When many people think of the word ‘cruising’, it immediately conjures up the sense of unaffordable luxury. It is perhaps true that, in days gone past, cruising the world was a pursuit only really available to the most affluent of couples and families; we would simply gaze on with envy whenever we happened to spot a cruise ship on the horizon or docked in a port we were visiting on a more modestly priced holiday.
Now, however, these days of exclusivity are a thing of the past. For various reasons, discovering the world from the comfort of a cruise ship is a much more realistic option for countless people across the UK and the world, and this is reflected by the huge growth which the industry has seen in recent years, even against an economic backdrop which has seen several other areas of the travel industry falter.
In this article, we will go into a bit more detail about how and why cruising is no longer just accessible to those with second homes and supercars – if you do your research and choose the right package, taking either a long or short cruise break is now an option which is open to just about anyone who enjoys an annual holiday.
Take a break from bills
An infographic was recently shared by the travel guide experts Lonely Planet which showed how, incredibly, taking a year-long cruise can actually work out significantly cheaper than just getting by in some of the world’s most populated major cities for the same length of time.
The most striking result of all was the cost of cruising around the world compared to attempting to live a relatively frugal life in the French principality of Monaco. Amazingly, the cruise works out at 61% cheaper.
You may be thinking that this is not a hugely significant statistic, as Monaco is a famously exclusive location, largely populated by extremely wealthy individuals. However, it may be more surprising to learn that the city dwellers who would make the next biggest savings by taking to the seas for the whole of 2017 are the residents of New York and – most relevant to UK-based cruisers – our very own capital of London. According to the Planet Cruise infographic, those who live in these cities would make a saving of 36% by moving to the altogether more relaxed surroundings of a cruise ship for the next 12 months.
If you stop to consider all of the monthly outgoings that you have to commit to on a regular basis, these figures will perhaps be less of a shock. The people who conducted this research took all the regular payments they could into account, but were not unreasonable with what they included. Here is a quick list of the kind of expenses you could avoid if you took the plunge and checked yourself into a cruise ship for a whole year:
- Food (both groceries and meals out)
- Commuting (fuel, train tickets etc.)
- Utility bills (heating, electricity etc.)
- A phone contract (imagine the freedom you would gain by ditching your mobile for a year!)
- Internet contract
- Cinema tickets
- Gym membership
The key to realising just how affordable cruising can be is to offset the price of your ticket against what you will be saving by having a break from all of the expenses listed above. Most people forget that many of the amenities we think of as ‘essential’ – such as regular entertainment – are readily available on all kinds of cruise ship.
There are, of course, instances when cruising can still be undeniably expensive. Ultra-luxury trips or those which have extremely limited availability can be pricey but, if you are not in a position to be able to afford these options, they can easily be avoided with a bit of sensible pre-planning.
As English Mum – a travel, family food and lifestyle blogger who has written about several of her cruise experiences – explains, making the most of your holiday budget on a cruise ship is ‘really about prioritising’. She advises that ‘for value for money cruising, there are two ways to look at booking: booking early means that you can often bag a really good price for the specific cruise you want, but if you’re flexible on ship and destination, then a last minute cruise can save you a fortune’.
Clearly, it is just not convenient for everyone to drop their commitments and decide to take a year-long cruise, even if they have worked out that they could save money by doing so. However, it is still good to know that exploring the world in the best way possible is now within the grasp of so many more of us than before; as the cruise blogger CruiseMiss notes, ‘gone are the days when only the rich and famous could take to the high seas – now there is a voyage within a budget to suit everyone’.
Make the most of all-inclusive
You will no doubt have heard the phrase ‘all-inclusive’ before and may feel understandably dubious whenever you see it connected with a holiday. However, many cruises really are just that these days; when you first arrive on board, you may find it a novel experience to enjoy a wonderful meal followed by a relaxing night’s sleep in first-class accommodation, without being presented with a bill for either afterwards!
English Mum told us why truly all-inclusive packages are not simply the euphemism for ‘extravagant’ that they perhaps once were, but are in fact perfectly suited to those who know exactly what they can afford to spend on holiday: ‘Another great thing about cruising is that once you’re on board, it’s all-inclusive, so you’re not going to be paying for your food or accommodation, just any luxuries like alcoholic drinks and spa treatments or your excursions…this makes cruising a great option if you have a set budget. You know exactly where you stand’.
Again, the ‘all-inclusive’ nature of modern cruising means that you can really make your trip as affordable as you want it to be. If you find that you have saved so much through your careful planning that you can stretch to pushing the boat out (no pun intended) once or twice whilst on board, you will be spoilt for choice for options of how to spend your hard-saved funds.
As CruiseMiss explains, ‘We all know that cruising can incur other charges once you are on board, but thanks to drinks packages and lower cruise fares, we can all keep the costs down, only paying for the necessary things in life, like a spa treatment! Food is included on every cruise, so we don’t need to worry about that. And more often than not, you will also find tea and coffee making facilities available free of charge in the food areas [this is the case on every Cruise & Maritime Voyages ship]’.
It is also important to remember that, when it comes to the best providers of cruises around the world, ‘all inclusive’ can include many highlights which you may not have previously thought could possibly be included in the price of your ticket.
To take just one example, you are sure to be impressed by the range of entertainment and activities which can now be taken advantage of by cruise passengers as part of even the most affordable packages. From traditional cabaret to classical music performances, and from guest lectures to arts and crafts sessions, you will never be short of something fun and interesting to do whilst travelling between destinations – and all at no extra cost!
The reason behind the rise of all-inclusive cruise travel is simple: cruise lines now have to work harder than ever to attract passengers due to the intense nature of competition within the sector. As a result, prices have come down as the list of benefits included with cruise holidays have gone up! Another experienced travel blogger we spoke to, Explore with Ed, agrees, telling us that ‘the growing industry is fantastic for us consumers as rival companies offer attractive discounts and savings’.
Eliminate the usual extras
One of the main reasons why cruising is more affordable than many of us may have thought is that it allows passengers to avoid some of the expenses they would usually have no option but to pay for when taking any other kind of long or even short-haul holiday, such as car hire and fuel.
Explore with Ed shared a few other examples with us of the kind of service you will not even have to think about once you set sail: ‘Booking a planet ticket abroad is sometimes the smaller part of the overall cost, with an additional budget being required for eating, drinking, hotels and transfers. When you board a cruise ship, your accommodation travels with you, food is often available around the clock at no charge, and you frequently dock right into the city, eliminating the need for extra travel expenses.’ He goes on to explain how ‘costs can be further reduced by avoiding onshore tourist traps and eating on board the ship, as well as investigating the local transport system before your visit if you’d like to venture further inland’.
Setting off on your cruise holiday from Newcastle or another UK port local to you can allow you to see the world, potentially without ever having to deal with the stress and expense of making your way through an airport and flying to your destination. This particular feature of cruising is not just beneficial in a financial sense but also in terms of convenience – Explore with Ed explains how ‘as you only need to unpack your luggage once, cruising is a convenient and affordable way to travel the world’.
All this is not unrelated to the fact that the best cruises are now all-inclusive. Again, it is so important to bear in mind that the main savings that can be made on cruises are not so much on the headline price of your travel ticket but on what else that ticket includes. How often have you and your family arrived home from holiday in the past having spent much more than you had initially bargained for? All those little extras you hadn’t thought about tend to stack up quickly, even if you are only going away for a long weekend – but not on a cruise!
For the truly economical, there are all kinds of other little steps you can take which will help to keep the costs down. CruiseMiss shared one classic example which applies not just to cruise ships but restaurants on dry land in England, Wales and Scotland as well: ‘Did you know you can also ask a waiter at the bar for a glass of tap water? You don’t HAVE to purchase bottled water!’
In 2016, The Telegraph published a list of 50 tips for saving money whilst on holiday which is worth a read. Not all of these are relevant for cruise passengers (there are a good number of tips for how to save on things which will already be included for free on your trip!) but there are some useful hints included for your inner saver to be aware of.
See all your favourites at once
Another great advantage of cruising is the ability it gives passengers to explore not just one but several of their favourite or most desired destinations within a matter of weeks, or even days. The prospect of globetrotting across a range of countries is not just an exciting one but, if it’s done on a cruise, can be an extremely economical way of seeing the world.
As English Mum tells us, ‘the thing about cruising is that, if you pick your itinerary carefully, you can tick several places off your bucket list on one trip, saving you precious time and budget’. These dual benefits of convenience and finding an affordable way to explore all those places you’ve always wanted are surely enough to turn the head of every would-be voyager.
Part of the previously mentioned Planet Cruise infographic includes a cruiser’s 2017 calendar, suggesting trips passengers could sign up for to make the most of their 12 months at sea. For the month of April, it recommends Cruise & Maritime Voyages as their cruise line of choice, docking at ports in Spain, the Azores, Madeira, Portugal, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Lewis, the Isle of Mull, Ireland, the Isles of Scilly and France, all for just £1,640. Just imagine what the equivalent cost of exploring all of these places in a month would be if you had to make the arrangements for essentials like food and accommodation by yourself.
Anyone who has attempted to truly explore the world in the past will know that being immersed in different countries and cultures is an extraordinarily eye-opening and rewarding experience. What they may not tell you as often, however, is how prohibitively expensive it can be. Cruising, however, takes not just the hassle but also much of the expense out of what will no doubt be a memorable and enriching time.
What’s more, you will most likely find that choosing a cruise instead of a self-organised and navigated holiday will allow you to discover foreign lands in a great deal more comfort than would otherwise be possible. Travelling under your own steam necessarily involves taking risks when it comes to accommodation – after all, how much can you really tell from the photos of that hotel you have seen online?
On a cruise, you already know what room you will be coming home to after a long day exploring (or simply relaxing), and you certainly won’t have to worry about rushing to meet check-out times in the morning! The fact that all of this convenience and peace of mind comes at comparatively little cost is a very big bonus.
If you know anyone who has been on a cruise in the past, you will probably already know that taking this kind of trip can be extremely addictive. This is one consideration you will need to be aware of if you have been persuaded by the numbers and are thinking about booking your first affordable cruise – you may find that one just isn’t enough!
Whichever cruise you take first – whether it’s a voyage to see the beautiful Northern Lights, to explore the wilds of the Amazon, or even to take the ultimate trip around the world – you may discover that the cruising bug is very hard to get rid of.
There is no reason, however, why you should think of cruising as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experience. No matter how well-travelled you are, it will take you a very long time to see every corner of the world which can be reached by ship, so don’t hop onto your first cruise thinking that it has to be your last.
You will also find that - as time goes by and your cruise journeys start to mount up - you become even better at budgeting and choosing the most cost-effective yet enjoyable ways of traversing the seas.
As you can see, there are almost endless reasons why you should consider cruising as your next holiday option, even if it is not something you have ever thought of doing before. This surprisingly affordable method of seeing the world is something that is growing in popularity among first-time passengers of all ages, and particularly those who thought that taking a cruise would always be beyond their budget.
So, before you book your next holiday, be sure to take a bit of time to look into the many cruise holiday options that are now open to passengers of every taste and budget. Once you’ve confirmed your booking and your friends ask you how you can afford to take a cruise, take pleasure in just asking them how they can afford not to!