Monday, February 5, 2018

Cruising: A Budget Friendly Vacation

I can't believe we have been retired for 2 1/2 years now.  I have to say that we are enjoying every minute of it.  One reason we are so happy with our new life is that our dream of traveling, when we retired, is really coming true.   Since retiring, we have made several quick road trips that brought us to Washington, DC, Charleston, SC, Columbia, SC,  Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC.  We enjoyed a vacation in Cancun, Mexico, our first all-inclusive ever.  We spent a week in Vegas with family and friends and just got back from our second cruise.  I thank my kids for gifting a couple of these trips to us and for my sister for inviting us to Gatlinburg to join her and her husband when she was offered a free hotel stay there.  We did treat ourselves to the two cruises though.  Traveling is wonderful but does cost money and being retired means not having the income we used to have.  But we have found that we can enjoy a wonderful vacation on our tighter budget by cruising.

We definitely had to tweak our budget since we retired but when we did, we made sure that we were budgeting enough for vacations.  For a look at how we've been budgeting you can read our two previous posts:  Keeping Track Of Every Penny and How We Save On Groceries To Have More For Vacations.

So how do we make cruising work for us. 

1.  When we cruise for the sake of taking a very nice vacation, we worry less about where the cruise will take us and more about the best deal.
The cruise we just came back from took us to Cozumel, Mexico and Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands.  We have been to both of  these destinations before.  We cruised to both places on our very first cruise 15 years ago.  But we found a great deal on Carnival.  The cruise cost $279.00 per person with $50 onboard credit per room.  If you have not cruised before keep in mind that there are Cruise Government Taxes and Fees, $186.50 for this cruise, and mandatory gratuities charge which we prepaid when we booked our cruise and that added another $129.50 to the price of the cruise.

2.  We are not fussy about the cruise line we choose.   
We will go with the line that is offering the biggest bang for the buck.  We look at the deals of all the cruise lines.  We have only vacationed with two cruise lines so far, Royal Caribbean and Carnival and have been very happy with both.  

3.  We cruise out of the ports we can drive to.  
We save a ton of money on not having to fly to a port.  Now that we are snowbirds and live half the year in Florida, we have 3 ports all within a 2 hour drive and Miami is 4 hours from us.  We do need to park our car for the duration of the cruise.  It cost us $75 to park for 5 days at the Tampa port.

4.  We skip the expensive excursions and get to the beach on our own.
We went to the beach in both Cozumel and Grand Cayman.  Our friends recommended that we spend the day at Mr. Sancho's Beach Club if we wanted to do the beach in Cozumel.  It cost us $40.00 round trip total by taxi to get there and we spent another $10.00 for drinks.   We paid $20.00 total round trip to get to Seven Mile Beach in Grand Cayman and $10.00 to rent two lounge chairs at Public Beach.  There was no charge to get onto either beach.  Compare that to the $69.99 per person excursion that gets you transportation to the beach and a chair at a beach in Grand Cayman.

5.  We drink the water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, lemonade and iced tea (and juice and milk during breakfast hours) and not purchase the beverage packages.
We had a few beers from a machine where you dispensed your own.  Soko loved it!  It cost slightly less than if we got a beer from the bar.  After using the onboard credit we had, we were left with a bill of $38.00 at the end of the trip for drinks (and bingo!).  Compare that to $56.95 +15% gratuity per day per person for the beverage package.

When all was said and done, we spent a grand total of $1,057.00 for a really nice vacation.  Where can you go and spend only $212.00 per day and get a room (a really tiny room) 3 meals a day (and a midnight snack), 2-3 comedy shows a night (the comedians, Spike Davis and Kelly Terranova, were hilarious) live music (in different venues around the ship) and a stage show every night (I didn't want the Epic Rock show to end.  It was amazing!)   

Cruising gives us a chance to try new food like this eggs benedict with salmon instead of ham.  Yum!

Cruising definitely works for us as far as staying within our vacation budget and we enjoy all they have to offer!


  1. I was with my family in Nassau. I saw loads of people looking to head to beaches and paying big money for it. I asked a local of a good beach we can walk to. Turns out the Hilton let people pay a day fee of $7 per person to use their facilities. We walked and found it to be amazing. It had a full beach right out of a resort, including beach toys for the kids, it had a pool that was heated that we all used. It had a bar and a place to get food. It was amazing! Instead of $40 a head for a taxi ride across the island we were able to walk and come and go as we needed.

  2. Nice! That was a great find! I am definitely putting this info in my vacation notes. Thanks so much for sharing!