updated 6/2/2008 10:25:26 AM ET 2008-06-02T14:25:26

Book by: ASAP
Travel by: Various through 2009

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The deal
Sure, the dollar isn't at optimal levels, but you can still get to Europe this year without breaking the bank. You just have to get there by sea instead of by land. Indeed, overnighting on a cruise often costs less than a hotel, and you'll pay just one up-front price in U.S. dollars that covers your room, meals, and transit between cities. It's a great-value way to see the Old World and, with the excellent specials we've found, you'll also net additional discounts of up to 65 percent and savings as hefty as $900 per couple!

Mediterranean cruise with Carnival
To sail the scenic shores of the Mediterranean without squandering your savings, we suggest an early-bird fall special we scoured on CruisesOnly. The 12-night grand Med voyage aboard Carnival Freedom sells at a discount of 65 percent! Indeed, the October 24 departure is priced at $1,049 for an inside cabin, versus a rack rate price of $2,999. Even oceanview cabins are affordable at $1,369. The ship does a circuit from Civitavecchia/Rome, calling at Naples, Venice and Livorno in Italy; Dubrovnik in Croatia; Messina on Sicily; Barcelona in Spain; as well as Monaco’s Monte Carlo. Also included are three entire days at sea.

Sail Scandinavia with MSC Cruises
For an early autumn sailing around the Baltic countries, we recommend the special that we found on Orbitz. A ten-night voyage around this Northern European region aboard the chic MSC Cruises’ Armonia is now reduced in price by a hefty 50 percent, with inside cabins selling for just $1,249, oceanview staterooms going for $1,499, and suites available for only $2,099. This particular price is valid for one departure only, on September 5. On this roundtrip itinerary from England’s Dover (London), cruisers will enjoy visits to Holland, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Russia, and Denmark. Three days at sea are also thrown in.

Western Europe voyage with Norwegian
To see the best of Western Europe in one 13-night swoop, book the Vacation Outlet special we spotted. On August 23, Norwegian Jade hits the high seas from England’s Southampton toward Barcelona at a price that’s been slashed in half. Inside units on this journey are on sale for $999; oceanview staterooms go for $1,199; while balconied accommodation costs $1,599. That’s quite a discount considering that brochure rates start at $2,099 for an inside cabin. The itinerary takes in five European countries — England, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France — and stunning ports of call such as Lisbon, Sardinia, and Gibraltar.

Early-Booking: Cruise European rivers with Scenic Tours
For a luxury river cruise, we suggest Scenic Tours and their fantastic voyages from Amsterdam to Budapest. These 15-day journeys will cruise the Rhine and Danube, en route visiting Europe’s grand cities and quaint medieval villages. All this happens on one of two brand-new vessels, ms Scenic Ruby or ms Scenic Diamond, with spacious cabins that feature flat-screen TVs and internet access; and even bikes on board that passengers can take to explore the various ports. The price of $3,795 includes all meals (even wine with dinner); a variety of escorted sightseeing tours; and free airport transfers. Note that these cruises don't kick off until March of 2009, giving you plenty of time to plan ahead (and score cheap flights).

The dollars
The rates above are listed per person, based on double occupancy. For the first three cruises, the quoted cost covers onboard accommodations, meals and entertainment, as well as port charges. You’ll just have to dish out extra for government taxes and fees, as well as any shore excursions you may decide to take. The Mediterranean cruise for $1,049 is excellent-value compared to earlier summer departures — these are priced up to $1,449 so you’re saving $400. The Baltic cruise is priced at $1,549 for peak-season departures during the summer; you’re saving $300. As for the river cruise with Scenic Tours, if you book one of these sailings by June 2008, each couple will save $900 off the brochure price — so rates will drop from $3,795 to $3,345!

The catch
Any shore expenses, priced in soaring euros, will definitely eat into your travel budget.

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