With news of two big cruise ships cutting short their journeys last week because so many passengers got sick, the idea of booking a cruise vacation might seem risky.
But the thought of missing out on a great deal might also make you queasy. Prices are lower than usual for the industry's so-called wave season, when cruises are heavily marketed. You can even grab fares well under $150 per person on cruises that typically cost more than double that price.
More than 20 million people in 2013 traveled on ships that are part of the Cruise Lines International Association's fleet. Compared to how many people get norovirus in other circumstances, cruise ships' rates are low.
Cruise ship outbreaks tend to get more attention because sick passengers could be stuck at sea for days before they can seek treatment on land, giving the illness an opportunity to spread. However, the percentage of passengers infected by illness on a ship that has an outbreak is often 5 percent or less, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Current cruise deals are being driven by factors such as increased capacity in the industry and a traditional push at the beginning of the year to sell cruises in advance.
"The prices you see now are what you'd typically expect during the fall season," Ryan Rose, cruise content director for the deal site Travelzoo.com, says, referring to the time of year when prices fall as hurricane season begins in the Atlantic Ocean.
The catch? The lowest prices tend to be for trips that are coming up soon, as in the next week or two.