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Advice for First Time Family Cruise Small Budget

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Jul 18th, 2012, 02:48 PM
  #1
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Advice for First Time Family Cruise Small Budget

I have been thinking about planning a cruise for our family for a long time. We have never been on a cruise before but it seems like it would be a perfect thing to do with young children (7 and 10 yrs old) because of the variety of things offered. Unfortunately we have a very small budget to work with and it seems like the Disney cruises would be about $4,000-$5,000 with air for a family of four to take a 4 or 5 day cruise to the Bahamas. Any advice on how to get the best price for a Disney cruise or less expensive cruise lines that might be just as good as Disney? We live in St. Louis, MO so I am guessing leaving from FL would be our best option. Thanks for your help!!!
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Jul 18th, 2012, 03:44 PM
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Try a local travel agent with a lot of cruise experience. Maybe they can find something for you. The price you quote for a Disney cruise sounds to little to me.
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Jul 18th, 2012, 11:20 PM
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Disney is typically a whole more expensive than the other similar mass market ships. Most mass market cruise lines offer kid's club and will have activities for the young ones.

You may want to look at RCCL or Carnival 7 day Caribbean cruise. You will find that it will be chepaer than your $4000-$5000 quote on Disney, which I thought may be their bare minimum lowest category price. I am guessing airfare on sale for 4 about $1000 total and the cruise would be $4000 for the 4 or 5 day cruise, inside cabin.

A typical 7 day cruises, inside cabin (and cramp all 4 in it) could cost as low as $1500 (sell off last minute deals) or around $2400. Holiday season are a whole lot more expensive.

If you have not cruised before, beware of the "extras" that you will be paying, and plan for those expenditures.

Typically, soft drinks is not included. The soft drink package would cost $3.50 per person per day. Tips for the staff would cost you (family of 4) at least $40 per day. And of course, the cost of shore excursions would be extra.
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Jul 19th, 2012, 09:34 AM
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Thanks Reme and Eschew. I will check out your advice! Eschew where do you go for reliable last minute deals and what is the bare minimum cabin that a family of four would typically be happy with? Is it better to be higher on the ship, front back? Thanks!
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Jul 19th, 2012, 12:02 PM
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Your local travel agent, crusie line's web page etc are sources for last minute deal. From time to time, I have seen $399 to $499 per person deals. However, they are not offered during paek seasons. With young children, you maybe stuck on high season, unless you want to take the kids out of school.

A regular cabin can hold 4 in relative comfort. I have done it years ago when my kids were small. Besides, you don't spent too much time in the cabin anyway. The only challenege would be sharing 1 bathroom for 4 person. For 4 in a cabin, you will get a double bed (or twin) and 2 "bunk" beds that drop down from the ceiling or pull out from the wall.

A typical cabin is not all that big, smaller than your avergae hotel room, under 200 square feet for sure, say 10 by 18 or 12 by 16 or there about. If you have or used a travel trailer (RV), you will undersatnd. They have many similarities except the cabins on a ship would be smaller but still has all the amenities.

You can look at the deck plan and room layout of a cabin on the cruise ship's web site.

What a family can be happy with is a point of reference that only you can answer. For people in a city who is used to living in a 400 sq ft apartment, it's good. For someone who has a 2000 sq ft home, it may not be so good.

What creates the happiness would be the trip and not the size of the cabin. My kids still have fond memories of the 4 of us cramped into the small cabin and I didn't recall any major challenegs, nor did we mind it at the time. I certainly wouldn't do it now though.

You should seriously consider getting a travel agent. It really shouldn;t cost you any extra for the crusie although you may end up paying $20 (or tehre about) a head for air tickets.
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Jul 19th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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You could also consider cruises out of NOLA or Texas. What month are you planning and do you belong to Costco? They have a travel club and give decent discounts.

In addition to sodas other items to factor in are liquor, shore excursions and the daily gratuity that Eschew mentioned.


Tell us more about when you want to go and how much time you have.

As for the cabin generally speaking low and middle are best for sensing the ships motion. Also an inside cabin will be the most economical.


As for the overall cost just know that cabin location costs even for the same type of cabin will vary. An inside cabin on a ship like the Oasis of the seas will cost a lot more than other ships due to its wow! Factor.
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Jul 19th, 2012, 02:32 PM
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I just priced out a 4 nighter Bahamas cruise late August which came to $910.00 for 4 (2 adults, 2 kids) inside cabin. Eschew is right I think about a TA.

Good luck, Larry.
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Jul 20th, 2012, 03:27 PM
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Larry, 4 nights Bahamas are party boats and I will avoid like a plague ...

Carnival offers 6 nights to Western Caribbean return for $349, 7 nights for $449. They are all October sailings. Adding tax still makes it under $2000, and you can have 2 cabins instead of cramping into 1 cabin for the same price. Carnival Liberty and Dream are both slightly older ships but are still fine ships, especially for family, and first time cruisers.

Add in $1000 for air fare, $200 for an overnight hotel, $300 for ship grat, $800 for shore excursions, $300 for souvenirs, it came to $4,500, leaving $500 still for other spendings.

Of coruse, the $800 on shore excursions and $300 souvenirs are 100% optional. Get off the ship, walk around town or take the low cost city tour or beach stops, the cost is minimal, and you will be hard press to spent $900.

Ship sells t-shirts and ball-cab packages for around $12 to $15. The markets by the dock probably have t-shirts that would go for $5 a piece or even 3 for $10. So, depending on what souvenir you buy, $300 could be very generous.

If you start drinking a fair amount of soda, wine and beer, then that is a different story ....

$5,000 for a family of 4 cruising the Caribbean for 7 days is very much a realistic budget, and don't have to cheap out on anythings. (okay, don't consume too much booze and pop on board)

For this November, my young son and GF is finally agreeing to go on a cruise holiday with us. Last week of November, Ruby Pricness, Eastern Caribbean, top deck inside cabin for $499 pp (for them) and $679 (BB Balcony) for us. Under $2,800 for 4, including all taxes. Looking at beach stops and city tours, they are about $40 per person. 4 people, 3 stops at $40 a piece comes to $480. You can do better by cab and do self-guided tours (but not recommended for first timers for obvious reasons). Princess Cay beach stop is free. and we will be under $5,000, 2 cabins, and one with a balcony!
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Jul 20th, 2012, 03:36 PM
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I just checked for November and Decemebr dates:
Carnival Glory, Miami roundtrip to Western Caribbean, 7 nights, Nov 25 deaprture, $409 plus tax per person, Dec 9 deaprture, $399 plus tax.
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Jul 20th, 2012, 04:02 PM
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I wonder about the air fare. I would like to see some dates to plug in to figure that in. They are high right now and about 3 weeks ago I heard about how gas prices will go to about 3.00 per gal. And now look!

I do wonder if your son and his GF will be up and at em for excursions. My son and his GF went with us for a cruise when they were like 20 and they sort of pulled in just before we went to breakfast.
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Jul 21st, 2012, 06:40 AM
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I agree with above posters about the price of Disney. Royal Caribbean has a great kids program and you can travel for 7 days for the price of Disney’s shorter trip.

Shop around. Look at the Costco and BJs Travel websites to compare prices. (You can look and compare prices without having to be a member.) Check Vacations to Go. All these are reliable travel agencies. When you find a cruise (or more) that you like, call their 800 number and talk to an agent. Some sites offer you onboard credit or other perks. Carnival is curtailing this to no more than $25 beginning August 1.

Look at the Boards forum at CruiseCritic.com. It’s filled with cruisers with lots of experience and advice. They will give you ideas about shore excursions vs purchasing the ship’s tours. And once you have signed up for a cruise, you can connect with others on your cruise (nice for those with kids) in the “Roll Call” section and chat about what to expect, if you want to meet each other on board, etc.

On some cruises, you can bring your own soda onboard. The buffet area on most ships offers coffee, tea, and iced tea free on the ship. I don’t think it’s necessary to drink sodas, but that’s me.

The best price I ever got for a cruise was $1,200 for 4 people for 7 days. That’s $42pp/day. It started around $4,000 and I kept watching the price come down. I was ready to book when it came down to $1,500 and then got an email offering $1,200. Because we had 4 to a room, the 3rd and 4th person in the room paid only (about) $99 (don’t recall exactly). We didn’t eat in any extra-pay specialty dining areas, and I recall very little extra expenses. The only thing you have to be careful about is the 4 person cabin. If you wait too long, they will be gone, especially during school breaks.
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Jul 21st, 2012, 09:50 AM
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I assume OP and family are US citizens - if that's the case one other "budget item" they have to consider is obtaining passports if they don't have them.
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Jul 23rd, 2012, 02:51 PM
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I have not come across any ship taht will not allow you to bring your onw soda, especially you are bringing brands that they don't carry (such as Dr. Pepper, Diet Pepsi etc) as most ship carry coke.

Be aware that they may open your luggage to confirm that they are soda and not beer or liquor. They put all luggage through x-ray machines.

Regardless of citizenship, passport is neeeded so I wouldn't factor them in as part of the expenses.

Most ship typically charges 3rd and 4th person in the same cabin less than the regular fare, typically at or below the inside cabin rate. I have never seen $99 for 3rd or 4th passengers but have seen $199 and $249 many times.

My point is if you have to pay simialr price, say within $50 per persom, you might as well take 2 cabins rather than cram into 1 cabin for the entire week.

When you factor in the auto daily tip, cruise fare, tax, excursions etc, the extra $50 per person for the 3rd and 4th passenger is not a big amount. It works out to less than $15 per night, in a real bed, rather than a bunk, plus extra space and washroom!
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Jul 24th, 2012, 02:58 PM
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Disney is expensive. Many, if not all, cruise lines have children's programs. I like the search on Expedia - you can sort by many parameters, even by price!
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