How Much Does a Cruise Cost? Not as much as you think! Some simple factors that impacts the cruise fare.

Have you been thinking, “How much does a cruise cost”?

Before answering that question let’s analyse what it is included in the cruise fare

Your cruise fare includes the following:

  • Your accommodation
  • Your meals at the main dining room, at the buffet, at the cafeteria and some other food venues (pizza place, burger and hot dogs, ice cream etc.). Some cruise lines also include 24 hour room service.
  • All the entertainment on bard including broadway style shows, comedy shows, dance party, disco clubs, lectures etc.
  • Swimming pools and gym access.

Many people, especially the ones that have never cruised before, ask me the question, “How much does a cruise cost?” My reply is, “It all depends!“. There are lots of factors that influence the cruise fare. Here are the most important ones:

Different Cruise Lines, Different Service Levels

Different cruise lines have different prices. Some are cheaper, while others are more expensive. It all depends on the level of service offers by the cruise line, the amenities, the perks offered, etc. If you want to read more about all the different type of cruise lines, here is a previous article that explains how to choose a cruise line.

When you contact a travel agent and are faced with two or more distinct lines and a similar itinerary, you need to first determine what’s included.  Indeed, you might ask the question “How much does a cruise cost,” but, I think more important to identify the differences between the two lines.  For example, to compare apples to apples.

You might find out that the cruise line that appears more expensive, actually ends up being cheaper once you add up all the extra perks you might get. If you’re a first-time cruiser, it is essential to book with a travel professional specialized in cruises. They have extensive knowledge about the products, and the best ones, like me (I know, shameless plug), know what a passenger likes or dislikes.

For this reason, they can help to book the best line to fit passenger needs.

Crown Princess Cruise in Port
Princess Cruise in Port

Ok, but How Much Does a Cruise Really Cost?

Let’s take a closer look at how much a cruise might cost you.

First, you’ll need to pick a cabin.  Typical cabins include “Inside cabins,” “Window Cabins,” “Balcony Cabins,” “Mini-Suite,” and “Suite.”

As you might have guessed it, inside cabins are typically cheaper than window cabins. Window cabins are less expensive than balcony cabins and so on. Even in the same cabin type, you have cheaper and more expensive ones. Further, the location often determines the cost.  For example, if you book an inside cabin, midship is usually more costly than at the front (Forward) or the back of the ship (Aft).  This is because midship cabins are less prone to movement (i.e., you are less likely to get seasick here)

If you’re on a budget and want to save some money, consider booking a  “To Be Assigned” cabin. In this case, you pick the type of cabin you want (inside, balcony, etc.) and the cruise line will assign your cabin at some point up until the day of boarding.  For example, think of it like renting a hotel room.  The hotel operator seldom gives you a room number in advance.

You can read more about cabin types in this article.

How much does a cruise cost? This is an inside Cabin - One of the least expensive cabins.
Inside Cabin

Number of Passengers per Cabin

Cruise lines usually quote their prices based on double occupancy.  That means two people each pay the same price. In case there is a 3rd and 4th passenger, they generally charged a discounted fare – if the cabin supports more than two passengers.  Be aware if you travel solo, the fare can double the regular price.

Solo travelers also often wonder how much a cruise might cost them.  In recent times, some cruise lines started to target solo travelers. For example, NCL is offering more competitive pricing, individual cabins, and events specifically for them. Occasionally, some cruise lines run specials and the 3rd and 4th traveler, usually aimed at kids, travel for free. If you have a family with children, you should watch out for that kind of specials.

Time of Booking Can Significantly Change The Price

Generally speaking, the cheapest times to book a cruise is at their launch or, at the very last minute.  For example, if you book very early (as soon as the new itinerary comes out) or very last minute, you can get the best prices.  In the first case, when a cruise line releases new routes for the season, they often come with special launch fares to entice clients. Also, cruise lines may release unsold cabins at a discount at the very last minute. So as a rule of thumb, you should book very early or at the very last minute. I always recommend to sign up for the last-minute email list with the cruise lines you like.  If you want to find out how we score the best cruise deals, click here. 

Island Princess in Huatulco, Mexico
Huatulco Beach

Itinerary

Some itineraries are much cheaper than others. For example, Mexican Riviera or Caribbean cruises are much less expensive than exotic cruises in Asia or South America. This because there is a lot more competition on these North American itineraries and the price goes down.

Furthermore, cruise lines keep ships in the same areas and have them travel the same route, over and over, all season.  As a result, this allows the cruise lines to keep their costs lower, and it is essential to remember when wondering how much it might cost.  Also, I should note that some cruise lines even leave ships in the Caribbean year-round doing the same itineraries for 12 months. If you want a cheap cruise, consider a summertime Caribbean cruise – as it’s a good option.

Grand Princess in Cabo San Lucas
Cabo San Lucas

Seasonality is a Big Factor in How Much a Cruise Costs

Cruises tend to be less expensive at both the very beginning and at the very end of the season. For example, if you book an Alaskan cruise at the beginning of May, or at the end of September, prices can be half of what you might pay during peak season in July and August.

In my opinion, Alaska, at the beginning of the season, is the best because it’s less crowded.  Also, the weather is generally the same as in peak season.  Further, in peak season, you’ll have to deal with much higher airfare to reach your ship.  Additionally, hotels for your pre and post-cruise stay will also be more expensive.

Here is a quick guide to picking the right season for different areas:

  • Alaska: Mid May to late September
  • Mexican Riviera: Late September to end of April
  • Panama Canal: Early October to mid-April
  • Mediterranean: Late April to Mid October
  • Northern Europe and Baltic Sea: Late April to the beginning of September
  • Caribbean: October to April (recently you can do the Caribbean year-round)
  • Canada and New England: August to Mid October
  • Hawaii: End of September to the beginning of April
  • Chile and Argentina: November to March

How Much to Expect

As a general rule for a Mainstream cruise line (Carnival, NCL, MSC, etc.) inside cabin budget between $50.00 and $150.00 per person per day. For a Premium cruise lines (Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, etc.) budget between $150.00 to $250.00 per person per day for an inside cabin. For a luxury cruise line, the fare starts around $250.00 per person per day and up.

These are only the prices for the cabin.  For example, extra costs such as gratuities, drinks, spa treatments, casino, shopping onboard, photos, etc. are on top of that, unless you have it as part of a package, and that will be the topic for another post.

I hope these few tips will help you to budget for your next cruise.

Have fun and Happy cruising!