Cruising is surprisingly affordable (Photo: Thinkstock)
Picture this: Your bags are packed, and the kids are squealing with excitement as you head to the port for your first cruise.
You’ll stop at four islands during over the course of your seven-day adventure, and at each one you’ll have the opportunity to experience its unique vibe and perhaps enjoy some fresh, local cuisine. During your days at sea, you’ll eat fancy meals in the ship’s main dining room, relax at the pool and spa, and see Vegas-style shows the whole family can enjoy. Your cabin has enough sleeping room for everyone, a bathroom and a private balcony where you can peer out into the endless ocean.
Does this sound like a dream? Fortunately, cruising is a real vacation option for families.
What’s even more surprising? You may even be able to afford it.
A cruise is a great option for families (Photo: Thinkstock)
Why Families Choose to Cruise
Nearly 21 million people cruised globally last year, with about 17.6 million setting sail from North America, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association. That’s a lot of people any way you cut it, and it speaks volumes about the popularity and convenience of cruising as a vacation option for families. But why do families choose to cruise in the first place?
To sample different locations. Since cruises typically stop at more than one destination, they provide families, couples or singles with the perfect opportunity to visit more than one place. And since land-based vacations typically require you to settle on one destination, cruises offer one more option for vacationers who have trouble picking just one place to go. About 40 percent of cruise passengers choose to return to a location they once visited on a cruise for a land-based vacation, according to marking firm International Cruise & Excursions Inc.
To avoid air travel. If you’ve ever flown with your family, you know just how expensive air travel can be. Fortunately, cruise embarkation ports have been strategically placed within driving distance for 75 percent of North American vacationers, the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association reports. The prospect of getting overseas without paying for airfare is very appealing for cost-conscious travelers.
To save money. Price-shopping for a cruise can be an eye-opening experience, simply because it is far less expensive than many people think. Take a four-day Western Caribbean cruise with Carnival Cruise Lines, for example, where prices run as low as $124 per person for a family of four, plus taxes and port fees. Likewise, a seven-day Carnival Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean runs as low as $204 per person for a family of four, plus taxes and port fees. And remember, your cruise price is inclusive of many typical vacation expenses such as your meals and entertainment.
For convenience. All cruises and cruise lines are different, but they all offer a convenience that is unmatched by any other type of vacation. Once you pick a cruise that offers the destinations you desire, you literally just have to pack and show up. The rest of the details are taken care of for you.
Where to Set Sail
The Caribbean is the most popular cruise destination, according to the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association, with as many as 37 percent of all cruises visiting a destination in that region in 2013. But cruises aren’t just for sun worshippers and beach lovers.
Several cruise lines offer itineraries that stray from the traditional idea of a cruise, with destinations that span the globe. That’s right. You can cruise almost anywhere — from Alaska to Australia to Europe and everywhere in between.
Because cruises offer families an opportunity to sample several destinations, often without the high cost of airfare, they are fast becoming one of the most popular vacation options out there. And, with meals and entertainment included and one low fare, what’s not to like?
So break out a map and figure out exactly what in the world you want to see and experience firsthand. Then compare cruise lines to look for the best value, while also making sure you know what is and isn’t included in your fare. Chances are, you’ll find an excellent vacation opportunity that will provide hundreds of family memories for years to come — and at a price you can afford.
Celebrity Reflection: the most affordable cruise ship (Photo: Celebrity)
Top 10 Most Affordable Cruises
U.S. News ranks the 130 Best Affordable Cruises based on an analysis of reviews and health ratings. Celebrity Reflection is the top-ranked ship overall. Here’s the top 10:
3. (tie) Disney Fantasy (Disney)
3. (tie) Royal Princess (Princess)
5. (tie) Queen Elizabeth (Cunard)
5. (tie) Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
7. (tie) Celebrity Silhouette (Celebrity)
7. (tie) Disney Magic (Disney)
7. (tie) Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)
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