Budget Family Cruise

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A recent post, Choose the Best Cruise for Kids, led readers to ask if a budget familycruise is possible. The short answer is yes! To plan a budget family cruise, consider these factors, provided by guest author, Eve Harrington.

Budget Family Cruise

Cruises, whether taken as a couple, alone or with the family, seem to maintain an unwavering synonymy with opulence, extravagance and wealth. In fact cruise liners across the world have not managed to shake off the image of the wealthy traveller sailing on an
indulgent transatlantic voyage in the 1920s, as glamorized by the movie, Titanic.

While modern-day cruises can still be thoroughly lavish, luxurious and costly, cruises of the 21st century are not confined to the super-rich and can experienced by more budget-conscious couples, individuals and families. In fact, according to industry statistics, since 1990 more than 154 million passengers have enjoyed a cruise of more than two days and out of this number 68% has been generated in the last ten years and 40% in the last five years. One of the reasons for the abrupt rise in cruise ship popularity is that cruises are increasingly becoming a cost effective choice of holiday and an inexpensive way to see the world.

If you want to experience a budget family cruise to glide across the ocean without spending a fortune, take a look at some of the ways cruises can be accomplished without spending a fortune.

Choose a cruise ship where kids go free

Cruise ships are highly competitive these days and as a consequence of this competitiveness the budget family cruise is often considerably discounted. Certain cruise operators will stipulate that children, usually 12 and under, sail free when they share a cabin with mom and dad. As long as you can put up with your brood sleeping in a bed just yards from you, financially you win when booking a cruise in which children are free.

Even cruise lines that do not offer free sailings for children, offer significant discounts to third and fourth passengers in a stateroom. Some ships offer rooms for five, better providing a budget family cruise to the cost conscious.

Say no to extras!

From luxury massages on deck where exhausted masseuses are forced to promote oils and products afterward, to overenthusiastic child sitters persuading parents to relax for the night while they will look after the kids, it is possible to spend a small fortune during your cruise. While modern-day cruise liners, like their predecessors, are adept in creating opportunities to prize money from the wallets of their guests, all you have to say is no! Celebrity cruises and chartering onboard a luxury yacht across the Mediterranean may be brimming with people with more money than sense, willing to depart with their cash at every given opportunity, it’s your cruise and you can decide how to spend or not to spend your money.

Tread carefully when buying drinks!

Similar to how a restaurant often makes its money out of excessively priced drinks, cruise liners prey on clients buying drinks that exceed the basic drinks allowance clients have already paid for in the pre-arranged cost of the cruise. Most cruise ships include tea, coffee, water and juices in the cruise package, but soda and alcoholic beverages are generally not included.

Shun from being lured into picking a brightly colored, lavishly decorated cocktail from a passing waiter’s plate. Likewise persuade the kids to drink juice or water and to stay off the Fanta and Coca-Cola, which can cost a fortune on board a cruise liner. If wine or soda is essential to your dining pleasure, purchase a drink package before boarding at a significant discount over the per glass price.

Book excursions yourself

Perhaps the greatest way to plan a budget family cruise is to book your own shore excursions. Many cruise liners are in partnership with local tour operators who pay commission to cruise operators for clients they sign up for excursions. Many of these excursions, which are not far from port, are family-orientated, such as visiting the dolphin centre or zip lining across a jungle. Such attractions typically charge hefty entrance fees, which, for a family of four, can seriously make a dent in the holiday budget.

Cruise operators encourage vacationers to select shore excursions that benefit them financially. Likewise attraction owners know that cruise passengers are generally unfamiliar with the area and don’t know real costs. Thus you will inevitably pay more when signing up for an excursion via your cruise operator. In essentially ‘cutting out the middle man’ by researching and booking shore excursions yourself, you will ultimately save money and enjoy your budget family crui

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  1. says

    I am always curious about a cruise, but I do get sea sick, and just think I would be miserable, and feel trapped. These are great tips though, because I’m sure you can find a big cumulative bill at the end, while your children rack up tabs unknowingly;)

    • Karen says

      My son gets seasick, too, but now the patches that go behind the ear make it a non-issue. Our kids did NOT have charging privileges on their cards. We did invest $28 before our 7 day cruise to allow them to get soda. They also got insulated bottles that we still use. I am confident my second son drank his $28 worth of soda that week!!! :)

      I hope you get a chance to experience a cruise one day.

    • Karen says

      Many cruise lines offer kids’ activity centers that are open most of the day. We went zip lining on a shore excursion that our daughter is too small to do, and she stayed onboard for the day. On another cruise when we just had the two boys, we left them onboard while we enjoyed lunch and shopping in St. Thomas. That was our romantic day of the trip. We used the “included” children’s programming rather than pay for late night and it worked well!
      Both Royal Caribbean and Disney have stellar kids’ programming.

  2. says

    I didn’t know that children could go free in some cases. That is WELL worth looking into. I suspect hubby and I will take the kids on a cruise someday, and that it won’t be too awful far in the future. We keep playing w/the idea and you know that’s how these things start… :) Thanks for the tips. Keeping them all in mind.

    • Karen says

      I know, Rosey… I’m playing around with a few ideas that are getting more and more tempting every day!

      On our last 7-day cruise, we got a stateroom that slept five. My husband and I paid the full fare, and the teens were about $500 each and our daughter’s fare was only $300. Not bad for all that food, entertainment and “free” childcare!

      Happy planning!

  3. says

    I still maintain that I will likely not get my husband on a cruise ship anytime in the near future. However, I was not aware that kids are free on some ships and I would definitely vouch for watching your drink expense from our only cruise trip.

    • Karen says

      Gina, We’ve tried to convince my husband’s mom to cruise with us for years. Her response, “I will not put myself on a floating island. I can’t swim.” The tips included here do work for all inclusive resorts as well. Though, they tend to be more generous with beverage inclusions. Maybe hubby will go there?

  4. says

    I’d love to go on a cruise with my daughter. It’s good that there are activities lined up for her there, as that would be my number one worry: how to keep her entertained!

    • says

      Pepper Tan,
      If it wasn’t for the amazing food each evening, I’m not sure I ever would have seen my 12 year old. He lived on the sports deck with all the middle school/high school guys. We took a picture of him at the Sports Deck sign because that’s all he did. He had an absolute blast!

    • says

      Our first family cruise was less than $3000, which includes all food, lodging (obviously), entertainment and shore excursions. Not bad for a family of five for seven days. More than a “rent a room at the beach” vacation, but soooo relaxing. I hope you get to go someday.

  5. says

    NCL and probably others as well, have group kids activities in the evening that are included — they give kids dinner and take them to the show or otherwise entertain them until about 9:00 — time for you to have dinner on your own and see the show on your own, too. What they charge for is in-room sitting, which i guess you might need with a very small toddler or baby if they fall asleep at 7:00 and you want to get out of your tiny room. The kids drinks thing is tricky. they sometimes only provide juice at meals, so in between your kids have to settle for water or expensive and junky soda. One option is to fill an insulated water bottle with juice at breakfast, when the juice is the most free-flowing.

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