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Cruise on a budget

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  • Apr 6th, 2019 12:57 am
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[OP]
Sr. Member
Jan 18, 2017
717 posts
314 upvotes

Cruise on a budget

I've never booked a cruise before; what's the best way to go on a budget? We are in our 30s, and not really party-goers and would like a relaxing trip.

At first I was thinking of departing from NJ/NY to save on the flight (we can drive there); but then we'd have to find a place for the car for the week. Is it cheaper to simply fly to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami?

How much should we budget for the actual cruise? Excursions, activities on the ship (we don't drink so we'll save there), etc?

I've been reading Costco is a great place to book. Any recommendations for ships/cruise lines, destinations, times? Thanks so much,
15 replies
Deal Addict
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Dec 24, 2007
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BC
Caribbean cruise deals are available practically every week and are the cheapest deal if you just like to try out cruising like currently - 7 nights Southern Caribbean for under $500US. Cruises out of New York are more destination cruises, which have limited sailings and higher prices. CostcoTravel and Expedia are good places to search for deals. Sign up for some newsletters and you get deals in the mail every week. Don't get excited over about x% discount from list price as list price is meaningless. (It's like the Manufacturer's Suggested List Price for a car - nobody pays list price).

Each cruise line have its own personality, so it's hard to recommend which ones as only you know what kind of traveller you are. Do some reading up on cruising on CruiseCritic.com and then find some deals.
Deal Fanatic
Nov 22, 2015
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If you depart from Bayonne. NJ, you can park your car there for $22 USD / day - less if you park off-site at a third party parking facility. Parking in Brooklyn and Manhattan are $30-40+ per night. Both are still cheaper than flying for 2+ people though.

Depending on the cruise line, budget $13-15+ (USD) per person, per night for the automatic gratuities. Make sure to factor in the cost of the gratuities when booking.

Excursions are totally up to you... our last cruise, we spent like $120USD on a jeep tour in St. Kitts for the two of us. Didn't go on any excursions at the other ports - just got off and walked around or took a taxi to the beach. If you want to do stuff like scuba, expect to spend much more.
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Feb 9, 2003
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Langley
I love Carnival and it's usually the cheapest.

I'd fly to Florida if I were you... cruising from NY means several days at sea where the weather won't be all that great. Cruising from there can also be more expensive.... flights can be a couple hundred RT, I've done it for under $300CAD from Vancouver. So it might actually be cheaper to fly to Florida and cruise than to cruise out of NY.

But you'll have to look at the places that interest you.

If you're on a budget, lots of places have fantastic beaches right at or very close to the terminal. Grand Turk, Roatan, St Maartin, Larabee, Princess Keys. Others are just a short taxi ride away... Nassau, St John, San Juan, St Kitts, etc. So if you just want to relax then it won't cost you much. San Juan also has the forts that you can walk to and tour for minimal cost.
Deal Expert
Feb 7, 2017
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Eastern Ontario
IMO...
The Northern States and their cruise terminals are good for 3 things:
Sailing Transatlantic to Europe (ie Cunard Line Queen Mary 2) - Sailing to Bermuda - Sailing to New England and The Cdn Maritimes

It is not a spot well suited to sailing to the Caribbean... any time of year!

Lots of folks THINK it’s cheaper than flying to Florida
It isn’t
And it’s poorly suited to getting to much beyond the Bahamas and back in a week
Just too dang far
Plus you got to contend with the weather
Be that cold 3 days heading south or back to the north
(Throws a real wrench into the workings of a Winter Warm Weather Getaway)
And the whole Atlantic Seaboard is riddled with other weather related issues when it comes to sailing...
Hurricanes - Rogue Waves - Nor’easters etc ... mostly August thru April
Google will reveal a lot of troubling stories, of harrowing voyages, Ships rerouted etc

Not my idea of a fun time

Never cruised before... head to Fort Lauderdale or Miami
And try a 2 or 3 day to The Bahamas
(good if you are at nervous ... and not sure of your Sea legs)
Or a 7 day to the Eastern or Western Caribbean, if you are more confident and less worried about motion sickness
Deal Addict
Jun 15, 2015
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Mississauga, ON
I actually find you pay more for a cruise out of the east coast ports (NYC etc) because they counter in the fact that most people aren’t flying. So I find the actual cost higher then some Florida cruises - same goes with LA.

If the intent to cruise out of NYC is to visit seasonal destination like an Eastern seaboard cruise or Bermuda then NYC is the place. Cruises from NYC dont hit the Caribbean in a 7 day timeframe.
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Jul 12, 2003
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My first cruise was 5 years ago with Carnival Conquest at 7 days East Caribbean. The cruise fare was not expensive, I think probably 500-600 each CAD + flight from YYZ to FLL, also probably of the storm season. We sailed the week after the labor day.
The port were nice. We loved it and since then we keep cruising every year or 2 if vacation allowed.
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[OP]
Sr. Member
Jan 18, 2017
717 posts
314 upvotes
Thanks for all the responses! I think we'll do a 7-day trip.

So it sounds like $500USD pp is what I should aim for, but this is before the ~$100pp for the taxes, fees, port expenses; right? I'm looking at crucon.com for these prices. Costco gives me $800-900 CAD per person inclusive of taxes/fees/etc. Seems like a lot ...

The flight to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Houston/New Orleans (actually would really like to see this city) is about $450 a person - so that's another $900 I need to budget. It's about 800km of driving to NYC so I should budget about $160-200 for gas, tolls, etc. And another $150-200 for parking. That's still a $500ish savings. Seeing Boston, Halifax would be nice. But heading down to Caribbean is also nice.

I appreciate any other tips and suggestions! Cheers,
Jr. Member
Nov 8, 2006
132 posts
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Toronto
KevCnew wrote: And another $150-200 for parking.
If you're cruising out of NYC, stay at a hotel with a stay/park/shuttle package. We stayed at Hampton Inn Ridgefield Park. Parking for the entire cruise and shuttle to/from hotel/port was included in the very reasonable package price. The package price was US$199 + taxes, which included 1 nite and breakfast. Driving to a NYC cruise can be much cheaper than flying to a Florida cruise, especially for a family that can only go during high times, eg. March Break. The savings may mean the difference between being able to afford going on a cruise versus not at all.
Deal Fanatic
Sep 21, 2004
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KevCnew wrote: Thanks for all the responses! I think we'll do a 7-day trip.

So it sounds like $500USD pp is what I should aim for, but this is before the ~$100pp for the taxes, fees, port expenses; right? I'm looking at crucon.com for these prices. Costco gives me $800-900 CAD per person inclusive of taxes/fees/etc. Seems like a lot ...

The flight to Ft. Lauderdale/Miami/Houston/New Orleans (actually would really like to see this city) is about $450 a person - so that's another $900 I need to budget. It's about 800km of driving to NYC so I should budget about $160-200 for gas, tolls, etc. And another $150-200 for parking. That's still a $500ish savings. Seeing Boston, Halifax would be nice. But heading down to Caribbean is also nice.

I appreciate any other tips and suggestions! Cheers,
Is your budget actually tight or are you just trying to be frugal? I know people have different incomes but I see you're looking very close at the $ value on things that I don't think can be directly compared based on value alone. You're saying $800pp/week sounds expensive but I'm not sure what you're basing that in. $110cad/day for 3+ meals, entertainment, lodging of cruise caliber seems fair to me given our current weak dollar. You can't really compare cruise pricing to cuba/Mexico all-inclusives.

NYC - I've done the Bermuda route before. Beautiful island and beaches. Stuff on the island is not cheap.

Caribbean - depends on the port. Some are awesome. Some are OK. Depends what you want to do.

Departure points - you should really only look at fort Lauderdale if $ is tight. The port is a $25 cab ride from the Airport. Orlando is 1+hr from Port Canaveral. Galveston is 1+hr from Houston and complicated to pull off if you don't want to pay $100ish for a taxi each way.

Additional costs: don't forget there's ~15usd/person/day for gratuities. Excursions are extra depending on what you want to do (assume $100ish pp/day). Drinks (besides water and some basic juice/tea) is also extra.

Note : your cruise pricing is based on the cheapest room available. Ie. Interior room on a low deck by the front or back of the ship. If you want something better it'll cost ya.
[OP]
Sr. Member
Jan 18, 2017
717 posts
314 upvotes
Stock R wrote: Is your budget actually tight or are you just trying to be frugal? I know people have different incomes but I see you're looking very close at the $ value on things that I don't think can be directly compared based on value alone. You're saying $800pp/week sounds expensive but I'm not sure what you're basing that in. $110cad/day for 3+ meals, entertainment, lodging of cruise caliber seems fair to me given our current weak dollar. You can't really compare cruise pricing to cuba/Mexico all-inclusives.

NYC - I've done the Bermuda route before. Beautiful island and beaches. Stuff on the island is not cheap.

Caribbean - depends on the port. Some are awesome. Some are OK. Depends what you want to do.

Departure points - you should really only look at fort Lauderdale if $ is tight. The port is a $25 cab ride from the Airport. Orlando is 1+hr from Port Canaveral. Galveston is 1+hr from Houston and complicated to pull off if you don't want to pay $100ish for a taxi each way.

Additional costs: don't forget there's ~15usd/person/day for gratuities. Excursions are extra depending on what you want to do (assume $100ish pp/day). Drinks (besides water and some basic juice/tea) is also extra.

Note : your cruise pricing is based on the cheapest room available. Ie. Interior room on a low deck by the front or back of the ship. If you want something better it'll cost ya.
Thank you for the insight!

It's a little bit of both - we want do this as cheaply as possible but obviously not to the point where we're losing value/quality of experience to save the last dollar. I saw this: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/cheap-cruises/ and thought; wow that's crazy - $30 (USD)/day?! And there's a post above that said $500-600 CAD per person. The difference between that and $8-900pp is quite large. You are right though, $110/day is quite reasonable for what it is. It's just I've never cruise "deal-hunted" and wanna get best bang for buck!

Is $8-900ish CAD tax/fees-in per person for a 7-night cruise a decent deal? +$450 flights, +$50 cab ride, +$150 gratuity, +$ for excursions? Trying to throw everyone on a spreadsheet to have an idea of what we need to spend.

Thanks for the rest of tips, I think I'll focus on Ft. Lauderdale and maybe time the flight to arrive on the same day as boarding (with sufficient time in between of course) to save a night's stay.
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Jan 11, 2004
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Victoria
I wouldn't sail from up north. Nothing like a nice warm sail away party on deck. It really sucks when it's cold! For excursions and what not I usually just do my own thing. Use sites like cruisecritic and trip advisor to get ideas of things to see and do in each port. It's WAY cheaper to do your own planning. For example, in Grand Cayman you can walk from the ship to a dive shop and rent a locker for $10 and snorkel from right in front of the shop and watch the ship's snorkel boats drop people right there too.
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Nov 22, 2015
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KevCnew wrote: Thank you for the insight!

It's a little bit of both - we want do this as cheaply as possible but obviously not to the point where we're losing value/quality of experience to save the last dollar. I saw this: https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/cheap-cruises/ and thought; wow that's crazy - $30 (USD)/day?! And there's a post above that said $500-600 CAD per person. The difference between that and $8-900pp is quite large. You are right though, $110/day is quite reasonable for what it is. It's just I've never cruise "deal-hunted" and wanna get best bang for buck!

Is $8-900ish CAD tax/fees-in per person for a 7-night cruise a decent deal? +$450 flights, +$50 cab ride, +$150 gratuity, +$ for excursions? Trying to throw everyone on a spreadsheet to have an idea of what we need to spend.

Thanks for the rest of tips, I think I'll focus on Ft. Lauderdale and maybe time the flight to arrive on the same day as boarding (with sufficient time in between of course) to save a night's stay.
NEVER fly in the same day as your cruise departs. Really bad idea, and not worth saving the cost of 1 night in a hotel. Any delays and your cruise will take off without you.

Always budget for staying at least 1 day before your cruise departure.

A Bermuda cruise out of Bayonne might be a nice "introduction" to cruising - most 7 day sailings stay parked in Bermuda for 3 days, so it's not as rushed as other itineraries where you're at a new port of call every other day.
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Aug 16, 2009
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Not sure if this is something you want to factor into as value comparison but I've found that longer cruises works out to be cheaper / day. The 12 night cruise we went on was actually cheaper/day compared to the 7 night cruises we usually go on. Note that cheaper/day does not mean lower overall cost.
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Nov 26, 2004
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superfresh89 wrote:
A Bermuda cruise out of Bayonne might be a nice "introduction" to cruising - most 7 day sailings stay parked in Bermuda for 3 days, so it's not as rushed as other itineraries where you're at a new port of call every other day.
+1 for Bermuda. Cruising is definitely the cheapest way to see this beautiful island in the middle of Atlantic. This will be the 3rd year in a row that I will be going there. And it is the only island that I feel safe taking a city bus to tour the island myself. It is really too bad that HAL no longer sail there as they dock right on Front street in downtown Hamilton. A much more convenient location than King's Wharf where the rest of the cruiselines docks.
Banned
Feb 8, 2019
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We are also planning our cruise on a budget. We'll be flying to Quito at the end of September (I already booked really cheap flights through Kayak) and am considering a trip to the Galapagos. The thing is that many of the cruise costs at thousands of dollars per person is a bit much for our budget. So thank you guys for your tips and recommendations [removed]
Last edited by Mars2012 on Apr 6th, 2019 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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