It's no surprise that airfares are soaring this summer. Even though there are flash sales and the like, it's still expensive for a couple or a family to fly. More and more I'm noticing that cruise lines are promoting "home-port" cruise travel, which is sailing on a ship that is within a two-hour drive from home.
For Southern Californians, options are San Diego and Los Angeles; for those in Houston, Galveston is a thriving port; and other cities like Charleston and New Orleans draw locals who want to skip a flight to enjoy the seas.
On the East Coast, popular ports are New York, Boston, Bayonne, Baltimore and Norfolk. As a Philadelphia resident, I'm able to drive to New York, Bayonne and Baltimore in less than two hours and having done all three, I must say it makes a cruise vacation an easy one. The ports all have secure and affordable parking, where it's literally park and board.
This home-port cruising approach allows Mid-Atlantic and New England residents to feel the way Floridians feel: Drive to a port and apply the airfare costs toward on-board drinks, activities, duty-free shopping and spa services. Those who live in Florida have for years had the option and convenience of boarding ships in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Now, cruise lines are providing convenient ports for other large markets.
Cruise lines understand that consumers still have vacation dollars to spend, but are being more prudent with those funds. Disney Cruise Line is sailing from Manhattan this summer with sailings to Canada and south to Florida and the Bahamas. Celebrity Cruises, which offers stellar service and wonderful food, sails to Bermuda from Bayonne, and Holland American Line, which is ideal for multi-generational travel, also sails to Bermuda from New York. These cruises allow passengers to use the ship as the "hotel" in Bermuda as it is docked in port several consecutive days. Pink sandy beaches are plentiful and the snorkeling is definitely worth a dive there. Likewise, Royal Caribbean also sails from Bayonne to Bermuda.
From Baltimore, Royal Caribbean sails to Bermuda, while Carnival Cruise Line sails year-round to the Bahamas form Baltimore.
Norwegian Cruise Line also has taken a bite of the Big Apple's cruise market. It offers summer sailings to Bermuda and year-round service to the Caribbean. New and exciting is the line's Breakaway which will boast ground-breaking Broadway style-shows, a boardwalk and "The Haven," a separate section for those who desire a more private and luxury cruise travel experience. The ship begins service out of New York in April 2013.
Many cruise lines are offering specials this summer, which include "kids sail free" and discounts for select sailings. With research and taking the time and effort to be savvy shopper, there are cruise discounts out there. Sign up for cruise line's e-mail blasts, follow them on Twitter and Facebook and check websites for promotions.