Luxury Vacations on a Tight Budget
By John & Lois Beath
Budget conscious vacationers should investigate cruise ship options this year to save money. Cruise ships offer clean, comfortable accommodations, unlimited amounts of great food, exotic destinations and first class service – at prices below the per day cost of a quality city hotel. Cruise ships offer vacationers the opportunity to visit multiple destinations without the hassle of packing and repacking between destinations. The cruise ship takes you and your room to each port destination hassle free. At each port cruisers disembark and spend their time exploring the port city or enjoying one of dozens of available shore excursions.
Cruise ships in the United States offer departures from several cities in several states. The most affordable and by far most cruise options originate from Florida port cities including Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa and Port Canaveral. These cruises visit Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean ports. Other great cruise options include Alaska, New England and the Mexican Rivera from California.
Typical cruise lengths range from three to 10 days. If you want a longer cruise you can easily find a plethora of cruises ranging from 10 to 30 days that include destinations to multiple countries. The most popular and most affordable cruise length is the week long cruise. Seven day cruises provide a perfect balance of value combined with relaxation, adventure and food. All meals are included in the price of a cruise and simply can't be beat for quality and quantity. Room service is included too, an option most likely used during breakfast hours. Cruise ships offer fine dining in their full service great dining room or more casual meals on the lido deck with numerous choices at several themed meal stations.
During a seven day cruise the ship will stop at four or five ports and include two sea days to enjoy the ship's attractions and activities. Cruise ships offer full service spas, fully equipped gyms, a movie theater, workshops, comedy and variety shows, casinos, shopping, a night club, pools, sport court and several bars. During my last cruise aboardHolland America's Westerdam, they offered culinary seminars in their fully equipped kitchen stage. They also offered daily digital workshops covering photo manipulation and Windows 7 operating system. You won't find a shortage of ship activities during your cruise. If you must stay in contact with home or business visit the ship's Internet café to check your e-mail.
Cost of a 7-day Cruise
Eight major cruise brands operating in the United States offer week long cruises ranging in price from $350 per person for an inside cabin to $1,500 for a suite. These prices do not include port taxes or tips. All of the cruise ships charge guests an automatic per day tip charge just prior to boarding the ship. The typical tip charge is $11 per person per day.
Multiple websites offer special pricing on cruises and some sites, like Skyauction.com hold auctions with a specified price for unsold cabins. Last year my wife and I bid on a week long Caribbean cruise aboard the Westerdam. After filling out the information on the site our trip was confirmed the next day. We paid $249 per person for an inside cabin plus $242 port taxes per person and $77 tip charge per person for a total of $568 per person. We flew from Seattle to Miami for $284 per person bringing our total per person cost to $852 or $121 per person per day, per person, meals and onboard entertainment included. We know we found a great price with just three months notice, but the deals don't have to be “last minute” to get great cruise deals. Cruise vacation shoppers should always check the cruise ship company's website for specials and “regular” pricing too. As an example, Holland America lists their 7-day Caribbean cruise at $699 for an inside cabin. If you book directly through some cruise ship companies they offer a price guarantee. If the price of your cabin class decreases they will honor the price, but only if you watch the prices and notify them of the change. You should also watch for “upgrade” deals that upgrade you if you book well in advance.
Cruise Ship Vacations for Families
Cruise ships no longer cater mainly to geriatric travelers; in fact, they realize families enjoy cruises as much as the older crowd. Many of the ships in the fleet have rock climbing walls, water slides, and numerous activities focused around families and a more active younger traveler. Some of the cruises also offer a family option where kids go free or at extremely reduced price excluding port taxes and tips. For the cost, which includes all meals, lodging and lots of free entertainment, a cruise ship vacation offers the very best travel value for couples and families on a tight travel budget.
Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
Each port offers a wide variety of shore excursions ranging from bus tours to adventure-based activities. These excursions will cost an addition fee ranging from affordable to expensive. When booked aboard the ship these shore excursions cost more than if you go ashore and book a tour on your own. Booking through the ship is safer with reputable companies that work with the cruise ship company.
Cruise Ship Links
Norwegian Cruise Line
Cruise Stories & Photos
My Cruise Stories
My Travel Tastes