Check out our roundup of low-cost beach gear to help all members of the family enjoy frolicking in the sand and water.
Theme Cruises, Cruise Excursions
Cruises Features (continued)
Cruise Seasons.As a general rule, shoulder-season voyages (those that take place at the beginning or end of a cruising season) tend to be the cheapest cruises.
Inexpensive Theme Cruises.Once upon a time, cruises catered primarily to the "newlywed and nearly dead." Not so anymore.
Many cruise lines now serve specific demographics or customer interests. Some of the most common cruise "themes" include romantic, family, singles, wheelchair accessible, sporty/adventure vacations, wine and food, gay/lesbian, music-themed, outdoors/nature, and cultural. But the seas are wide open. We found clothing-optional cruises, ukulele-themed cruises, and musician tribute cruises, to name a few. The themes are noticeable both in the on-ship activities (for instance, the presence of a rock climbing wall for high adventure, or private sunbathing decks for romance) and the stops on land (retiree and family cruises tend to offer gentler land activities, such as museum or historical tours).
Cruise Shore Excursions.Many cheap cruises offer passengers the option of joining organized shore excursions at stops along the way. The cruises book these excursions through local guides, so prices and availability vary from ship to ship and season to season and can add as much as $300/person to your total cost or as little as $25/person. Many cruise lines, including Princess and Carnival, allow you to view brochures and book your desired excursions in advance. For example, on Caribbean cruise ships and other tropical cruises you can line up a diving or snorkeling excursion. On Mediterranean cruises, expect the option for museum tours or visits to ancient ruins. Holland America Cruise Line has been known to offer excursions centered on food and wine.
You may be able to save money by finding out which company is running the shore excursions or similar outings and then booking directly. Another excursion alternative is provided by Cruise Cheap, which lets you search by ship and cruise date for local side trips that you can book online before setting sail. Researching all your options from the comfort of home without anyone pressuring you is a big advantage, but if the excursion has not been coordinated with the cruise line, be absolutely sure you leave yourself sufficient time to return to the ship before its scheduled departure -- the captain won't wait for you.
Don't Bother Cheap Cruises
MSC Opera Cruises
Several of MSC's ships, including the Poesia, Magnifica, Melody and Fantasia, do one-way repositioning cruises at rock-bottom prices. But hidden fees are travelers' biggest complaint (tea, coffee, and bottled water cost extra at some meals), along with grumbles about sub-par food and limited hours at the pool and restaurants. Passenger capacity: between 1,500 and 3,000 (depending on ship). Read more »
Celebrity Cruises Review
Holland America Cruises Review
Voyages of Discovery Cruises Review
MSC Opera Cruises Review
Carnival Cruises Review
Norwegian Sky Cruises Review
Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas Cruise Review
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