It's always interesting to talk with people who are cruising outside the "triple crown" of destinations: Caribbean, Mexico and Alaska.
When you're on a one-off or re-positioning cruise, you find a lot of passengers who have been on many 7-day cruises in those markets and who are now searching for longer, more exotic cruises.
Most are looking for unique ports, a great price and great cities to visit.
Travel agencies specializing in cruising are reporting an increase in advance bookings of some cruises for 2012.
It's always a gamble whether to book now or wait for a possible sale later. I spent some time recently looking for out-of-thenorm cruises and cruises offering outstanding value.
If you have a high interest in cruising around the United Kingdom, here is one that may fit the bill: It's from Azamara Club Cruises, which has ships less than 800 passengers and fits the deluxe category.
The ship – Azamara Journey – is sailing from Southampton to Amsterdam, departing May 29, 2012. This port-intensive cruise offers overnights in Dublin and Edinburgh (Leith), and stops at five other ports in the UK. It's a 12-night cruise with a starting price of $3,399.
China, Vietnam and Thailand always have something unique to offer and cruise lines are quickly discovering the growing demand for Asian cruises. Hong Kong and Singapore make two divergent cities for starting and ending this cruise next March aboard Holland America's Zaandam. Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and China are in between on this 14-day cruise.
In Vietnam, you're porting at Halong Bay with its 2,000-plus limestone islands, the beaches of Nha Trang and Phu My (Ho Chi Minh City). In China, there's Sanya (Hainan) and in Thailand, Laem Chabang (Bangkok) and Koh Samui, among others, before arriving in Singapore. Starting price: $1,759.
If you want to test your outer limits of cruise length here's one that should do the job: Holland America's Volendam departs from Auckland on March 27, arriving in Vancouver 37 days later. This covers a lot of cities in Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia, as well as ports in Samoa, and Hawaii.
It's heavy on New Zealand, with familiar stops like Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, plus less-familiar stops like Rotorua, Gisborne and Picton. The ship sails through Fiordland National Park, Queen Charlotte Sound before leaving for Burnie, Melbourne, and Sydney in Australia.
Three ports in New Caledonia precede those in Fiji and Samoa, with Honolulu and Hilo completing the pre-Vancouver itinerary. Once in Canada, the Volendam will start its summer season to Alaska.
With only 1,400 passengers on board, you should be able to make many new friends before sailing into Vancouver's English Bay. Starting price: $3,958.
Finally, there are cruises that take you to other parts of the world, at a price that's surprising low.
Take Royal Caribbean's Brilliance of the Seas, which departs Dubai on April 19 and finishes its 15-night cruise in Rome – for only $699. Along the way, you will traverse the Suez Canal and visit ports in Oman and Egypt.
There is also a cruise across the Atlantic April 14, 2012 from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona on Royal's Liberty of the Seas, with only four ports. This 14-night cruise has a price tag of $609 – that's less than $50 a night.
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