Summer break starts in just over two weeks and I am starting to obsess about how we can possibly top our Spring Break vacation. Actually, we have an amazing trip to Arkansas planned, but that doesn’t involve the ocean, my all-time favorite thing and place in the world. Our two favorite local family vacation destinations include water; one a beach, and the other a lake beach. Both are within less than a 6 hour drive of Atlanta. Until recently I considered taking a cruise vacation to be a bit unreasonable mostly because I’d rather not spend $1500+ on flights just to get to the departure port. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that there are several cruise ports within driving distance of Atlanta and other southern cities. Carnival Cruise departs from Jacksonville, Miami, Charleston, Mobile, Fort Lauderdale, and Port Canaveral, all of which are within driving distance of Atlanta and if you don’t live near Atlanta, chances are there are cruise ports within driving distance of you too! I might have just heard you think “but a cruise is too expensive even without flight tickets”. That’s where you’re wrong. I was wrong about that for years too!
A Carnival Cruise can cost from about $200 per person per night to well over $1000 per person per night. If you just want to get away and cruise to the Bahamas or Western Caribbean for a few nights, you probably won’t spend over $2000. If you are willing to forgo a room with a window or balcony, you’ll pay even less, giving you more money to spend on attractions, tours, amazing food, and souvenirs.
Below is an example rate for a family of four, taking a 5-day cruise from Jacksonville, FL to the Bahamas, in an interior stateroom that sleeps four. Carnival’s rates include includes taxes, fees and port expenses, room, food and entertainment. The only thing you’d pay for is gratuity, and food if you dine in restaurants that cost extra. There are tons of dining options that are included in the cruise package though, so you really don’t have to consider paying for food.
Now let’s look at the same cruise but in a Suite with a balcony, instead of a interior stateroom. The price went up substantially BUT the view.. oh, the view! We sat on our balcony and read, watched the flying fish, dolphins, and even a sea turtle, and just relaxed. Other than on our balcony, we spent very little time in our room. Given that, if I had a lesser budget than the $2400 you see below, I wouldn’t hesitate to book an interior stateroom. Between the pools, tons of lounge chairs, outdoor activities, indoor activities, entertainment, dining, port excursions and shopping, you’re not going to spend a lot of time in your room. Oh, and there is no ‘status’ issue on a Carnival Cruise. Families staying in an interior stateroom are treated just as great as those in a suite!
As I mentioned above, Carnival Cruise rates include the following:
- Port Fees
- On-board entertainment
- Ice water, lemonade, ice tea, coffee, hot tea, orange juice
Rates do NOT include:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Port excursions
- Special on-board dining such as sushi, or Green Eggs and Ham breakfast and other specialty dining options
- Casino games
- Photographs taken by on-board photographers
- Soft drink and water packages, starting at $3.99 for a 12-pack
Money Tip: Bring cash! You can’t use a credit card on the boat and many banks charge an enormous fee for withdrawing cash in other counties, so be safe and take $1000+ cash with you. You’ll want to divide the cash among yourself, your spouse or partner, and your older kids so one person is not in charge of all the money. Once you’re on the boat the only form of payment accepted is your cruise card. If one of your kids wants to buy a t-shirt, they’ll just need to present their cruise card, also their door key, to the cashier. That means everything purchased on-board will be put on your bill. I gave each of the kids $125 cash in an envelop the first night of our cruise. Each time they purchased something on the ship (using their cruise card), they had to give me the equivalent in cash and I put that cash in an envelop in our safe. That cash was how I tallied what our final bill was going to be.
During excursions, on a Western Caribbean cruise, you can use American cash. Some larger vendors accept major credit cards, but not many.
Port shipping tip: Most crafty items and souvenirs at ports DO NOT have prices on them. You will have to ask how much an item is then say how much you are willing to pay. There were a few times we realized we were getting played and left a shop only to find the same item for 75% less across the street. Sweet! At one Grand Cayman shop, the seller told my husband a souvenir cost $65 then told me the cost was $9.
How much money did we spend during our 7-day Spring Break Carnival Cruise?
I probably missed a few things but below are all the things we spent money on that I can think of.
- Parking at the cruise terminal ($20 per night) – $120
- On-board souvenirs (Madelyn bought a beautiful glass paper weight and a bracelet) – $25
- On-board medicine – $25
- On-board soda – $15
- Grand Cayman excursion – $350
- Ocho Rios taxi ride, admission to beach, lunch – $75
- On-board bottled water at dinner 2 nights – $8
- Photographs taken by cruise photographers – $45
- Sushi dinner for one – $15
- Souvenirs – $250
- Gratuity – $255
- Total – $1183
So there you have it. Taking a cruise doesn’t have to break the bank. Many families we talked to during our cruise didn’t go on port excursions which can be very expensive when there are four or more people in your group. You can get off the ship, walk around the port town, swim at a public beach, and not spend a dime! A lot of families got off the ship in the morning, spent a couple hours walking around the town, then got back on the ship and enjoyed the less busy pools and on-board games and attractions. Smart folks!
Stay tuned for the next post where I will go into more detail about our cruise.
More posts in this series:
- How to choose between a Western Caribbean or Eastern Caribbean cruise
- 5 Driving-Distance Carnival Cruise Ports Make Taking A Cruise A Reality For Atlanta Families
Connect with Carnival Cruise Line
- Carnival Cruise website
Visit Carnival Cruise Line’s social media pages to watch ship videos, get the inside scoop on the latest cruise vacation deals, and see what passengers love above Carnival!
Note to readers: Carnival Cruise Line provided our family with a 7-day cruise in exchange for providing our readership with information and honest opinions about our experience. No positive review expectations were set or required by Carnival Cruise Line.