Who doesn’t dream about getting a great deal on a cruise, or getting an upgrade that you weren’t expecting? On a recent Royal Caribbean trip, that’s exactly what I got as I sailed on the least-expensive cruise I’ve ever taken on any line.
And while I thought I was going to end up sailing in an interior cabin at the bottom of the ship… a glitch ended up giving my buddy and me a much better upgraded cabin on one of the highest decks.
So how did I score this deal? How much did I pay? And most importantly, what was it like aboard the cheapest cruise I could find? Here is everything about this trip…
How I Found the Cheapest Cruise I’ve Ever Taken
Since I take a lot of cruises, I’m always on the lookout for inexpensive trips. There’s a couple of ways I do this. One, I go to sites like Orbitz. These give you all the cruises from all the lines. So if you aren’t picky about who you cruise, you can find some deals and search everything all at once.
Well, searching through there, I found a pretty unique trip from Royal Caribbean that was for a dirt-cheap price. Normally lines like MSC and Carnival come up with the least-expensive cruises. Royal Caribbean is typically a little higher.
So I went to Royal Caribbean’s site to confirm the price. You might not realize it, but on Royal’s website if you just click “Search Cruises” without anything selected, it brings up all their trips from all over the world from now until years in the future. From there you can sort by price to find the least expensive trips.
And sure enough, at the top of that list — which covered cruises all the way through 2023 — was that same cruise for just $100 per person.
But that deal was about to get even better thanks to a computer glitch…
The Basics of the Cruise (Itinerary, Ship, Length)
First things first, this cruise was for the second week of February and was for only two days aboard Freedom of the Seas. So you board in Miami, cruise over to spend the day at CocoCay, and then head back to Florida.
One reason it was so inexpensive is that it was so short, but I’ve also been seeing some lower prices on near-term cruises as the virus seems to have hit bookings for close-in cruises.
And what about that two-day trip? That’s pretty unique on Royal Caribbean. Well it turns out — and I wouldn’t realize it until I was on the ship — the next cruise was a themed Monsters of Rock Cruise that’s headlined by Alice Cooper. (I’ll have more on that in a moment). Because of that cruise, it seems like this short trip was wedged in.
Here’s where things get really interesting, however.
Exactly How Much I Paid for Two People to Sail
I found this cruise for $100 per person. Of course, you have taxes and fees, and it’s for double occupancy. After all those extras, it was about $400 for the interior cabin for two people.
I’m ready to book, putting in my information, and then something really weird happens. I put in my details and click continue… and the price jumps from about $400 to $550. Then I try again. Then I tried a different browser. No matter what I do, each time I put in my details, I get the higher price.
I’m frustrated. I’m thinking this trip is about to fall through..
So I decide to call Royal Caribbean. There, I’m talking to an agent and she tells me that the lowest price for the interior cabin she sees is similar to the $550 price I’m seeing… but she says there are balcony rooms for the lower price.
She’s telling me I can pay the same amount as I was going to pay for an interior room, except now I get a balcony cabin?
Needless to say, I jumped at it. All told, we paid $212 in cruise fare — $106 per person. Taxes and port fees brought the total cost to $415.50 for two people.
And on top of that, we also got $125 in onboard credit for reasons I still don’t understand. It was supposed to be $25, but then an extra $100 magically appeared on the account.
So is it a great deal for the amount of time spent on ship? That’s debatable. There’s plenty of trips that are cheaper on a per-day basis.
But in terms of the total you’ll pay for any cruise — especially in a balcony room — that’s about as cheap as it gets. Heck, try finding a hotel for that cheap for two nights. Much less one that will include not just the room but also the visit to CocoCay, all meals while onboard, entertainment and more.
Day 1: Arrival & Boarding
So what was it like to sail the cheapest Royal Caribbean cruise? Well… it was a little different than I’m used to.
Since I don’t live in Miami, I had to hop a flight. Normally a ticket is around $200 from where I live, but for some reason these particular days had dirt-cheap flights. I was able to score tickets for $80 roundtrip. Even better, the flight times were absolutely perfect. If that wasn’t a sign I was supposed to go, I don’t know what is.
There is nothing that quite gets the blood flowing like flying into Miami during the middle of winter. After leaving the browns and grays of back home… and seeing the blues and greens of the city, it’s just amazing.
From there, a quick ride over to the port, and it was time to board. Check-in was an absolute breeze. With only a handful of people in the terminal we immediately talked to an agent, got our vaccine wristbands and headed to the ship.
Now you wouldn’t expect the newest ships to have dirt-cheap fares, and in fact Freedom of the Seas is a little older. It first started sailing in 2006. It has everything you’d expect, but I’d be lying if it didn’t feel a little dated in décor. Given the price of admission, I couldn’t care less. Still, I did notice it.
But what I really noticed was that there were way fewer people that I expected on the cruise.
Day 1: A Different Feeling Cruise Than Usual
I asked at check-in how many passengers were on the ship and was told about 1,000. I overheard a security guard talking about roughly 1,500 passengers. At double occupancy, Freedom can hold about 3,800 people. So that would put the ship at somewhere between a quarter a third full if the numbers are accurate.
Getting on the ship, you could definitely feel the smaller crowd. It wasn’t “dead” like an empty shopping mall — there were still plenty of people. But the lack of people meant there wasn’t really the buzzing feeling you normally get when you step on a ship the day it sets sail.
Even so, with wonderful weather everyone who was on the ship was out on the pool deck. We set our bags down, checked out the balcony room that we got such a great price on, and headed up for a drink and to enjoy the warmth of Miami and the skyline.
One cool thing is that we got great views of other ships leaving the port as they sailed off on their trips. With the Royal Caribbean terminal at the end of the port, it is ideal for ship spotting.
Heading out of port around six p.m., it was time to start our evening. With so little time, we spent the evening getting our bearings by checking out the ship. That was followed with a quick dinner in the buffet and then making a generous donation to the casino.
Trying to figure out what to do that first night was when I noticed that it seemed like there was less stuff going on around the ship than I usually see.
Sure there was some entertainment and programs, but it certainly seemed like if you wanted something to do, it meant doing the onboard activities like the casino, having a drink, or listening to music around the ship. There didn’t seem to be a lot of activities put on by the staff. Even one of the two main pools was drained, reducing the size of the swim areas.
There were also huge black boxes being stored all over the ship that I’ve never seen on any other cruise. It wasn’t until the next day that I would put two and two together to solve the mystery of what they were.
Day 2: Experiencing CocoCay Like I Never Have Before
The next day, of course, was the last day of the cruise… but also the first full day. Yeah, things are a little weird on a two-day cruise. We awoke to a view of CocoCay from the balcony.
The weather was just picture perfect. Sunny and warm with a light breeze. We actually hung around a little on the ship, grabbed breakfast, gathered our things and then headed ashore. With so few people on the ship, it was like having CocoCay to ourselves.
All the beaches had some people, but I’ve never seen it so uncrowded. Finding a lounger at the front of the beach wasn’t an issue at all. And the Oasis Lagoon, which is normally packed (especially around the wet bar) had just a few people.
We did a lap around the island and by about 10:00 a.m. we may or may not have been camped out in front of the floating bar on South Beach, with mojitos in hand. That’s where we spent most of our time — only briefly interrupted by a great moment where there was a proposal on the beach — until grabbing a quick bite to eat.
Day 2: More Mojitos but no Waterpark 🙁
With the full day on the island, we decided to make the day into two days. A few hours on the beach in the morning, lunch, and then heading back to the ship for a quick nap to recover from the late night and drinks the evening before. The timing was perfect as there was a shower passing through just as we were heading back.
Feeling reset after an hour or two, we went back for more. By now the weather was back to being amazing. The island was just stunning. There were also more people out and about, but the island was still far from full. It was like having your own personal island.
With the afternoon, we decided to see if we could get into Thrill Waterpark… without the huge price tag. Online, the price for admission was $80 per person — nearly as much as our cruise fare. Surely with only a few hours left it would be cheaper, right?
No luck. The gate attendant told us there was no discount even though it was the afternoon. Instead, we hit the pool thinking it would have warmed up, but after a couple of minutes in the water, it was just too cold.
So we headed back to South Beach where actually the ocean water was warmer than the pool. Mojitos in hand, we spent the rest of our time on the island just relaxing, hanging out in the water, people watching. It was fantastic.
The Last Night of the Cheap Cruise
Back on the ship at the end of the day, it was time for some FlowRider, followed by Playmakers for dinner. Specialty restaurants on Royal Caribbean have spread like wildfire to where most places outside of the buffet and dining room are for a charge. Playmakers also charges but the prices seem to be more reasonable. For nine bucks we were each able to get a massive burger and fries. On land, this thing would be closer to $15.
From there we set to figure out what to do for the evening and were surprised by how little seemed to be going on around the ship. It was basically watch a movie by the pool, ice skate, or watch a quick show in the theater.
Again, there were some things to do, but it just felt lacking compared to other cruises. That’s when someone asked us if we were staying on with the rock cruise.
Now I had no idea what they were talking about. It turns out the cruise after our trip was the Monsters of Rock Cruise, with tons of bands playing on the ship and headlined by Alice Cooper. And then walking around the ship, we started to see everything being set up.
That drained pool? It was being turned into a stage. And all those black boxes I saw stacked around the ship were filled with equipment for the bands. Stagehands seemed to be everywhere on the pool deck getting things ready for the start of the next day’s cruise.
Final Thoughts on the Cheapest Cruise I’ve Taken
So what’s the bottom line on this cruise? Cruise fare was $100 per person. All in, it was about $200 per person with the taxes and fees. There are better values on a per-day basis, but I doubt you’ll find something that has a cheaper overall price.
That said, it did feel like the trip was very different from other cruises I’ve taken. With so few passengers on board, it was definitely much quieter than I’m used to – especially on a short trip – with a more subdued vibe. As well, it sort of felt like the attention was on getting ready for the next cruise during our short trip.
Overall, however, the cruise was a blast despite these issues. Anytime you get to go to CocoCay and have picture perfect weather, it’s a good day. I’d do it again in the second.