Understanding Family Rates

| July 27, 2006
A number of small cruise lines offer deep summer discounts for families. These range from 50 percent off discounted cruises for kids to free fares for children traveling with two full-fare adults – but what happens when the summer's over? Although year-round price breaks for kids on the large cruise lines aren't as extreme as the seasonal small-ship offerings, it is possible to save a few dollars when cruising with your family. Also, there are various ways to accommodate a family of five or more at sea without breaking the bank.

Q. How do the rates for kids sharing a cabin with two adults generally compare with adults' rates?

A. Cruise lines have a third/fourth passenger rate that generally applies to children as well as adults. This rate is greatly discounted from the rate for the first two passengers. For example, on Norwegian Cruise Line, third and fourth berths are about $199 to $499 on seven day cruises, which is about 50% off the lead inside rate.

Q. Do any cruise lines offer a special third/fourth berth rate just for children?

A. Yes, a few do offer parents a break. Holland America Line often (but not always) has a third/fourth berth rate for children ages 2 to 18 that is at least $100 cheaper than the standard third/fourth person rate. Disney Cruise Line also lowers its rates for children occupying the third/fourth berth. For example, on a seven-night cruise, children under age 3 pay $119, while rates for those age 3 to 12 start at $399. Fares for children older than 12 in the third/fourth berth start at $599.

Q. Are there any deals for infants and toddlers?

A. Yes, a few cruise lines - Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises, and Cunard Line -- let little ones under 2 years sail for free. Children must be under 2 years at the time of sailing (not at the time of booking), and parents must pay the applicable government fees. According to Cunard, these fees can range up to $108, depending on the itinerary. Holland America Line offers a discounted rate for children under 2 years. It varies by itinerary but can be as low as half the third/fourth berth rate charged for those over 18 years.

Q. Do any other lines offer incentives for kids other than during the summer?

A. Every year, Costa Cruises has its "Costa Loves Kids" promotion. Throughout Costa's winter Caribbean season, children 17 or younger sail for just $199 when they share a stateroom with two adults. The adults can travel on the line's already discounted Andiamo Advanced Purchase Rates that begin at $499 per person, double occupancy.

Q. We are a family of five. Can you suggest any strategies for booking an affordable cabin/s?

A. Some families of five with at least two children who are teenagers book a cheap inside cabin for the teens, then reserve a roomier outside stateroom across the hall for the adults and any younger children. That way the family has two bathrooms -- which come in handy when dealing with teens. Some of our readers who opt for this also bring infant monitors with them that they set up in the teens' cabin to keep tabs on their youngsters' comings and goings. However, with this option you pay full fare for the two children who occupy the inside cabin.

Some ships have more options than others for larger families, such as connecting staterooms or quads and quints. For example, both Norwegian Star and Dawn have many cabins for families of four or more, including about 700 quads, 12 quints, and more than 140 sets of connecting staterooms each. The forthcoming Pride of America will have a new category of family suites.

According to Carnival Cruise Lines, interior category (4A) adjoining cabins are the least expensive way to go for a family of five or more. Also, the Destiny- and Conquest-class ships offer family staterooms, many of which are adjoining. Spirit-class ships, on the other hand, offer adjoining staterooms but not single family staterooms.

Royal Caribbean's newest ships have a variety of staterooms to fit larger families. Family staterooms are found on all Voyager and Radiance-class ships and some Vision-class ships. These larger staterooms have one bathroom and can accommodate up to six people. On the other hand, family suites are on all Voyager, Radiance, Vision-class ships as well as Monarch of the Seas. They accommodate eight people with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a living area.

As for Costa Cruises' fleet, the Atlantica, Mediterranea and Fortuna can accommodate up to five guests (or six, with an infant).

Disney Cruise Line's options include family staterooms that can sleep up to five; suites that sleep up to seven; and connecting staterooms. Note that all Disney staterooms have split bathrooms (one room has a toilet and a sink, while the other has a bathtub/shower and a sink), which make getting a family ready for formal night a bit easier!

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