Updated: Sep 6
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I get it. I've been there. You're a broke college student or recent graduate starting off at a low-paying job to make ends meet, but you still have a deep itch you can't scratch until you see the world. I'm convinced cruises were created for this very reason, and by the time you're done reading this, you'll also understand why cruises are the cheapest way to travel.
I'm personally no stranger to cruises. I grew up going on a different ocean-wide voyage almost every year for at least 6 years. When I became an adult and started pricing them myself, the reason my family opted for these vacations each year became apparent. While there are many different options for cruise lines, we always leaned towards Carnival due to its on-board fun and affordability. Carnival cruise ships are called "The Fun Ships" for a reason, as they offer full schedules of fun for children and adults alike.
Compare the Costs
When traveling anywhere, costs including airfare, hotels, dining, and activities add up quickly. When booking a cruise, all of the above is included in the initial price, aside from the optional shore excursions. In my experience, while traveling internationally, a plane ticket alone will cost more than the whole vacation on a cruise line. Don't believe me? Consider this:
At the time of publication, a five day trip from Florida to the Bahamas through Carnival cruise lines starts at just $259 per person. For two people, that is $518 before taxes. This includes your room and all your food, excluding soft drinks and alcohol. On my recent trip to Italy, I spent $1,300 through Delta Airlines per person for a round-trip. That's not even including the mass amounts I spent on lodging, dining, and museum entrances. To travel across America, from Tennessee to New York City, the plane cost was around $250 per person, equaling $500 total. Although this is the price for two people, you still spend a fortune on other necessities.
In total, after taxes, adding prepaid gratuities (recommended), booking shore excursions, and buying alcohol, the trip mentioned above would cost around $800 - $1,200 total for two people, cheaper than just one plane ticket to most international destinations. It begs the question though, is it worth it? I'd say so, but you'll have to decide that for yourself.
Factor in the Activities...
There is always something happening on-board the ship. The schedule is jam-packed with comedy shows, karaoke, theater performances, art sales, games, and anything else you would want to do while stuck out in the ocean on a ship. If you're not into scheduled events, the pool, arcade, and slew of bars will keep you busy all day long.
& All the Food You Could Imagine
You can eat as much as you want. I admit, this one may not be so good for the figure, but when you're on vacation, set the worry aside. There is a buffet running daily, a pizza shop with about a dozen options, and scheduled dinners at night that you can choose to attend for free. The dinner offers bread, personal appetizers, an entrée, and a dessert. If you're still hungry after that, they will even bring more. Some ships have specialized restaurants as well. The last Carnival ship I traveled on had Guy Fieri's burger shop on-board, and honestly, it was succulent. I still miss the fries.
Off-Board Activities are Also Abundant
Booking shore excursions is easy, and assures you get to do the cool things that you've always dreamed of. From swimming with dolphins, to riding horseback on the beach, and even taking an ATV off-road on the island, these excursion companies offer special discounts through the cruise line that you won't find if you travel without. The ship has kiosks located throughout and an information desk to help book off-board activities that wouldn't come as easily to the independent traveler.
Leave the Hard Part to the Pros
Whether you sail with Carnival, Royal Caribbean, or Norwegian Cruise Line, you'll want to compare all your options to find the best available prices. Cruise Direct can eliminate your stress by doing all the hard work for you. All you have to do is enter your destination and dates, and their database will help you find the cruise line that best fits within your budget. You can also save big by booking last minute. Check out what's currently available for a discount.
If you want to start crossing countries off your list but you can't afford a flight across the pond, cruises are hands-down the cheapest way to see the world. Tell me about your experiences in the comments!