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Why Cruises are a Cheap Way to Travel

Updated: Mar 4

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A sailing cruise ship

Sometimes, you have an itch to travel the world but not the budget to make it happen. Plane tickets can be pricey, and driving isn't always a possibility. A lot of times, cruises are a cheaper way to travel for families and young adults. Though they aren't for everybody, they're certainly something to consider.

Compare the Costs

Parked cruise ship
Credit: Tipsy Atlas

When traveling anywhere, you have to consider airfare, hotels, dining, and activities. Suffice to say, these prices add up quickly. On a cruise, there are plenty of dining options included, and on-board activities are free. There are still other costs to factor in, which we'll get to later. First, let's just compare the initial rates. Please note: these prices are current as of January 2024.

For this comparison, I'm using a Carnival Cruise. In the Caribbean, the peak time to cruise is from December to April. Looking ahead to December 2024, a 4-day cruise from Miami to Half Moon Cay and Nassau, Bahamas, starts at just $329 per person. An ocean-view room costs $419, a balcony room $609, and a suite $879.

These prices don't include port fees, which for this specific cruise are $339.30. For two, the total for an interior room comes to $997.30. If you add pre-paid gratuity, which I recommend, it will cost $128 more. For travel protection, it's $98.

Now, let's compare that to flying to the Bahamas. Half Moon Cay is a Carnival-owned island, so I'll use Nassau to crunch these numbers. If you choose to fly from Miami in December, a round-trip for two with United Airlines costs $1,060.20 after taxes, with the tickets themselves being $690. Though this price is similar to that of a cruise, it doesn't include accommodations or excursions. And unless you spring for an all-inclusive resort, it doesn't include food either. For 4 days in Nassau in December, an all-inclusive resort ranges from $1,500-$3,500 (via Booking).

Factor in the Extras

Image of cruise ship from above

There is always something happening on-board a cruise ship. The schedule is jam-packed with comedy shows, performances, karaoke nights, and other activities. Some ships even have pools, arcades, waterslides, basketball/tennis courts, and mini-golf courses. All of this is free.

On the other hand, shore excursions come at a price. Many people book these through the cruise line for convenience, and they're timed perfectly to make it back to the ship. These activities range from beach days, sight-seeing tours, cultural experiences, and adventures, such as snorkeling. Costs vary depending on what you choose to do.

There are a few additional on-board costs as well, though these are optional. If you wish, you need to budget money for the casino and alcohol. Those planning to drink a lot can opt in for a beverage program. Carnival's program, Cheers!, is $59.95 (plus fees) per person, per day for cruises longer than 6 days. For shorter cruises, it costs $69.95 (plus fees) per person, per day. These prices are only valid if you sign up ahead of time.

The Break Down

Chairs overlook the ocean on a cruise ship

Even after adding in excursions and the optional extras, taking a cruise ship is the cheaper choice in this scenario.

By cruising: Travel + Board + Food = $997.30.

By flying: Travel + Board + Food (all-inclusive resort) = $3,560.20 (average).

Obviously, this is a summary. A hotel would be cheaper than a resort, but you'd have to purchase food. In both instances, you'll have to purchase shore excursions/activities.

Make your Decision

Though this break-down speaks for itself, prices will differ by location. Sometimes, cruising isn't the best choice for your needs. You may prefer to stay in one place for longer, or you may be easily seasick/not like boats in general. However, if you hate the time it takes to travel, cruise ships make getting there more fun. I'll always believe cruises are a cheap way to travel, but ultimately, you should decide for yourself.

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