Cheapism: Best budget cruises
A tropical vacation at a lower price per night than a roadside motel? That’s the promise of many cruise lines right now.
October and November always bring unpredictable weather in the Caribbean and an influx of cruise ships from Alaska, Canada, New England and Europe relocating to warmer waters. Recently a glut of new megaships and a string of PR fiascos have further increased supply and decreased demand. MarketWatch reports that prices have fallen lower than ever this off-season.
Cheapism.com has scouted the ships with the lowest fares, weighing expert and passenger reviews and seeking out up-to-date amenities. Here are four top picks under $75 per person per night.
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas (starting at $64 per person per night) specializes in weeklong Caribbean cruises out of Port Canaveral, Fla. (outside Orlando). This ship was the largest in the world when it debuted in 2006 and has since collected endorsements from hundreds of reviewers. A 2011 facelift added family-friendly features such as a new nursery and a poolside movie screen. Ports of call on the cheapest itinerary: St. Thomas, St. Maarten and CocoCay, a private island in the Bahamas owned by the cruise line. (Where to book)
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Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway (starting at $64) is a brand-new ship that departs from New York City, putting a Caribbean cruise within easy driving distance for many travelers who live far from Florida. Norwegian has won awards for its short-duration cruises, which include a two-night “escape from New York” where passengers simply stay onboard and enjoy the amenities. On longer cruises the ship might sail as far as Barbados before returning to the Big Apple. (Where to book)
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Carnival Cruise Lines’ Dream (starting at $49) crisscrosses the Caribbean Sea on sailings from Port Canaveral, Fla., and New Orleans. Incidents including a fire that crippled a different ship have tattered the company’s image but also brought discounted fares, and recent reviews take a largely positive view of the line. Readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine perennially name Carnival the best value for the money and commend its Caribbean itineraries. (Where to book)
Celebrity Cruises’ Eclipse (starting at $61) comes within reach of budget travelers twice a year, when it offers so-called repositioning cruises: one-way voyages between ports in Southampton, England, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with stops including the Virgin Islands, Bermuda and the Bahamas. The catch is that passengers must pay their own way to or from the U.K. Eclipse is rated best value overall on the review site Cruise Critic, earning high scores from passengers for cabins and dining. (Where to book)
The starting prices listed here are for interior staterooms with double occupancy. Ocean views, balconies and suites command a premium, and fares also vary by departure date. Cruise prices generally include meals, but expect to pay extra for certain specialty dining options, alcoholic beverages and gratuities. Shore excursions and services such as spa treatments also add to the total cost of the trip.
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