Here’s When New Cruise Ships Are Worth the Higher Fares

Over the past 10-15 years, cruise lines have been in an arms race when it comes to building new cruise ships. These days, the major lines seem to come out with a new ship seemingly each year. The ships are usually bigger, better, and with more features than anything else in the fleet.

Wonder of the Seas
Cruise ships continue to push to be bigger and better than ever, but sailing new ships involves a higher price tag. So when is the extra cost to sail new worth the money?

The only issue is that these new ships also come with a higher price tag. Since they are the latest and greatest, cruise lines charge a premium to sail on their newest vessels, and sometimes the price difference can be staggering.

So when is it worth it to pay more to sail new?

How Much More You’ll Pay to Sail New

First things first, how much more will you pay to sail new? As with most cruises, the price will vary, but you can expect it to be higher.

Take a cruise aboard Carnival Jubilee, the cruise line’s newest ship, which sails from Galveston. This ship offers the latest from Carnival, including a waterpark, roller coaster, multiple show venues, and a never-ending stream of places to eat and drink.

During July 2024, you can sail in an interior cabin starting at $1,084 per person for a 7-day cruise from the port. That’s cruise fare (before taxes/fees) of $155 per day.

Meanwhile, a 6-day cruise at the same time of year aboard the older Carnival Dream from Galveston starts at $879 per person ($147 per day) and an 8-day cruise starts at $1,059 ($132 per day).

That difference is relatively modest compared to some others.

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship and also comes with a large price tag.

There, you can sail a 7-day eastern Caribbean cruise in a balcony cabin for $2,484 per person from Miami in late July ($355 per day).

The same room type on a 7-day cruise aboard the older Allure of the Seas from Miami comes in at $1,643 per person in July. That’s only $235 per day, or $120 less per day than Icon.

Bottom line: Expect to pay more for sailing the newest ships, but the price difference can go from relatively modest to eye-watering.

When Sailing a New Ship Is Worth the Extra Money

Pool deck on a new cruise ship
The newest ships, such as Carnival Jubilee shown here, offer more of everything and the latest activities and amenities at sea.

Given the difference in cost between sailing new and older, when will the new ship be worth the extra money?

Small Price Difference: First things first, if the price difference between the new ship and an older ship is relatively small, then by all means, go with the new ship. Of course, everyone’s definition of small will differ. In general, we’d suggest $25 per person, per day. So if a cruise is $1,000 per person for a 7-day trip on an older ship, then a cruise that runs $1,175 per person for a newer ship would be very attractive.

This doesn’t mean you never sail a newer ship if it costs more than $25 per person, per day. It’s just that at that price point, we think it’s a no-brainer to book new.

You Like the Latest and Greatest: There’s no arguing that cruising has come a long way in the past decade or two when it comes to what’s possible on the ship. Things you can see and do onboard (from activities to entertainment) today are considerably different than years ago.

If you’re someone that likes the latest and greatest, then the cost of a new ship could be worth it. For instance, Icon of the Seas features a complete 6-slide waterpark on the ship. Norwegian’s Prima and Viva offer all-new venues and Carnival’s newest ships feature new restaurants and even a roller coaster.

If you’re someone that likes to experience the latest that a cruise line has to offer, go new.

A New Class of Ship: In a similar vein to the latest and greatest, when a new ship is the first in a new class, then sailing it can be worth it. With a completely new class, you’re getting something that’s completely unique from anything else in the fleet. There’s simply no other ship like it, and it serves as the best the cruise line will have to offer.

To us, there’s a definite premium with sailing a completely new class, above and beyond just a new ship in general.

You’re an Active Cruiser: Do you go on a cruise to relax… or to have an adventure? If you’re someone that’s active on your cruise, then new ships can be well worth the extra cost. With the newest ships, cruise lines are packing on the most things to do, see, and eat. There are the biggest and newest shows, the latest activities, and the most restaurants and bars.

So if you like to unwind and disconnect, then an older ship may be a better fit. If you like to have the most things to do, then sail new.

One Warning About New Ships

Despite new ships offering so much more, many people prefer the older ships as they are more manageable and relaxing for a vacation.

In general, we love new ships because we are active cruisers and appreciate the latest and greatest with the most things to do. What we’re noticing, however, is that more and more passengers seem to be turning against the newest ships.

As new ships come online, they tend to be larger. They carry more people (in some cases up to 7,000+ passengers). They can be harder to get around due to the size, and they can be more hectic due to everything going on.

Many passengers are shunning the newest vessels, instead preferring those that are older and smaller. To them, the older ships offer a more relaxing vacation that more approachable than the massive new ships.

Just keep that in mind when considering whether or not a new ship is worth it to you.

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