They may be just lead-in prices, but the $50-$75 per diems now being offered are clearly more akin to fall shoulder-season discounts than typical Wave Period rates.

Specials recently offered on featured a seven-day cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines' Inspiration for $132, and a seven-day cruise on Celebrity Cruises' Constellation for $427. was offering seven-day Caribbean cruises on Carnival's Carnival Conquest and Carnival Victory for $420, on Royal Caribbean International 's Rhapsody of the Seas for $465, and on Holland America Line's Maasdam for $429.

One New York-based travel agent said he has "never seen anything like these prices at this time of the year."  

He noted that he found cabins at under $450 on the Millennium for the cruise the week of President's Day, traditionally a peak period, when inside cabins would generally sell for no less than $1,200 during years prior to 2001.

On its own website, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) is offering three-day Caribbean cruises starting at $99, four-day Caribbean cruises at $229, seven-day Caribbean cruises (on the Norway) beginning at $329, and seven-day cruises in Hawaii beginning at $599.

According to Joe Hovorka, cruise analyst at Raymond James & Associates, "We've been seeing pricing go down since November, and it just seems to be getting worse. And with our pricing surveys, we're not only seeing the lead-in prices go down, we're seeing prices go down in all cabin categories, from the inside cabins to the balcony cabins. It's very price competitive out there - particularly in the Caribbean, which seems weaker in its pricing than in other regions."

Looking toward this summer, Hovorka said his research revealed that demand for Europe is now below where it stood last year. Combined with growing capacity there, he said, ''Net yields could be significantly impacted in Europe in 2003" and "if war was to occur, bookings and price would likely be impacted to an even greater extent."