We recently escaped the cold Midwest winter for almost a week and headed down to the turquoise blue waters of the Caribbean sea for an amazing six-day, five-night cruise! As I mention in the About Me page, traveling is one of my passions. I have been fortunate enough to travel to some pretty awesome places and share incredible experiences with friends and family. I often get asked by friends and family how we are able to travel to these international destinations a couple of times a year. People tell me they can’t afford to take vacation or travel anywhere cool. Yes, vacations do cost money so you have to plan carefully to figure out how to do it without breaking the bank. I’m going to discuss our approach planning this vacation and explain our costs so you too can take a Caribbean cruise vacation for under $1,000.
Why Cruises Work For Us
As we get older we are trying to focus more of our time, money, and effort sharing experiences with family and friends versus just buying stuff that to clutter up the house. Family vacations are definitely one example of those experiences that we are going to be doing more of. But my wife and I don’t always have the same idea of what we should do on vacation. Personally, when on vacation I rarely sleep in. I like to get out and about and experience as many new and exciting things as I can. On the other hand, my wife looks forward to vacations to rest, relax, and recharge.
I learned my lesson the hard way on the importance of letting certain people get enough rest. A few years ago we were going from planes to trains to rental cars as we made our way around Europe taking in a new city practically every day. I was eventually told in not so friendly words that we were going to sleep in the same city for most than just one night to catch up on rest or she was going home. OK, I may have exaggerated that a bit, but not by much.
While I get energized by visiting new places and meeting new people, I grudgingly agree and understand that it can be exhausting to others. Our solution is cruises! We have found that cruises are a great compromise because we get to sleep in the same bed every night, choose to rest or be entertained with activities on the ship, while also visiting a new city every couple of days.
The Caribbean Cruise Vacation
We just returned from a six-day, five-night cruise vacation to the western Caribbean. For this trip we sailed around the Caribbean aboard the Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas. We had some great new experiences including SCUBA diving with turtles, eels and even a shark in Cozumel and climbing ruins of Mayan temples in the jungles of the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico.
Besides the great excursions, the ship also had pretty impressive entertainment options. I’m not just talking about a couple of pools and a pizza buffet. This ship had a rock climbing wall, a wave-generating surf machine, poolside movie screen, and even a freaking ice rink!
Booking the Cruise
Now let’s get into how we did this trip on a budget. The first and most important challenge was finding a good deal on a cruise. We booked this cruise over the summer through CruCon. We ended up choosing the five-night cruise with Royal Caribbean. The ship left out of Fort Lauderdale with stops in Cozumel and Costa Maya. This cruise was advertised for $309 per person for an inside room. (I later asked and received a free room upgrade to an ocean view room with a huge window.) Anyway, the $309 per person sounded like a pretty sweet deal. That breaks down to just over $60 bucks a night and included room, food, and of course the ride on the big boat. But then came another $83 per person in taxes and fees. Then another $13.50 per person per day for automatic gratuities for the ship’s crew. So the great deal of $309 per person ended up being a grand total of $920 for the two of us. That doesn’t sound so great compared to the $309 but big picture it is still a pretty good deal.
Booking the Flights
Now we had to book our flights. We had to get to Fort Lauderdale. I knew Fort Lauderdale was in Florida but other than that I had no clue where it was in the state. So I did a quick search on Google Maps to find that Fort Lauderdale was in southern Florida pretty close to Miami.
Next I went to Wikipedia for the Fort Lauderdale Airport to see what airlines fly to Fort Lauderdale. Wikipedia is a great resource for finding out what airlines serve specific destinations and what cities connect to the destination city.
Southwest Airlines flies into Fort Lauderdale and there just happened to be a direct flight from Kansas City to Fort Lauderdale. I found the flights on the dates we needed and cashed in some Southwest Airlines frequent flier miles to pay for the flights. This cost us 20,446 Southwest Rapid Rewards points and $11.20 in taxes per person. We were able to get the flights we wanted for $22.40 for the both of us.
Recap of Costs
Here is a break down summarizing all of our costs for the trip from the cruise to the airport snacks to the boarding costs for our family dog.
Total Trip Costs
|Southwest Flights - MCI to FLL||20,446 points + $22.40
|Base Cost of Cruise||$920.66
|Uber from airport to cruise ship||$9.38
|Uber from cruise ship back to airport||$5.71
|All The Extras |
|Bottle of water at airport||$3.99
|Cruise ship charges (Activities, drinks, internet, etc.)||$184.50
|SCUBA diving excursion||$72.00
|Food & drink in Cozumel||$15.00
|Mayan ruins excursion||$200.00
|Lunch at airport||$12.43
|Onboard spending credit for booking through Crucon||($75.00)
|The Other Extras We All Tend To Forget About|
|Boarding our Boxer, Cody||$174.00
|Airport Parking (Had coupon for 25% off)||$50.16
So there you have it. The base of just airfare, cruise, and roundtrip transportation from airport to cruise ship for two people for under $1,000. While this trip can be done for under $1,000 we chose to spend a little more and we had some fun and did some excursions. Our “fun” ended up costing almost $500. Plus the extra costs that we all tend to forget about and don’t usually associate with vacation. I’m talking about stuff like airport parking and boarding our Boxer while we were gone.
We had a great trip for a pretty good price. While we did end up spending more than $1,000, I shared some ideas on how this trip could have been done for less. Yes, we could have saved even more, but at the same time we could have spent a ton more too. Just ask anyone who has been on a cruise ship and they can likely attest at how quickly a Long Island Iced Tea will go down when you’re lounging at the pool in the sun for hours on end.
We did a pretty decent job at cutting costs where we could without putting a ton of effort into it. We saved money using Uber versus a taxi. We saved money booking excursions through a third party company ShoreExcursioneer versus booking directly through the cruise line. Also, we planned our flight’s arrival and departure dates and times to coincide with when the ship was leaving and coming back. This helped us avoid the extra cost of a hotel for a couple of nights. There’s no reason anyone and everyone couldn’t book a very similar trip for under $1,000 and have an absolute blast. As far as the extras, well everyone will be different so plan your spending as much as makes sense or maybe just set a personal or daily limit to help keep track of how much you are spending.
What have your experiences been with cruise vacations?
Our next big trip is just a couple of months away as we undertake our biggest adventure yet and take a trip around the world! Yes, we are literally going to be traveling west until we get back home with several stops along the way. Looking forward to hearing about some other good vacation savings tips!