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It’s the middle of March, and the cruise lines have begun announcing their itineraries and prices for – 2010! First off the mark (I think) is Celebrity, who published their summer 2010 European brochure (at least, the on-line version) about a week ago. I gather that P&O will announce 2010 itineraries & prices for Azura in about a week’s time, and the rest of the fleet sometime in early April. nd Fred.Olsen have got a printed Preview brochure out, and are taking bookings from the 18th.

Let’s go back to Celebrity. By summer next year they will have three Solstice-class ships in service and all three will be in Europe. The newest of them, Celebrity Eclipse, will be delivered from the Italian shipyard in spring next year, and will spend her first season cruising out of Southampton. These will mainly be 14-night cruises to the Baltic and western Mediterranean, with the occasional longer (eastern Med.) and shorter cruise (Iberia mini-cruise) thrown in. In other words, exactly the sort of cruises that Azura and the rest of the P&O fleet will be doing.

Price-wise, Celebrity have laid down a tough target for P&O to match. Their brochure prices aren’t uncompetitive but at the moment they are reducing all prices by up to £200 per person. Plus there’ll be free car-parking at Southampton for all bookings made this year. Thanks to these offers my usual on-line TA, Ideal Cruising, have quoted me a price of under £1400 for a 14-night western Med cruise in September, for a balcony cabin on either deck 7 or 8.

I’m looking forward to seeing what prices P&O will be publishing in a few weeks.

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