I have been bombarded with questions about cruises since I posted that I went on a cruise. People want to know how much it costs, how much I really paid, and whether it was worth it. My response is that it depends but I will break down how to get a good deal on a cruise.
When you book a cruise the price of the cruise is as important as the cost to travel to the port of debarkation. You have to travel to the port. If we'd gone with a port that was further away from home our cruise would have been more expensive. We drove 8 hours to get to our port and camped with my sister overnight.
When buying your ticket you should consider doing a last minute cruise especially in this economy. The price per person was pretty good but we bought our tickets just weeks before we were set to sail. This also means we may have lost the opportunity had someone gotten our tickets before us. If you find a good cruise know that a couple hundred dollars in taxes is going to be added on per person. It's related to port charges from what I can tell. So if the post says the cruise is 700 dollars, it is more likely 950-1100 with the taxes. Plan your travel budget accordingly.
Additionally from what I gather, the cruise lines make their money from extras while on the cruise such as the casino, extra dinners, soda, excursions. They hit everyone up for money. If you have trouble saying no, avoid the "free educational seminars". You can stick to the free food on the ship, the free activities and not pay for any excursions and still have a good time. Its what my husband and I chose to do.
We spent some money on board in the gift shops, on a modest amount of alcohol, I put 10 dollars into the casino, and we payed for transport in Boston. The only regret is that we probably should have paid for an excursion in St. Johns, NB. It was dull and industrial. The rest of the cities we were fine on foot with a baby.
We paid roughly 2600 dollars for our cruise (including gas and gifts). It was more than worth in my opinion. I saw plenty of shows, relaxed, had delicious food (carnival is apparently renown for their food), and got to see 5 cities I never saw before. I loved that I could get back on the boat for lunch and exit again if I wanted.
I do have a couple of critiques. I thought they hit us up too much for more money. The staff were very fiscally focused, the seminar on weight loss was focused on selling their spa services. The seminar on Chinese medicine was only to sell their herbs. I did not like how they managed the casino and if I ever go again I will not use their casino. When I wanted to stop playing (after I was 4 dollars ahead) I could not stop. You had to have played for a very long time in order to withdraw your money (or was it that you had to have a lot of money in your bank?). Anyways I felt that was dishonest and I was very happy it was only 10 dollars that I put in. Imagine had I put 50 or 100 dollars in and could not withdraw it as I wished. They. They didn't really offer anything for my daughter even though she is only a couple months under two and very used to daycare. The one kid dance I saw, they would not let her in because it was for 4- 6 year olds. The thing that was frustrating, is that there were only like 12 kids on the boat in total so how her dancing with the 5 4-6 year olds was a problem when we were present is beyond me. Instead she danced with drunk adults which I cannot think was an improvement but again we were present and her safety was never in jeopardy.
While I say these criticisms. I really loved the trip. I had a great time. I will travel with carnival again. I would recommend cruising to almost anyone. The only person who its probably not good for is someone with out financial restraint. It could have easily cost us 5,000 had we taken the excursions we wanted to take, got a spa treatment and each gambled a little. You have to have a budget and try to stick to it on these adventures. Its not hard to do if you stick to free activities and don't let the sales men talk you into over-spending.
So Carnival gets a B + from me. Pleasant staff, great food, great activities and shows. It was worth the expense in my mind. Now just to save up to be able to do the same thing next year.