Affordable Vacations at Sea

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Princess Cruises

If you're looking for a value vacation, take to the waves. It's a common misconception that cruises are prohibitively expensive, when they can, in fact, offer some incredible deals. "If you think about going to Europe and what it would cost to feed a family of four three meals a day, and that those meals are included on a cruise ship, right there you save hundreds of dollars," says Johanna Jainchill, Senior Cruise Editor of Travel Weekly.
http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,localizationConfig,entry&id=886446&pid=886445&uts=1274897198
http://www.aolcdn.com/ke/media_gallery/v1/ke_media_gallery_wrapper.swf

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

If you're looking for a value vacation, take to the waves. It's a common misconception that cruises are prohibitively expensive, when they can, in fact, offer some incredible deals. "If you think about going to Europe and what it would cost to feed a family of four three meals a day, and that those meals are included on a cruise ship, right there you save hundreds of dollars," says Johanna Jainchill, Senior Cruise Editor of Travel Weekly. Melissa Paloti, Managing Editor of Cruise Critic, agrees that there are benefits to combining all your basic costs into a convenient package, but warns that sticking to a budget might be more of a challenge when you're faced with so many enticing extras. "You do have to budget for extras, and there are plenty, such as cocktails, shore tours, spa treatments and, on some ships, specialty restaurants." At least the travelers who have to resist splurging on board can console themselves with the thought that they're packing numerous destinations into just one vacation.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

A vacation to a private island is beyond most budgets. But cruise lines often snap up a private island (or at least part of one) as stop offs for their passengers. Picture-perfect islands in the Caribbean usually offer complimentary lounge chairs, hammocks, and kids' activities, beach barbeques, and beach parties. If you want to keep costs down, bring your own snorkels and flotation vests. As on board, food and basic beverages are included. Cruise lines with private islands on their itineraries include MSC Cruises (Cayo Leventado), Disney Cruise Line (Castaway Cay), Costa Cruises (Catalina Island), Princess Cruises (Princess Cays), Holland America (Half Moon Cay) and NCL (Great Stirrup Cay). Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean share Coco Cay in the Bahamas and Labadee, Haiti.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

All-inclusive deals -- with food and standard beverages included -- make a cruise vacation a good value choice and an easy way to budget for a trip. You can devour delights from the buffet or non-specialty restaurants, and have room service delivered at no additional cost on most cruises. However, very few offer an all-inclusive alcohol or soft drink components. As a rule, the more upscale the line, the more that is included in one fixed price. On board Regent, Silversea, SeaDream Yacht Club, and Yachts of Seabourn cruises you'll find soft drinks and wines, champagne, and spirits included in your fare.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

Cruising offers the benefit of paying for on-board purchases in U.S. dollars, a particular bonus not only because it saves paying exchange fees, but at those times when other currencies sit at unfavorable exchange rates against the dollar, you can still stick to your budget. So if you're docked in Tokyo and dine at Holland America's award-winning Pinnacle Grill and pay the specialty restaurant surcharge, you'll be billed in U.S. dollars, not yen.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

Many cruise lines offer kids and teens programs for no charge, saving on camp fees and sitters. Royal Caribbean's acclaimed Adventure Ocean children's program divides the wee ones into seven distinct age-appropriate activity groups -- from Royal Babies, offering music classes and baby gymnastics, to Teen Only, with its Fuel nightclub and hip coffee lounge. RCI is one of the few lines to offer free activities for the under threes. And Disney really pulls out all stops for family travelers, with free kids programs for ages three and over. Disney's ships even boast almost an entire deck devoted to activities for kids and teens from 9 a.m. until midnight. Add to that the slew of pools, Broadway-caliber shows, and 3D movies, and the savings on what you would have spent to entertain the family could buy you another vacation.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

While you might have to pay for a personal training session or spinning class, the gyms and fitness centers on cruise ships are always free to use. The fitness facilities on board Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure of the Seas are big news on the high seas in 2010. Get fitter for free with the bank of 12 Gravity machines, Kinesis wall, Expresso Bikes, and Activio Cycling. RCI'S Freedom-class ships also offer excellent facilities, including 9700-square-foot fitness centers with state-of-the-art cardio, weights and circuit training equipment. You'll also find the top-deck fitness options on many ships, such as basketball and volleyball courts, offer yet more calorie-crushing activities at no extra cost.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

An increasing number of cruise companies encourage passengers to exercise their minds rather than camping out on a sun lounger. Celebrity Solstice's Hot Glass Show features free glassblowing demos by artists from New York's Corning Museum of Glass. Celebrity also offers an impressive schedule of on board lectures. Sail off into the sun and come back an expert on topics from financial strategies and politics to wine appreciation, astronomy, and photography. Celebrity even offers basic computing classes in which guests can learn how to use Macs, iPods, and various Apple programs at a café equipped with a fleet of shiny MacBook Pros.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

Movie buffs can save a packet by catching first-run films on some cruises. Princess Cruises has 300-square-foot poolside screens with 69,000-watt sounds systems. These "Movies Under the Stars" screens show feature films, family shows, and televised events, from the Super Bowl to the Academy Awards. A signature feature of Princess ships since curtains opened on the concept in 2004, seven of their ships now have the screens, with Golden Princess, Dawn Princess, and Coral Princess decked out for big pictures in 2009. The entire fleet will have the screens by 2011.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

Want to catch a hot Broadway show, but feel that you can't justify the price or the travel time? It's possible to catch top shows on board some cruises without ticket costs and booking fees. One of the most thrilling ships to launch in 2010, Norwegian Epic, will sail out from London to New York in July with an incredible entertainment bill that includes Blue Man Group and The Second City comedy troupe, as well as the lure of standout venues such as the Spiegel Tent big top.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

For travelers looking to explore multiple destinations, a cruise is the perfect option to keep costs under control. Consider your ship as a floating hotel with ever-changing views but none of the tedious packing, repacking and multiple check-ins (and it doubles up as your transport between ports, too). The latest crop of sundecks now competes with the best land-based resorts for pools, slides, and other watery wonders. Carnival is refurbishing sun decks on its eight 2052-passenger Fantasy-class ships, including new and improved children's water parks. The Fantasy-class vessels are older, but after a $250 million makeover they'll offer as satisfying a cruise experience as many of the new mega-ships, but at a lower price.

Cruising Your Way to a Budget Vacation

Read Full Story

From Our Partners