At Cruzely, we are all about finding the best cruise deals. From cheap Spring Break cruises to how to find the lowest fare for your next cruise, we aim to help cruise passengers stretch their dollar further.
That’s why at the start of the year we had an idea to find — and sail — the cheapest cruise of the entire year from a major cruise line that left from a U.S. port.
This led us to a 3-day sailing in late January aboard the MSC Divina. Sailing solo, the cruise fare was only $158 for an interior cabin, and $303 when all the government taxes and port fees were included. (Cruise fare was just $109 per person if sailing with another passenger.) This was the least expensive cruise we could find in our search, and one of the cheapest cruises you’ll find.
So what was it like to sail this inexpensive cruise? We put together the video below to give you all the ins and outs of the experience. As well, we’ve covered the trip in detail after that…
Booking the Cheapest Deal We Could Find
As mentioned, the cheapest cruise we found was a 3-day sailing with MSC cruises. This particular trip aboard the MSC Divina set sail from Miami with a short sailing over to the Bahamas, including a stop at Ocean Cay — the cruise line’s private island.
Here was the entire itinerary:
- Day 1: Miami
- Day 2: Freeport, Bahamas
- Day 3: Ocean Cay, Bahamas
Why was this sailing so inexpensive?
It checked many of the boxes that can help you find the best deal on a cruise…
Cruise Line: While MSC may not be as widely known as its rivals Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, it is making headway. And one way it’s enticing people onto its ships is with low prices. We recently named MSC one of the least expensive cruise lines, with fares that can be drastically lower than you’d expect.
Time of Year: One of the biggest factors in what you pay to cruise is not when you book your cruise but when you sail. By sticking to months when school is in session, you’ll see drastically lower fares. That’s because families — which make up a lot of demand for cruises — can’t easily sail. This cheap cruise set sail in January, when people are back at school and work following the holidays.
Ship: Cruise lines continually come out with bigger and better ships, but fares to sail them are usually much higher than older ships. This cruise was aboard the MSC Divina, which first set sail in 2012. That makes it older (but not too old), to where it’s little surprise there are affordable fares.
Boarding & First Impressions
We’ll be honest, with such a low fare, we weren’t sure what to expect at first. And the initial impressions of the boarding and cruise ship weren’t that great.
First, we arrived right when the boarding window opened at noon. We normally avoid arriving at the start of boarding because the rush of people to get on the ship can cause delays. That’s exactly what happened with this trip.
The boarding process was slow. While the agents seemed to work as quickly as they could, it just didn’t seem like there were enough people to process all the passengers quickly. We’d estimate it took us an hour from the time we arrived at the terminal until we were walking the gangway to get on the ship.
With our cabin not ready yet, we went to explore the ship. Overall the ship was gorgeous. Despite being built in 2012, it largely looked updated and well-maintained. And while some of the decor was dated, it looked similar to other (and more expensive) cruises we had been on.
One area that was lacking was the pools. When first boarding, the pool in the solarium area was empty and seemed to be under repair. The main pool in the middle of the ship was a distinct shade of green. Thankfully both were ready to go — and bright blue — by the next morning.
After about an hour of exploring the ship, we checked to see if our cabin was ready. When we did, we realized that while we booked an interior cabin (with the cruise line selecting the actual room), we were assigned a balcony cabin.
Overall the room was great, albeit a little dated. Despite the low price tag on the cruise, the cabin was on par with anything you’d find on another ship. We also loved the extended balcony that was included.
Our first day was spent exploring the ship, getting a feel for its layout and the atmosphere. We played in the casino, watched the evening show in the theater, took in the sunset on the balcony, and more.
We were actually surprised at the condition of the ship. Given the price, we envisioned a ship that looked run down. After all, years of sailing day after day can take its toll. In fact, the ship seemed to be in great condition, albeit a bit dated with the decor.
Our second day on the ship had us arriving in Freeport, Bahamas. We’ll be honest, Freeport isn’t our favorite port of call. There’s a small area right by the ship with shops and a few small restaurants. Other things to do require a ride further inland.
Instead, since we had been on the ship for less than 24 hours, we decided to enjoy most of the day on the ship. We explored a bit more to see everything the Divina had to offer. We also spent some time hanging out on the pool deck, watched the acrobatic show in the evening and donated back our previous night’s winnings to the casino.
One thing we noticed was that unlike some newer ships, the Divina doesn’t have a lot of things to do such as rides or waterparks. If you need to constantly be on the move, you might get bored on longer stretches at sea. There are no go-kart tracks, ziplines, or water parks here.
By far the best part of this cruise was held until the end. On the last day the ship made its stop at Ocean Cay.
If you aren’t familiar, Ocean Cay is MSC’s private island. It only recently opened, and the cruise line spent hundreds of millions of dollars turning the former industrial site into an island paradise.
The first thing you will notice is that Ocean Cay is not yet completed, even though it’s open to guests. In fact, the cruise line even delivered a letter to passengers explaining that it’s still being worked on. From the ship, you can see the worker staging areas and that much of the island is still a bit barren despite thousands of palm trees being planted.
Apart from that, the island has a lot to love. First, Ocean Cay is big. With multiple beaches, there is tons of room for everyone, even if your ship is packed. The build-up of Ocean Cay was also smartly designed in that a small barrier island was put in, creating a calm cove that’s perfect for swimming (pictured above), even if the open water is rough.
During our time at Ocean Cay, we spent the morning exploring the island before finding a gorgeous spot on North Beach to soak up some sun. After lunch we headed back to the ship to get out of the sun before heading back to the island in the evening.
Because of the close proximity to Miami (just 65 miles), the cruise was able to stay late at night. After dark we found an out-of-the-way spot and simply laid back and stargazed before heading back to the lighthouse next to the ship.
Each evening there is a lighthouse show set to music. It features a stunning light display complete with huge spotlights and graphics on the lighthouse itself. In our opinion, it’s a can’t miss.
Following the show we headed back to the ship to pack up in preparation of returning back to Miami in the morning.
Other Things to Note
Cheap Drinks: One thing that surprised us were the cheap drinks. The menu had a number of alcoholic options for $6 each. And while fancy cocktails on most lines seem to be creeping up to $10-12 at a minimum, these drinks on the Divina were $9-10 instead. That may not seem like much of a difference, but the savings add up over the course of several days.
Great Pizza: We’re suckers for good pizza, and we thought MSC had some great pizza. It’s served in the buffet, with multiple options to choose from. You can even pay a few bucks and get one delivered to your room.
International Audience: If you’ve only sailed other lines, you might be surprised by how international the passengers on MSC will be. During check in we saw passports from Italy, Germany, Brazil, Australia, Argentina, Canada, and more. You’ll hear a mix on languages being spoken around the ship, and announcements are made in multiple languages throughout.
Was the Least Expensive Cruise Worth It?
Absolutely. For a fare that was $158… and just over $300 when including all the government fees and taxes, we were blown away by the value.
Make no mistake: This cruise was on par with many cruises we’ve taken in the past, but the price was much cheaper. In fact, we think the visit to Ocean Cay alone was worth the cost of the cruise. Add in that we booked an interior cabin but were upgraded to a balcony cabin, and it’s hard not to enjoy the trip.
That’s not to say everything was perfect. The first impressions of the check-in process and the green swimming pool weren’t the best. However, they turned out to be short-term annoyances rather than indicative of the rest of the cruise.
Put simply, we’d sail this trip again in a heartbeat.
*Note: At the time of booking (January 10, 2020), this cruise was the least expensive sailing we could find for 2020 (including the cruise fare, taxes, and fees) among major cruise lines leaving a U.S. port of call. Search was conducted over several days in early January for a solo passenger. Major cruise lines include MSC, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Disney, and similar lines. Some future cruise prices could be lower as they are subject to change.