We just got back from another cruise. Well, we didn’t JUST get back, we went mid-May.
If you didn’t know, Kevin and I are BIG cruisers. It’s fun and most importantly, we feel like we get our money’s worth.
When you mention cruising to people they immediately discard the idea. “It’s too expensive. Cruising is for rich people.” I can tell you right now, neither is true.
As with anything, you have to budget for a cruise but when you break down the cost and really see what you’re getting for your money, it’s actually a really good deal.
I mean, just the cost of the room and food nearly justifies the cost alone. But when you break down the number of places you stop, each port that you visit, again, you can’t beat the cost. Imagine how much it would cost you if you flew to each of these places? Then the cost of a hotel room and food on top of that. Don’t forget entertainment and taxis, tips, etc.
You honestly can’t beat the cost of a cruise – and I’m speaking of experience on that; I’m married to an accountant!
Kevin and I try and go on one cruise per year. We have an American Airline credit card that builds points toward airline tickets each time you use it. We also started using the Barclays card, which builds even MORE points toward airline tickets. (Honestly, we HIGHLY recommend looking into the Barclays card). We use our credit cards for everything – I can’t even tell you the last time I used cash for anything.
Now, keep in mind, we pay our cards off every month. Building points toward airline tickets only pays off if you’re not paying crazy high interest payments each month. But we figured, we’ll be buying this stuff anyway, why NOT use a card AND build points while we do it.
However, even though we build a lot of airline points each year, we don’t typically have enough accumulated by the time we’re ready to go on our next cruise the next year, so we have been alternating years we fly somewhere with driving to a nearby port other years.
For example, the last four years, we flew one year, the next year, we drove to New Orleans, then flew the next year, then drove down to New Orleans again.
That way, we continue to build points, don’t pay for flights, and we still get to go on a cruise every year.
In fact, I can’t even tell you the last time Kevin and I paid for airline tickets.
The points cover our airline tickets, it does not cover checking baggage. But still, it ends up costing us maybe $100 dollars to fly when we cash in our airline tickets – FOR BOTH OF US. I’d say that’s quite a deal.
Even though building points sounds great, and it IS great, there is a downside. Cashing in your points means you’re at the mercy of the airline. The available dates and times are limited. Which means, there will be times you have to fly at odd times, or have one or more layovers, or, you have to stay over someplace an extra day or two because the flight plan doesn’t exactly match your travel plans. And yes, then you have the extra cost for the hotel and food but even after factoring that cost in, it’s still cheaper than paying full price for airline tickets for each of us.
In short, it’s worth it. And if you have to stay over someplace, we take that time to do a little sight seeing – when are ever going to be back? Might as well take advantage of the time we’re there.
So again, win/win, really.
And that is how we manage to go on a cruise every year. Remember when I said you really need to budget for vacations/cruises? Well, Kevin has set up a cruising account made up of investments, and that’s the money we use to go cruising. So, we’re saving for retirement and basically cruising on the interest from our investments.
Another perk of being married to an accountant. 🙂
When we were driving back from New Orleans in May, (it takes about 10 hours and it’s really not a bad drive at all), we got to talking about how many cruises we’ve actually been on in our lifetime. We took our first cruise for our tenth anniversary. (Blake was about 8 and Brandon was 6 – they stayed with my parents for half the week and Kevin’s parents the second half of the week). We started naming them but honestly, we knew we were missing a few. (How sad, and how awesome, is it that we lost track of how many cruises we’ve been on? What a great problem to have!)
Kevin, being the super Excel geek that he is, made a spreadsheet of our cruises and I’d like to list them now, have a record of them, because if I don’t list them somewhere, we’ll lose track again.
- 2000 – Honeymoon cruise – we left out of Miami and cruised to San Juan/St. Thomas/Virgin Gorda – Carnival Paradise
- 2009 – left out of Miami and cruised to Belize/Honduras/Cozumel – Carnival Valor
- 2010 – left out of New York and cruised to St. John’s, NB/Halifax – Carnival Glory (this was right after Kevin’s’ motorcycle accident – he walked New York streets with a walker!)
- 2011 – left out of Port Canaveral and cruised to Orlando/Nassau/Freeport – Carnival Sensation
- 2012 – left out of Vancouver and cruised to Astoria OR/San Francisco – Holland America Zuiderdam (this was only a three-day cruise – TOO SHORT)
- 2013 – left out of Vancouver and cruised to Alaska (rode the train into the Yukon territory) – Holland America Statendam
- 2014 – no cruise – we vacationed in Las Vegas that year
- 2015 – left out of Honolulu and cruised to Hawaii (big Island)/Kauai/Maui – Norwegian Pride of America (This was our 25-year anniversary trip)
- 2016 – left out of New York and cruised to Bermuda – Norwegian Breakaway
- 2017 – left out of New Orleans and cruised to Montego bay/Jamaica/Grand Cayman/Cozumel – Carnival Dream
- 2018 – left out of San Juan and cruised to St. Thomas/Antigua/Barbuda/St. Kitts/St. Lucia – Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Sea
- 2019 – left out of New Orleans and cruised to Key West/Freeport/Half Moon Cay/Nassau – Carnival Glory
So I’ve been on 11 cruises, and Kevin has been on 13 cruises. (He took a cruise with the boys and LeRoy a few times without me).
Looking over that list, I would say … my favorite cruises were; 2000 (it was our first cruise and everything was new and exciting), Alaska, Hawaii, Bermuda and the one we just got back from.
2012 Alaska is AMAZING and we will most definitely be back.
2015 Hawaii was fun and so beautiful, but it was expensive and we were in a port every day, which was fun, but utterly exhausting. Tip: book a cruise with at least one, or two sea days. Give yourself a chance to relax and catch your breath.
2016 Bermuda is breathtaking. The beaches are pink and super soft. We both loved it and will absolutely be going back for more.
2019 This past cruise was so smooth, literally. Every day the waters were smooth as glass, very little rocking. It was awesome and VERY unusual. If you go on a cruise, you need to plan for one or two patches of rough seas. The captain does everything he/she can do to stay clear of rough seas but sometimes it’s inevitable. You’re on the ocean after all, what do you expect? Just take a Dramamine, sit, relax, drink a ginger ale and the waters will smooth out eventually. Whatever you do, don’t walk around. It makes the sea sickness worse. This past cruise was also awesome because we sailed to Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay. It’s a private beach, plenty of room to enjoy the beach (you just have to walk away from the crowds a bit but it’s worth it), and there are no vendors there trying to shove their wares in your face. We will MOST definitely be back for more.
My least favorite cruises?
2009 The cruise itself was fun and this was the first time the boys cruised with us but I hated the ports. Belize/Honduras were pretty but super hot and humid and they had armed guards walking around with guns. Not fun.
2012 The cruise was just … meh. it was a short cruise and we just didn’t really have time to enjoy ourselves. And Astoria Oregon was beautiful but boring.
The rest of the cruises were fun, just nothing spectacular about them. I mean, every cruise is great, don’t get me wrong, I’m not ungrateful, but certain trips are just … perfect, others, are just fun.
If that makes sense.
We are planning our next cruise. It will be our 30th anniversary next year so I want to do something extra special. We have been saving our airline points and plan on flying to Barcelona Spain to take a Mediterranean cruise. It will take quite of bit of planning, the flight itself is about 14 hours long. And we will likely have to stay an extra day or two in Barcelona before flying back but somehow, I think we’ll find something to do.