Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas sails to the Bahamas.
Between outbreaks of norovirus, a robbery at gunpoint, a fire that crippled a ship, and the fatal crash of the Costa Concordia, wary vacationers are shunning the cruise industry. Bookings have dropped as much as 20 percent at some companies heading into the usual peak season, according to Time’s Moneyland, and cruise lines appear to have dropped prices in response.
Cheapism’s top picks for budget cruises start at less than $50 per person per night. They're based on analysis of reviews by passengers and industry experts, as well as features including entertainment and accommodations.
- Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas cruise is one of the company’s most affordable, taking up to 2,350 passengers on three- and four-night trips to the Bahamas from Miami. Consumers and experts laud the excellent service and broad selection of activities. Fares start at around $50 per night. (Where to buy)
- Norwegian Sky cruises seem to appeal equally to those looking to relax and those looking to party, with casual dining and flexible meal times. This 2,002-person ship also runs three- and four-night tours of the Bahamas out of Miami, starting at about $42 per night. (Where to buy)
Heavy competition tends to keep fares low on cruises to the Caribbean. The region’s proximity to the mainland allows for two- to four-night weekend cruises that cost less overall than longer voyages. Trips to far-flung locales such as the South Pacific and Antarctica command far higher prices. Generally fares include meals (if taken at designated eateries), but drinks, gratuities, on-shore excursions, and other activities often cost extra.
Frugal travelers can save more by booking a low-cost cruise during the shoulder season of May to mid-June. October, November, and December promise similar savings, with the potential tradeoff of less-than-perfect weather. The changing seasons also bring deals on so-called “repositioning” cruises, when a ship relocates to another region. For example, a cruise line might leave behind sweltering Florida and the Caribbean to cross the Atlantic, with a stop in the Canary or Azores islands, and spend the summer cruising around Europe. Keep in mind that these are one-way trips, so you have to factor in the cost of return transportation.
The cheapest fares buy an interior cabin without a view. If you plan to spend a lot of time lounging in your stateroom, you may want to spring for an outside cabin with more room and amenities, including a balcony or veranda. (Be aware that the advertised square footage often includes any outdoor space, so the room itself may turn out to be smaller than you expect.) Take note of where a cabin is on the ship. Steer clear of the upper decks if you fear that too much swaying may make you seasick. If you're looking to unwind, avoid noisy areas such as the pool deck and the lower levels, near the ship’s propellers.