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It’s the strongest booking month of the year.  So if you want to bag a bargain, open up your travel diary and start planning.

To help, we’ve talked to some of the best travel experts on what are the best value cruises this year.  Here’s what they recommend:

“New Zealand seems to be hot destination for cruising and offer excellent value for money for the Aussie traveller,’’ said Cos Matteo, national sales and business development manager of Holidays of Australia & the world.

He recommends Radiance of the Seas’ 12-night cruise from Adelaide to Sydney, taking in Melbourne and New Zealand. The cruise which departs Adelaide on 6 March will call at Milford, Doubtful and Dusky Sound, Dunedin, Akaroa, Picton and Wellington and costs $2099 per person for an ocean view cabin – down from $2539.

Mr Matteo also recommends the 7-night cruise to the South Pacific which is “always a firm favourite for couples and families alike as they offer exotic destinations.’’

P&O’s Pacific Dawn which departs Brisbane on 10 March costs $813pp twin share or $525pp quad share. The cruise will call at Noumea, Lifou and Port Vila.

Those looking to holiday closer to home should consider booking Ovation of the Seas 8-night cruise from Sydney to Darwin which departs on 26 March and save up to $490 per person. An interior room with all meals will cost $1299 per person, an oceanview room $1399 pp and a balcony room $1699 pp.

“I always say it’s best to book early so that you get the exact cabin you want.  Most of our clients book up to 12 months or more in advance to get the cruise, cabin and itinerary they want so once it’s locked in, they don’t have to worry about it.

“A last minute deal cruise generally gives people an opportunity to grab a bargain if they do not care about the cabin type or cruise,” Mr Matteo said.

Barry Downs, sales and marketing manager of Bicton Travel strongly recommends A-Rosa River Cruises in Europe for the best value cruises this year.

“They are refreshingly different to the big river cruise brands. Whilst they include accommodation, meals and most beverages, shore excursions are not included allowing independent spirited Australians to discover the town, villages and cities by foot or public transport,” Mr Downs said.

A seven night cruise starts from $1779 pp in low season to $2419pp in high season for cruises on the Seine starting in Paris, Rhone and Saone Rivers in Lyon, Rhine in Cologne and Danube in Englehartszell, near Passau. Call 08 9339 0177 for details.

For a fun, festive weekend cruise, he recommends Bicton’s exclusive  two-night cruise which leaves Fremantle on 8 December. Price from only $279 pp twin share.

For those wanting to have a holiday of a lifetime, he suggests a 19-night fly, stay and cruise holiday on Silversea’s Silver Spirit which departs Perth on 7 September. The package starts from $11,250 pp twin share with return premium economy flights, two nights, five-star hotel stay in London, two nights five-star hotel stay in NY and a Big Apple helicopter tour.

Carolyn Mackley national marketing manager of Cruiseco said that best value cruise this year is Majestic Princess 12-night from Sydney to New Zealand departing on 6 December. Fares start from $2820 pp for an inside cabin and if you book by 28 February, you will get a free upgrade, a meal and wine in a specialty restaurant and US$135 on board credit per couple.

“For those keen to venture a bit farther in 2018, Cruiseco is offering an unbeatable value for money cruise, fly and stay package with Holland America Line. Departing Amsterdam on 26 August, this 23-night stunning holiday explores the beauty of Tallinn, St Petersburg, Copenhagen, Geirangerfjord and much more. Fares start from $7395pp twin share for an inside cabin or from $9780pp twin share in a balcony cabin,’’ she said.

One of the best deals Cruise 1st has for this year is 10 nights to South Pacific on Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas. RCL has 45 per cent savings at $1599pp but Cruise 1st is offering $1099pp and “we are throwing in US$100 free spend per stateroom,” said Gareth Evison, product/commercial marketing manager of Cruise 1st.
The cruise departs Sydney on 8 December and will visit Noumea, New Caledonia, Lifou, Vanuatu and Isle of Pines.
And Dream Cruises Genting Dream, recently based in Singapore, has a special offer for couples:  partner’s go free in Dream Palace suites which have butlers, private dining room and free access to specialty restaurants and exclusive access to shows.