Taking a cruise can be as expensive as you want it to be. If you want to go all out, enjoy a suite, eat at the steakhouse every night, and drink until the cows come home, cruise lines are happy to oblige. In fact, it’s relatively simple to spend thousands of dollars per person on your cruise without really trying.
But the great thing about cruising is that if you want a cheap vacation without having to eat nothing but cheese sandwiches, then you can do that too. Cruise fares just to get on the ship can be ridiculously cheap… often as little as $40 a day for some cruises.
A more realistic number for a “cheap” cruise? Try $60 per day. At this rate your options can open up a number of sailings instead of just a couple on remote routes. If you spend a little more (say, $80 a day), then you can sail practically anywhere in the world if you follow a few tips outlined below.
But what can you get for $60 a day? Won’t you be stuck in the bottom of an old rickety ship headed for somewhere cold like Siberia? Far from it. For that price you can get food, entertainment, and lodging on a Mediterranean cruise — or even sail from Europe to the United States. At $80 a day you’re cruising anywhere you want to go on the planet.
To help you find the best deal — and cruise for under $60 a day — take advantage of the tips below…
Sail Out of Season
By far the biggest factor in the price you pay for a cruise is when you sail — not when you book. It actually doesn’t make a huge difference if you book a cruise a year from now or a month from now. But it makes an enormous difference if you book a trip for the Christmas holidays or summer break versus the middle of February.
The rule of thumb is that prices are highest when the kids are out of school. So if you want to find the cheapest rates, search for trips that depart between September-November and January-May (while avoiding Spring Break).
It’s not unusual for the same trip aboard the same ship to cost twice as much if you sail during the peak season versus the low season.
Look for Cruises on Older Ships
The cheapest cruises are on the older ships. That’s a disappointment given that all the new features aboard the biggest and best ships are what make the headlines. But if you’re a deal-hunter, it should make you happy.
If it weren’t for the higher demand to sail upon the newest ships, then the rates across all the ships in the fleet would be the same. Instead, older ships — which are still comfy and offer plenty of amenities — have lower rates despite often sailing to the same ports. If you want to take a cruise for less than $60 a day, then you’re likely going to take a trip on one of these older, smaller ships.
Take a Longer Cruise
The shorter the cruise, the higher the cost per day. While you will almost always pay more overall for a longer trip, the price per day is often drastically lower. For example, you might find a 4-day trip for $350, but a 7-day cruise for $415. Yes, you’re paying an extra $65 for the longer trip, but you get three more days. Meanwhile, you’re paying about $90 per day for the short trip and only $60 per day for the longer one.
If you’re really interested in getting the cheapest cruise on a per-day basis, look for lengthy trips that are 28 days or longer. These will often get as low as $40 per day as the cruise lines look to get the most people possible on the ship.
Don’t Worry About Which Cruise Line You Sail
If you have to sail a certain cruise line, then you’re going to end up paying more in most cases. Just like being flexible with your sailing dates, being flexible with your cruise line will make a big difference in how much you pay. Being willing to sail any cruise line and any ship vastly opens up your number of options.
Interior Rooms Are a Must
Maybe you will get lucky and score a great deal on a balcony cabin. Odds are against it. You’ll want to focus your search on the interior rooms for the best deal. Truth is that unless you spend a ton of time in your room, then interior cabins are just fine. It’s primarily a place to store your bags and sleep. Given the number of things to do on a cruise ship and in port most people spend a limited amount of their cruise in the cabin.
Drinks and Specialty Meals Aren’t In the Picture
Want to take a booze cruise and still spend $60 per day? It’s not going to happen. Nor will you be able to eat at the specialty restaurants like the steakhouse on the ship. When you’re looking for the cheapest vacation possible, things that aren’t included — like alcohol — quickly run up the price of the trip. It doesn’t take but one or two $8 cocktails (don’t forget the tip!) to run up your tab at the end of the trip.
Take advantage of any policies your cruise lines might have regarding bringing alcohol on board and stick with eating the restaurants included in your fare.
Make Your Own Excursions
Excursions are some of the most memorable moments on any cruise, but you definitely pay a high price for those moments. It’s typical for an excursions lasting only a few hours to cost $50 to $100 per person.
Instead, you can take your own excursions for much cheaper. If you’re headed to a Caribbean port, figure out how to get to the nearest beach. It’s often within walking distance and almost every place has laws that makes all beaches public (however, hotels can restrict access through their property). Hit up the beach for the day as a cheap way to spend your time.
You can also do some research ahead of time and do a walking tour of a port city as a cheap way to have fun without busting the budget.
Search for One-Way Cruises
Without a doubt, one-way cruises (also known as repositioning cruises) are the cheapest trips on a per-day basis. For instance, a 14-day trip from Barcelona to Tampa is currently priced at $673 — or just $48 per day. That price includes everything any other cruise would, including entertainment, food, and your cabin.
Yes, you will have to find transportation at the end of your trip, but for the cheapest cruise, you can’t beat a repositioning cruise.
Take Advantage of Online Sites to Search
If you want to find the best deals, then you’ll drive yourself crazy searching every individual cruise line’s website. Instead, you need to search one website that searches all cruise lines.
Don’t worry about prices being different on different spots. In fact, nearly every website has the same exact price. Plus, if you think you can find a better price elsewhere you can always conduct your search on one site that covers all cruise lines and then do a specific search for the cruise you want.
CruiseSheet.com is a great site to explore if you’re interested in the cheapest cruises. It aggregates cruises worldwide and lets you sort the results by price per day.
There’s one thing to remember even if you find your cruise for under $60 a day — extra fees. While we discussed many optional fees above, there are mandatory port taxes and fees, which will vary, but can cost between $50-$150 for your trip.
As well, there are gratuities to consider. These are automatically added to your bill at the end of the cruise and run about $12-15 per person, per day. Yes, they are optional, but you shouldn’t stiff the hardworking crew just to save a few bucks on your vacation.