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It's no secret that cruise prices this year are low, low, low. For this, we can thank the law of supply and demand: Cruise lines spent the past decade building as many new ships as Europe's shipyards could handle, and then the global economy went pffffft! When it's a choice between going on a cruise and paying for your kid's braces, fising those crooked teeth nearly always win out. That means fewer paying passengers on all those ships, and that means all manner of deals as cruise lines struggle to keep their berths (and coffers) full. If you're one of the people who can afford to travel, you can almost name your price.

Digging into the Numbers

At least for the moment, cruise pricing -- at least official cruise pricing; the prices listed in the cruise lines' brochures -- retains some of its original mid-20th-century calculated obscurity: the same kind of thing that dictates the whole "sticker price" system for cars and the inscrutable rates charged by airlines. For decades, that allowed companies to profit from a lack of shared, hard information: If consumers don't know where the bottom line really is, they don't know whether they're getting the best deal or not.

The Internet is making that kind of thing a lot harder to pull off. In the cruise world, lines like Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Azamara have nearly given up, listing only a few "from" rates in their brochures because they know most people will just go online anyway to find a better rate. Downplaying brochure rates also means you won't scare away potential passenger with what look like (and are) inflated prices.

To see just how great the difference is between the cruise lines' brochure figures and prices out in the real world, we at the Frommer's cruise desk engage in a little exercise: Each year, we work with one of the major travel agencies to produce a comparison showing the actual prices travelers are paying lined up side-by-side with the cruise lines' brochure rates. The difference is always startling. One example: Brochure prices for a low-end outside cabin aboard Carnival?s new Carnival Splendor began at $1,989, but during our sampling period people were paying just $499 for that same stateroom -- a 75% difference.

The lists that follow will give you some general idea of how the different cruise lines discount. We've covered nearly all the mainstream and luxury ships that will be sailing in the American market in 2010. For readability's sake, we've listed only the prices for outside/window cabins, so be aware that you can get even cheaper prices if you go with a windowless inside. Because most of the niche small-ship lines do not engage in significant discounting, we've only included a couple here that do (Star Clippers and Windstar).

Note that these are not fixed prices and have no bearing on what the cruise lines are currently charging. They're presented in the interest of education only, because it's fascinating to see fantasy and reality pressed up so close together. Check it out, and also check out the "Methodology & Disclaimer" section at the end to see how these prices were determined.

Sample 2010 Pricing, Ship by Ship

Azamara Cruises (Note: Azamara does not publish detailed brochure rates)

  • Azamara Journey: 16-night Panama Canal/Mexico -- actual $2,799

Carnival Cruises

  • Carnival Conquest: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1919; actual $559
  • Carnival Destiny: 5-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $1159; actual $309
  • Carnival Dream: 8-night Bahamas -- brochure $2239; actual $754
  • Carnival Ecstasy: 5-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1149; actual $349
  • Carnival Elation: 5-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $1149; actual $279
  • Carnival Fantasy: 5-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1149; actual $329
  • Carnival Fascination: 5-night Bahamas -- brochure $1149; actual $329
  • Carnival Freedom: 6-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1719; actual $399
  • Carnival Glory: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1959; actual $499
  • Carnival Imagination: 4-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $979; actual $219
  • Carnival Inspiration: 4-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $979; actual $289
  • Carnival Legend: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1969; actual $529
  • Carnival Liberty: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1969; actual $429
  • Carnival Miracle: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $2119; actual $649
  • Carnival Paradise: 4-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $994; actual $229
  • Carnival Pride: 7-night Bahamas -- brochure $1969; actual $639
  • Carnival Sensation: 4-night Bahamas -- brochure $929; actual $219
  • Carnival Spirit: 8-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $2119; actual $609
  • Carnival Splendor: 7-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $1989; actual $499
  • Carnival Triumph: 7-night Canada/New England -- brochure $1959; actual $499
  • Carnival Valor: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1919; actual $449
  • Carnival Victory: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $1919; actual $549

Celebrity Cruises (Note: Celebrity does not publish detailed brochure rates)

  • Celebrity Century: 4-night Western Caribbean -- $449
  • Celebrity Constellation: 13-night Southern Caribbean -- $1599
  • Celebrity Equinox: 4-night Western Caribbean -- $599
  • Celebrity Infinity: 7-night Alaska -- $658
  • Celebrity Mercury: 9-night Bahamas -- $849
  • Celebrity Millennium: 11-night Southern Caribbean -- $899
  • Celebrity Solstice: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- $999
  • Celebrity Summit: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- $699

Costa Cruises

  • Costa Atlantica: 7-night E Cairbbean -- brochure $1149; actual $499
  • Costa Fortuna: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $1299; actual $549

Crystal Cruises

  • Crystal Serenity: 11-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $7,550; actual $3,632
  • Crystal Symphony: 13-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $7,980; actual $3,478

Cunard

  • Queen Mary 2: 13-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $3,295; actual $1,895

Disney Cruise Line

  • Disney Magic: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $2,399; actual $1,099
  • Disney Wonder: 4-night Bahamas -- brochure $1,499; actual $689

Holland America

  • Amsterdam: 14-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $3,939; actual $1,799
  • Eurodam: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $1,649; actual $649
  • Noordam: 10-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $2,129; actual $1,079
  • Oosterdam: 7-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $1,379; actual $599
  • Rotterdam: 19-night Panama Canal -- brochure $4,929; actual $2,299
  • Ryndam: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,949; actual $549
  • Statendam: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,949; actual $599
  • Veendam: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $2,049; actual $499
  • Volendam: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,949; actual $649
  • Westerdam: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $1,749; actual $699
  • Zaandam: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,949; actual $699
  • Zuiderdam: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $2,549; actual $1,099

Norwegian Cruise Line

  • Norwegian Dawn: 7-night Canada/New England -- brochure $1199; actual $829
  • Norwegian Gem: 7-night Bahamas -- brochure $1,799; actual $799
  • Norwegian Jewel: 7-night Canada/New England -- brochure $1,899; actual $1,049
  • Norwegian Pearl: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,659; actual $899
  • Norwegian Sky: 4-night Bahamas -- brochure $969; actual $219
  • Norwegian Spirit: 7-night Bermuda -- brochure $1,899; actual $829
  • Norwegian Star: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,549; actual $849
  • Norwegian Sun: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,549; actual $499
  • Pride of America: 7-night Hawaii -- brochure $3,249; actual $899

Oceania Cruises

  • Regatta: 10-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $4,998; actual $2,499

Princess Cruises

  • Caribbean Princess: 7-night Canada/New England -- brochure $1720; actual $549
  • Coral Princess: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,599; actual $499
  • Crown Princess: 10-night Canada/New England -- brochure $2,790; actual $998
  • Diamond Princess: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,634; actual $499
  • Emerald Princess: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $1,358; actual $699
  • Golden Princess: 14-night Hawaii -- brochure $3,143; actual $1,645
  • Grand Princess: 11-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $2,306; actual $1,354
  • Island Princess: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,624; actual $499
  • Pacific Princess: 14-night Alaska -- brochure $4,674; actual $2,339
  • Royal Princess: 14-night Southern Caribbean/S America -- brochure $4,013; actual $2,599
  • Ruby Princess: 10-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $1,999; actual $1,054
  • Sapphire Princess: 7-night Mexican Riviera -- brochure $1,358; actual $598
  • Sea Princess: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $1,368; actual $649
  • Star Princess: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $1,444; actual $804

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

  • Seven Seas Mariner: 7-night Alaska -- brochure $6,695; actual $2,895
  • Seven Seas Navigator: 7-night Western Caribbean -- brochure $5,995; actual $2,995
  • Seven Seas Voyager: 10-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $8,995; actual $4,495

Royal Caribbean International (Note: Royal Caribbean does not publish detailed brochure rates)

  • Adventure of the Seas: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- $619
  • Enchantment of the Seas: 5-night Western Caribbean -- $399
  • Explorer of the Seas: 9-night Canada/New England -- $949
  • Freedom of the Seas: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- $799
  • Grandeur of the Seas: 5-night Bermuda -- $649
  • Independence of the Seas: 6-night Western Caribbean -- $699
  • Jewel of the Seas: 10-night Panama Canal -- $1,029
  • Liberty of the Seas: 7-night Western Caribbean -- $899
  • Majesty of the Seas: 4-night Bahamas -- $239
  • Mariner of the Seas: 7-night Mexican Riviera -- $759
  • Monarch of the Seas: 4-night Bahamas -- $279
  • Navigator of the Seas: 5-night Western Caribbean -- $399
  • Oasis of the Seas: 7-night Eastern Caribbean -- $1,349
  • Radiance of the Seas: 5-night Mexican Riviera -- $449
  • Rhapsody of the Seas: 7-night Alaska -- $749
  • Serenade of the Seas: 7-night Alaska -- $749
  • Voyager of the Seas: 7-night Western Caribbean -- $749

Seabourn Cruise Line

  • Seabourn Legend: 14-night Central America -- brochure $15,800; actual $6,299
  • Seabourn Odyssey: 14-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $16,562; actual $4,999
  • Seabourn Spirit: 12-night Eastern Caribbean -- brochure $14,420; actual $7,137

SeaDream Yacht Club

  • SeaDream I: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $6,400; actual $2,199
  • SeaDream II: 8-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $6,900; actual $2,399

Silversea Cruises

  • Silver Cloud: 12-night Canada/New England -- brochure $9,095; actual $6,366
  • Silver Shadow: 9-night Alaska -- brochure $6,795; actual $3,397
  • Silver Spirit: 9-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $7,895; actual $5,131

Star Clippers

  • Royal Clipper: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $2,175; actual $1,375

Windstar Cruises

  • Wind Spirit: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $2,899; actual $2,019
  • Wind Star: 14-night Panama Canal -- brochure $6,099; actual $3,999
  • Wind Surf: 7-night Southern Caribbean -- brochure $2,759; actual $1,782

Methodology & Disclaimer

We obtained these prices from the large Nashville-based agency Just Cruisin? Plus (www.justcruisinplus.com), but the fact that cruise lines have been exercising heavy control over their pricing in recent years means consumers are getting nearly identical pricing from other agencies too. These prices were obtained in April 2009 based on a sampling period of that began in September 2009 and stretched into 2010, and drew only from cruises departing from U.S. or Canadian homeports, plus some in the Caribbean. Because of the vicissitudes of pricing -- supply and demand; the fact that these prices represent one random cruise only, not across-the-board pricing for a ship's entire season(s); and the fact that they were pulled only from available unsold inventory during our sampling period, and in some cases may not represent the absolute lowest-priced outside cabins available -- these are sample prices only and not in any way etched in stone. Most, in fact, have probably changed already, and the price you pay may be higher or lower, depending on when you book, when you travel, whether any special discounts are being offered, and a slew of other factors. They are presented for educational and informational purposes only, and will not be honored in and of themselves by the cruise lines.

Talk with fellow Frommer's cruisers on our Cruise Forum.