Myth - Cruising is a very expensive way to vacation.

Most people think that cruises are more expensive than typical land-based vacations.  But just like most types of vacations, you can spend a little or you can spend a lot.  If you fly first-class it’ll cost you more than coach.  If you stay in a five-star hotel you’ll spend more than if you stay in a three or four star.  And if you eat in three-star Michelin restaurants you’ll spend more than eating at a nice Applebee’s or Chili’s. You get it, right?

You can opt to make your land-based vacation as expensive as your pocketbook will allow and still have a fantastic vacation.   Well, cruising gives you just as many options to do the same thing – spend a little or spend a lot.  But for purposes of dispelling this myth, I’m going to compare a particular cruise vacation that Lyn and I took several times with a land-based or ‘regular’ vacation that we also did more than once. I chose these two simply because they both cost about the same.  I’m going to compare the big three categories of these two types of (and most other) vacations.  Accommodations (we gotta sleep), Food (we gotta eat), and Entertainment (why bother going on vacation if you’re not going to have fun?).

Before we took our first cruise (at about age forty-three) Lyn and I had already enjoyed over twenty years of vacations. We had never given much thought to a cruise because we just assumed that our limited vacation funds would go farther on a ‘regular’ vacation.  When we were younger and had very little money we took budget-conscious trips. And when we could afford to spend more we splurged a bit.  And then we eventually took our first cruise (and fell in love with cruising).   I’ll never forget that moment on our last night on the ship.  We had just stopped by the Purser’s desk to get a few envelopes (we wanted to leave personal thank-you notes to our porter and waiters for their exceptional service).  While we were there we picked up a copy of our final bill.  Just like a hotel bill, it itemized all those things we purchased during the trip and charged to our stateroom.  In our case it was stuff like wine and cocktails, massages, Lyn’s manicure, a few souvenirs from the ship’s stores, and the land excursions we booked. I was perusing the bill while we were on the elevator heading back to our room when a thought came to me.  I did a quick calculation, adding up the total we had just spent, including our airfare to the ship, the price of the cruise, and the extras that were on the bill in my hand.  Lyn and I compared it to an equivalent ‘regular’ vacation we had taken during the past couple of years, only to realize how wrong we were all those years.  Cruising isn’t necessarily the more expensive way to vacation as we had always thought. Let me give you an example by performing an exercise in comparing vacations that Lyn and I really enjoyed (which is why we went on them multiple times).

Let’s compare a seven-night vacation cruise on one of our favorite ships - Royal Caribbean’s The Oasis of the Seas - to a week at one of our favorite hotels, the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas.  The Wynn is a four-star resort which compares nicely with the level of luxury on the Oasis.  Both are huge hotels (yes, the Oasis is a giant floating hotel), each having thousands of rooms, lots of restaurants, shops, night clubs, big theaters, pools, spas, fitness center, business center, casinos, and lots of other choices for on-site entertainment both day and night. I can’t think of anything that the Wynn offers that the Oasis is missing.  You can even get your clothes washed, suit dry-cleaned, shoes shined, hair and nails done, etc.  On the other hand, the Oasis offers lots of stuff that the Wynn doesn’t.  I’ll talk about some of those after we finish this little exercise.  OK, let’s do this thing.  Remember, these two vacations cost us about the same amount of money.

Let’s start by comparing accommodations.  While our beautiful standard room at the Wynn is larger than our Junior Suite on the Oasis (both have king beds) and both have desks, the Junior Suite does boast a cozy living room area with a couch plus a walk-in closet.  So, if we compare the two accommodations, lets call it a wash.

Let’s talk food.  For Lyn and me it’s a big deal.  Both the Wynn and the Oasis have lots of places to eat, from casual to formal. When on vacation Lyn and I prefer to start each day by ordering breakfast to be delivered to our room.  This way we can wake up lazily, not having to perform our morning ablutions, get dressed, in order to go downstairs and invariably stand in line for a table at our favorite breakfast spot. Nope, room service for breakfast is most definitely the way to go.  Unfortunately, at the Wynn (like in most hotels) food is pretty expensive and room service is very expensive, easily running us $60-$80 each morning ($420-$560 for the week). So, while we prefer to do it every day of our trip, we only splurge once or twice. Oh well.   On the cruise, however, all meals are included and room service is absolutely free.  So, on the ship, Lyn and I enjoy breakfast on the balcony of our stateroom… every single day.

Our Wynn dinners are based on our moods but we usually hit the fancier restaurants at least three or four nights out of the week.  We would love to dine fancy every night but it can be pretty expensive.  Our lunches at the Wynn are usually casual and not overly expensive.  And let’s not forget coffees and snacks and maybe an ice cream cone if the mood strikes. Let’s just say that it’s pretty easy for Lyn and me to spend at least $1,500 on food for the week.  On a cruise, however, all of your meals, snacks, treats, etc., are included.  And don’t think that the choices are limited.  On the Oasis of the Seas, for example, you can choose to eat at the giant buffet or if you want fancy and gourmet, just put on your Sunday best and head to the Main dining room.  There’s also a restaurant that serves only healthier choices. For snacks you can hit the pizza shop, the sandwich deli, or one of several spots where you can grab a hamburger, hot dog, French fries, and other fast food classics.  And don’t get me started on the deserts.  They are everywhere.  There’s even a couple of self-serve soft ice-cream machines poolside.  And don’t forget that everything is all-you-can-eat.

How about entertainment?  At the Wynn Lyn and I like to take in a show each night after dinner. We’ll usually splurge once during the week for one of the more expensive big production shows where the tickets might go for $200 each or more.  But the other nights we’ll find something less expensive like a not-so-well-known comic or magician, trying to keep the ticket cost to under $50 each.  A week of nightly entertainment will typically cost us $750 or more. On the Oasis there are shows every night; big productions in big theaters as well as smaller acts brought in from all over the world in more quaint venues.  Broadway musicals, big bands, comedians, magicians, and lots more.  There’s an ice skating show staring famous Olympian ice skaters (yes, the Oasis has an ice-skating rink).  They even have a high-diving show.  They are all free.

So, let’s sum this up the big three.  These are actual vacations that Lyn and I have taken.  They ended up costing us about the same amount of money.  Now, don’t get me wrong here.  We enjoy vacationing at the Wynn in Las Vegas.  That’s why we’ve been there several times.  But because we’re not wealthy, and in order to keep the cost of the week down to an acceptable level, we don’t do the fancy dinners every night and we choose our nightly entertainment with our pocketbooks in mind.  On the Oasis, however, we can eat fancy every night without giving our wallets a second thought. Same goes with our nightly entertainment choices.  On the Oasis we can hit the big theater to see a different show every night because it’s all included.

So, the big epiphany I had on that fateful elevator ride was that cruises are an excellent value. You get a lot more for your money.  A whole lot more.

The above exercise was comparing just the big three.  I could go on seemingly forever talking about all of the great things about a cruise that on a regular vacation you’d have to pay for or you just don’t get. Let me list just a few:

The Oasis (as well as many other ships), to list just a few, has game rooms, card rooms, a reading library, tons of classes (learn to dance, paint, cook, more), and a fully supervised kids club where children and teens are kept busy and entertained all day and well into the evening.  All free.  The adults can stay busy too if they like, with a daily calendar of activities of all kinds.  For the sporto’s there’s organized basketball, volleyball, water polo, ping pong tournaments, and more.  For the thrill-seekers you can zip-line from one part of the ship to another, ten stories above. They even have one of those water machines that allow you to surf.  For the intellectual traveler there are classes on the histories of each of the ship’s ports of call. For the shopper there are even daily lectures with tips on the best shopping areas in each of the cities you’ll be visiting. For the gambler there are plenty of tournaments such as poker, blackjack, and even slots. There are literally hundreds of scheduled activities to choose from during the week. Start your day with a Yoga class or a workout with a personal trainer.  All free, free, free.

And let’s not forget a really big advantage of a cruise.  While you sleep, the ship carries you to another great destination.  So, if you’re the type that likes to visit multiple cities (or even multiple countries) during your vacation but would rather not have to pack, spend the day riding or even flying to the next city, check into another hotel, unpack, and spend more time getting your bearings, then you should consider taking a cruise.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Cruise vacations are an excellent value for your money.