One common misconception is that cruising is expensive. What if I told you I am looking at a five-day cruise that includes all meals, lodging, entertainment and transportation to great ports like Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico, costing as little as $279 per person?
For under $600 total, two people get a fantastic, five-day getaway. Consider the cost of flying to a major city like San Francisco or Boston, staying in a hotel for five days and paying for meals and entertainment. The advantages are obvious. The average hotel is $250/night, and meals are $40 to $80 per couple. That adds up to triple what this cruise would cost you.
Of course, the only caveat is that you have to live somewhat close to the port or pay the airfare.
Who offers budget cruises? If you are a novice cruiser let me warn you away from any cruise line other than CLIA members like Carnival, NCL or Royal Caribbean. There are small, one-ship cruise lines offering quick and easy getaways, usually as part of a "Florida Package." Avoid them! Only the major cruise lines with the best ships and management can give you the full cruise experience on a short cruise option.
The best values, purely from a price perspective are in the five-day category, as there are cruises available as low as $279 per person, which is just a little higher than a typical three-day cruise.
Here is a rundown on short cruises and their cost (all prices listed are per person)
NCL has a few one-night cruises: Seattle to Vancouver for just $49 or the reverse for $69, roundtrip Miami for $99. A three-day cruise Los Angeles to Vancouver is $199, the reverse route (three or four-day) for $299, and four-day roundtrip from Charleston for $349.
Royal Caribbean has a number of short cruise itineraries: Miami, Los Angeles or Port Canaveral from $189, San Juan to St Kitts and St Martin from $378.
Royal Caribbean four-night cruises: Los Angeles to Mexico from $199, Port Canaveral, Ft Lauderdale or Miami to the Bahamas and Caribbean from $229, Tampa from $319, Barcelona to Ibiza and Mallorca $449, and Southampton (U.K.) to Cork, Ireland and the Channel Islands for $590.
Carnival is arguably the King of Getaway Cruises. Three-day cruise start at $189 from Miami or Port Canaveral, four-day cruises from Los Angeles from $199, New Orleans $249 and San Diego from $299, Four nights from Galveston are up to $349 and New York City is $449, five-nights from Jacksonville $279. Frankly, a search of Carnival cruises, five days or less, gave me 1500 results, so I can't list them all.
No matter what, this is about budget cruises and not every sail date is cheap. Just like longer cruises, pricing is a matter of stateroom availability. Cruise lines use yield management, so the cost of these cruises vary greatly by sail date and can change on a daily basis. These cruises tend to book at only about six weeks out, so many are currently least expensive in late August right now. They also go down when school is in session, and go up during vacation periods (spring break), so if you want those times, book early.
Your best bet, as always, is to just shop for the best deal you can find (check out our sponsors in this newsletter!) and grab it while you can.
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A recently updated cruise ship review by CruiseMates about one of Costa's most popular ships: Magica
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Carnival Freedom, January 19, 2008.
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