cruise lines of all types and all price ranges have been advertising fall bargains for the past few months.
There are several factors contributing to these discounts. The first two are business-related and have helped to keep cruise prices low year-round. The first cause is simple: more berths than passengers. Several cruise lines have added new ships over the past few years, so they now have more beds to fill each season.
A second factor that has lowered prices is consolidation. Because of acquisitions, the Carnival and Royal Caribbean lines account for over 75 percent of the market. Although less competition often leads to higher prices, this has not been the case in the cruise line industry. The greater purchasing power and ability to amortize costs over more ships have allowed the cruise lines to keep prices down.
Weather is probably the major factor that makes fall cruises less expensive than the rest of the year. A drop in cruise prices to the Caribbean can be directly linked to a rise in the temperature in the United States. Planning a fall cruise to the sunny, warm Caribbean in July just doesn't have the same attraction as it does in the middle of the winter!
The last primary factor contributing to the lower demand in the fall is also related to the weather. All it takes is a few pictures on TV about hurricanes, and many people will think twice about a fall vacation to the Caribbean. However, modern technology allows cruise ships to alter itineraries and avoid severe weather. If you stop to think about it, a cruise is a much safer choice than a fall Caribbean resort vacation.
Where can you find information on these fall discounts? There are several places. First, you can call your favorite local travel agency. Alternatively, you can check out the online sites of the cruise lines, or visit the sites that allow online booking. Finally, there are numerous travel agencies with web pages that you can contact via email or telephone. Many people do their own research online and then use the telephone or travel agency for booking. However you plan and book your cruise, you should be able to get a bargain this fall. One estimate I read was that in current dollars, a cruise will cost you less than half of what it was 15 years ago!
We're ready to plan a fall getaway vacation, how about you?