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Southern Caribbean cruise, 7 nights, from $249

Set out from the Dominican Republic for a week of sailing the southern Caribbean Sea, with stops in Antigua, St. Kitts, Barbados and St. Lucia.

The Real Deal: Seven nights in an interior stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas, all meals, and nonalcoholic beverages, from $249 per person — plus taxes of $32.

When: Embark March 1, 15, 29, 2009; add $150 for March 8, 22 with ports of call in St. Maarten, Dominica, Isla de Margarita and Aruba; departures for other southern Caribbean sailings are available through April 12.

The fine print: Airfare is not included. Government taxes are an additional $32 per person. Transportation between the airport and the port is also not included, but can be purchased for an additional $19 per person each way. Optional travel insurance starts at $57 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $159 for an inside stateroom and $259 for an ocean-view room. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.

Book by: No deadline; based on availability.

Contact: Cruises for Less, 888/212-7395,

Why it's a deal: The cost of this package breaks down to about $40 per person per day and includes cruise-ship accommodations and all meals and nonalcoholic beverages. According to a recent search on Kayak, the starting rate for a similar seven-night southern Caribbean cruise, with slightly different ports of call and departing on March 1, is $379 with tax, or about $54 a night (Carnival).

Itinerary: Depart Santo Domingo at 9 p.m. Visit the following destinations, arriving at each stop at 7 a.m. and departing at 5 p.m.: Saint John's, Antigua; Basseterre, Saint Kitts; Bridgetown, Barbados; Castries, Saint Lucia. Return to Santo Domingo at 4 a.m. [Note that the original itinerary called for stops in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, and Fort-de-France, Martinique; the cruise has been rerouted in response to recent violent protests on these islands.]

Lodging: Seven nights in an interior stateroom aboard Royal Caribbean's 2,435-passenger Vision of the Seas. Add $100 per person to stay in an ocean-view cabin or an additional $600 per person for a balcony room.

More: Add shore excursions starting at $39 per person. The cruise begins and ends in Santo Domingo, D.R. You can stay in Santo Domingo before or after the cruise for $179 per person per night at the 300-room Renaissance Jaragua Hotel and Casino.

Before you go: To get up-to-date information about the Dominican Republic, visit the official Web site of the country's ministry of tourism. You can learn more about the ports-of-call during this cruise by going to the tourism Web sites for Antigua, St. Kitts, Barbados and St. Lucia.

Getting there: According to a recent search on Kayak, round-trip airfare to Santo Domingo for travel in mid to late March starts at $321 from Miami (American), $344 from New York City (Spirit), $400 from Houston (Delta), $416 from Chicago (American), $495 from L.A. (multiple carriers), and $560 from Seattle (multiple carriers).