updated 7/13/2009 9:35:00 AM ET 2009-07-13T13:35:00

Book by: ASAP

Travel by: September 26, 2009

The deal
Central America is the perfect tropical destination for cruisers looking for an alternative to the classic Caribbean itineraries. However, the region’s less-frequented ports — and wonderful absence of scores of other sun-seekers on the beaches — usually translates to much higher rates on sailings.

Savvy cruisers can save a bundle by booking these exotic journeys well in advance. Case in point: Avoid the brochure rates of $1,919 on an 8-night Central American itinerary this fall and pay as little $549 by booking today — that’s just $69/night. 

One nice perk about this cruise aboard the Carnival Freedom is that there is a nice mix of time at sea, and time spent in the ports, so you won’t have to worry about getting cabin-fever or feel like you’re rushing from one place to another. The Freedom sails from Fort Lauderdale on September 26, and gives passengers an entire day to explore the ship before reaching the first stop in the snorkeling paradise of Cozumel, Mexico.

From there, it’s another day at sea before reaching Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, an area well known for its eco-tourist attractions. Next up is Colon, Panama, also called the gateway to the Miraflores Locks — and the legendary Panama Canal. After setting sail in late afternoon from Colon, the ship will spend two days in transit back to Fort Lauderdale.

The dollars
The quotes are per person, based on double occupancy. Onboard meals, entertainment, accommodations and port charges are included in the price. Government taxes and fees, tips, liquor, shore excursions and personal expenses are extra.

The catch
This rate can disappear at any time.

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