Photo by Heidi Leppert ~ Carnival Vista docked in St. Kitts while Celebrity Eclipse sails away.

I am a bargain hunter. It makes me positively giddy when I get a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s and combine that with an extra 50% off clearance sale to buy a $29.99 necklace for three bucks. Don’t even get me started on Christmastime when my favorite restaurants start offering a “Buy a $100 gift card, get a $20 gift card free!” deal, because you can bet I’ll take them up on that offer, and those gift cards will wind up in nobody’s stocking but my own.

When I started cruising, I immediately recognized the value of a cruise vacation. In my pre-cruising days I planned many a land-based vacation, so I knew firsthand how quickly it all adds up. Airfare, hotels, meals, transportation, entertainment – one can rack up quite a bill! There is sometimes a misconception that a cruise is all-inclusive, which is mostly false, but comparatively, it is the most all-inclusive vacation you can find.

If you’re fortunate enough to live near a port city, that even takes away the cost of transportation to the port and a pre-cruise hotel. If you can find a friend to drop you off and pick you up – even better; now you don’t have to pay for parking!

On a land-based vacation, everything is a la carte. With the exception of all-inclusive resorts (which you have to fly to, so there’s your first additional charge), when planning a trip, there are so many factors to budget for. The hotel alone can sometimes cost as much per person, per night as your cruise fare, and the cruise fare includes hotel, food, transportation, and entertainment.

For example, there’s a 7-night Holland America cruise leaving San Diego for Mexico on September 30 on the ms Oosterdam, and you can book a balcony room for $164 a night per person. Want to go even cheaper? You can sail on the Carnival Miracle out of Long Beach for 6 nights on October 29 for Mexico for $134 pp, and yes, it’s still a balcony room.

One hundred and thirty four dollars per person! And this isn’t even the best deal around; it’s literally just a random fare I found for the sake of my article. If I was on a vacation in, oh, let’s choose Las Vegas, I’d be paying probably $80 pp per night for a hotel room. I’d need to eat, so that’s another $10 for breakfast, $15 for lunch, and you know I’m going to a celebrity chef’s restaurant like Giada, so that’s easily $50 for dinner. Then I’ll probably buy a show ticket for $75. And it’s too hot to walk everywhere, so I’ll need a taxi; that’s another $10. So, let’s see: Add all that up, and I’m paying $240 for a day in Vegas when I could have the same day ON THE OCEAN for over a hundred dollars less.

And I didn’t even mention the fact that when I have that day on the ocean, my breakfast was a made-to-order omelette from the buffet, my lunch was a juicy burger from Guy’s Burger Joint, and my dinner was a tangy chicken scaloppini with two appetizers and a chocolate melting cake for dessert. (Lay off; I was hungry.) I also played trivia, went down some waterslides and relaxed in the pool, went to 2 comedy shows, and saw a Vegas-caliber production show. Man, that was a great fake day I just had…

The numbers don’t lie. Cruise vacations are an affordable option on most budgets.

Mrs. Popular Cruising

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