You’ve seen it all on TV. Relaxing by the pool in the morning, swimming with stingrays in tropical waters in the afternoon, fine dining and entertainment at night — a cruise looks like one fun thing after another. It looks like it might just be the perfect thing to get the family out of town and spending quality time together. It also looks like it might just break the bank. Come on. Huge boat, nice food, daily stops at exotic locations — it has to add up in a scary way. But what would you say if we could show you some of the world’s best budget-friendly cruises that cover all the fun, without breaking the bank? Well, here are our favorite budget-friendly cruises.
1. Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival is perfect for families with young kids who want all the excitement and activity for less. The Victory, Liberty, and Ecstacy ships all do Caribbean cruises and offer some of the lowest rates out there. Depending on the season and package you can be on board for as low as $45 per night. Carnival has a solid hold on the cruise world’s best value award.
So what makes it fun? Massive water slides and water parks are a start. The gourmet restaurants below deck are a bonus. And the large family rooms with views out over the water round it out.
2. Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line
Bahamas Paradise is one of the best-kept secrets in the cruise world. The line is small as they only have two ships, but the deals are great and the fun is the same. You hop on the Grand Celebration or Grand Classica and take a two-day cruise out to the Bahamas, enjoying the pools, restaurants, theatre, gym and spa on the way.
We think the short cruise is perfect too. Sometimes five-day tours get stuffy and the magic wears off by the time you get back to port. Two days at sea feels just right.
Why the special deal? Grand Celebration and Grand Classica are older ships originally built for other fleets. The other fleets sold them to Bahamas Paradise and now, being the fleet’s only two ships, they receive the entire company’s attention, ensuring that they operate as good as new. Sometimes larger cruise lines try to sell you the hype of a brand new ship. The reality is that they all offer pretty much the same experience. Older ships just shave off the prices.
3. Allure of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas is essentially a floating city. Carrying 5,400 passengers and costing roughly $1.2 billion, the ships stats are staggering. What does this mean? It means that this cruise ship has pretty much everything. The dining options are incredible, you can zip line across the deck, go scuba diving, climb a rock wall and even surf in a wave pool. And if all that wipes you out, you can always take a day to chill out in your room, look out on the ocean from your balcony and order room service.
We know what you’re thinking. All that sounds expensive. Not necessarily. Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of package deals and seasonal discounts that can be used to take a significant chunk out of the total.
4. Holland America Western Caribbean
Holland America offers cruises around the world, but our favorite is the Western Caribbean. While it doesn’t get down to the prices of Carnival (think more adults-only spaces than water parks), Holland America is sensitive to both the wallet and your comfort and privacy standards. Expect prices to hover around $100 per night.
The Western Caribbean route begins in Fort Lauderdale, makes a quick stop in the Florida Keys, then does a loop around Cuba, making stops in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and the Bahamas.
5. Norwegian Epic
The Norwegian Epic is regarded as the Norwegian Cruise Line’s best cruise ship and we would happily agree. Whether it’s the Caribbean or Mediterranean, the ship gets top marks with cruise fares that won’t wipe out your vacation savings.
The Epic definitely falls into the family-oriented action category and provides plenty of bang for your buck. Whether it’s water parks during the day or Broadway shows at night, entertainment is what they do.
While the ship offers plenty of amazing cruise options, our favorite is the 7-day Mediterranean tour from Barcelona. You’ll see Rome, Naples and Cannes, just to name a few. Oh and, the rate is less than $100 per night.