Family Cruise Savings Tips

| January 9, 2009

The more relatives you sail with, the better deal you can get. Third and forth passengers in the same cabin cruise free or at a discount.

Cruise lines want you on their ships now more than ever. With the sagging economy, cruise lines are offering new customer incentives to keep their ships from sailing half empty. Full ships guarantee on-board spending as well as more tips for crew and staff.

That said, the cruise lines are finding family travelers to be more important than ever, because they represent multiple opportunities for on board spending -- from shore excursions for kids of all ages, to smoothies and mocktails for teens, and spa appointments for parents while children are participating in the free youth programming.

Cruise lines offer a number of perks for families year round that you may not be aware of, in addition to some recent, deeper cost-cutting incentives to convince you it's time for a family cruise.

Kids Sail Free One of the best-kept family cruising secrets is on MSC Cruises, where kids under age 17 always sail free when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare paying adults. This Kids Sail Free offer is available year round, fleet-wide. MSC Cruises sails the Caribbean in the winter and Europe during the spring through fall seasons.

Every winter Caribbean season -- including this one -- Costa offers a similar deal whereby kids sail free on a select ship. This year the offer is good on the 105,000-ton, family´┐Żfriendly Costa Fortuna, which is sailing the Caribbean this season. Children must be the third/fourth person in the cabin; the first two occupants pay full fare including government fees and charges.

This winter and spring for the first time, Disney Cruise Line is offering a Kids Sail Free promotion on its three-night cruises aboard the Disney Wonder. The offer is good for children 12 and under accompanied by two full-fare paying adults, and is valid for sailings from January 22 to May 28, 2009. While the cruise fare is free, children 12 and under still must pay government taxes and fees. A limited number of staterooms is available in each category and departure date. Guests should mention or input the booking code "FREE" when making reservations for this deal.

Traditional Discounted Family Fares If you have not cruised before, keep in mind that all cruise lines traditionally offer a discounted fare for the third and fourth persons in a stateroom. (Most lines do not, however, offer a lowered kids' fare for the third or fourth person, so your four-year-old will have to pay the same rate as your 70-year-old mother if they are the third or fourth persons in the cabin.)

There are a few limited exceptions. Year round, Disney Cruise Line offers reduced rates for children under three years old, based on two adults in the cabin. Those under three years pay $149 for three- and four-night cruises (see above for limited time offer whereby children 12 and under go free on three-night cruises) and $189 for seven-night cruises.

Throughout the year, Holland America offers a discounted children's third/fourth berth rate on at least 50 sailings. The fare ranges from $99 to $199 per child and varies by itinerary; ask your travel agent or Holland America directly which sailings offer lowered third/fourth berths for kids.

For Costa sailings not subject to the Kids Sail Free promotion (see above), the line allows tots under two years to sail free (except for government fees in the Caribbean; in Europe, parents must pay government fees, non-commissionable fees and taxes).

Crystal Cruises always offers a 50 percent fare discount to children 11 years and under traveling in a third berth with two full paying adults.

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