How to Sail the Caribbean on a Budget

We had scarcely got home from our thirty day cruise in March and April to the Panama Canal and Hawaii when we received this unbelievable offer from Princess Cruises for a seven day Caribbean cruise for only $349 each! This is too good to pass up, my husband said. Since we didn’t have a vacation yet planned for summer, we book not one, but two consecutive weeks on the Caribbean Princess.

There is both an Eastern and a Western Caribbean back to back cruise that you can book as one voyage. Even with the taxes and tips, the cost of this cruise was less than a room in Florida on the beach for even one week – and it included everything – incredible food, entertainment and the ability to visit some amazingly beautiful places.

While working and you’re only getting one or two vacations a year, you want them to be as nice as possible, and may not mind putting out for the extra expenses to help make them memorable, but if you’re retired and want to take several trips a year, you can scale the expenses back a bit and go more places more often.

We’d already been on several trips this year and were ready to go again, but were fine with taking it easy and not spending a ton of money on extras.

Here’s how we took a two week Caribbean cruise for under $2,500.

While $2,500 is still a lot of money, where else can you eat like a king for two weeks, travel to exotic places, stay in a nice room with twice a day maid service, get waited on hand and foot, soak up all the sun and swim you want along with various kinds of other entertainment including shows, dancing and live music and even exercise any time of the day for this price?

The cruise fare itself for the two of us for each week was only $699 for an inside room. We would spend almost that much on food, gas, electricity, water, and other miscellaneous items if we were home those two weeks.

Of course, with cruising there’s always extras to add on to the cost of the trip — mainly taxes and tips. The port taxes for the trip came to $275 per person per week and the tips were $203 per person per week. You have to pay the taxes and the tips are optional, but we always pay the recommended amount because those who serve the passengers work very hard to keep everyone happy. They earn and deserve every penny of it.

Onboard Credits

The cruise line also gave us $50 each to spend on board, which we used very wisely. Sometimes, you can get to the cruise really cheap and then end up spending a lot of money on the ship as there’s plenty of opportunities to do so including gambling, drink packages, specialty restaurants, excursions, spa treatments, etc. All readily available to enhance your vacation and take your money. We don’t drink or gamble so those two items were easily knocked off our list.

Our goal for this trip was not to have any extra charges when we disembarked. We never purchase the drink package but I do like an occasional glass of wine with my dinner. With the $50 credit for each week, that would be enough to cover that.

Hilariously, though, on embarkation day, they had accidently booked two ladies from Germany in the room with us! They gifted us each a bottle of wine for our inconvenience. (And moved the ladies to another room, thankfully!)

Princess cruises has this game where you can win a prize when your unlock your stateroom door, and somehow we won a $25 onboard credit. That along with the other $50 per person credit gave us more than enough for dinner wine, as well as some sparkling water and specialty coffee drinks throughout the cruise. I even had enough credit left on the last day to buy a small gift.

Food

There’s excellent free food everywhere any time of day on the ship. From the buffet, to the fine dining rooms to the grills, you’ll never go hungry and it’s a constant battle not to overeat. Since we were Platinum members we also were invited to an exclusive event each evening with free appetizers. We didn’t spend one red cent on food for the entire two weeks other than a coffee at the airport on the way home.

Excursions

We choose beach options for most of the ports because they were free or only involved a small fee or taxi fare. You can spend money renting chairs, umbrellas kayak’s, snorkel equipment, etc. but for this cruise we opted for the free chairs under the free shade of the trees.

Other beach excursion expenses included a taxi to the beach in Caman Islands along with a refreshing fruit drink to cool us off. We spent around $45 that day. The beaches we visited at the other ports were totally free and within walking distance.

We took an island tour of St. Kitts for $55. We had never been to St. Kitts before and always like to take a tour of the region the first time we visit. We toured for almost three hours and were able to explore a lot of the island and take in the beautiful scenery.

St. Kitts tour pictures

Other than that, I bought a hat for $12, a coverup for $12, a belt for $5 a dress for $20 and some gifts for $52 while in some of the ports. Shopping is always fun when traveling, right?

Other expenses

You’ll have other expenses associated with your trip – mainly transportation to the cruise port. I’m listing these separately because they will be different for each person depending on where you live and your mode of transportation. Our airline tickets to Fort Lauderdale were almost $600, but we had some gift cards and credits and only ending up paying $244.

Travel insurance is another optional expense, but very much recommended. We must get it because our insurance does not cover us while outside the US and it’s not worth the risk should one of us get sick or hurt. That was $191 for this trip.

What I did feel like I may have over-spent on was $231 on a hotel room the night before our cruise sailed. This is an optional expense as you can always fly down the day of the cruise, but I don’t recommend it because if you flight is cancelled or delayed, you could miss the ship. They won’t wait for you. I booked a room just to make sure we had one as there is a place we like to stay that offers transfers from the airport to the hotel and then the cruise port. I meant to check back later for a cheaper price, but never got around to it.

Our transfers to the cruise port and then to the airport on disembarking day were $60.

Breakdown of charges for 2 people – 2 weeks

FAIR$1398
TIPS$406
TAXES$550
TOUR$55
BEACH EXCURSION$45
SHOPPING$50
GIFTS$42
HOTEL & TRANSFERS$291
AIRFARE$244
AIRPORT COFFEE$8
INSURANCE$191
TOTAL SPENT ON CRUISE INCLUDING SHOPPING AND GIFTS$2454
TOTAL SPENT INCLUDING AIR, HOTE, INSURANCE, SHOPPING$3280

Cruise lines may not always be giving the great deals they are these days while they’re still coming out of the COVID lockdowns, but you can almost always find a great last minute deal and can definitely find ways to cut expenses on cruise ships. You can have a wonderful time without spending hardly any money on extras once onboard.

While there’s plenty of opportunities to spend as much as you’d like. there’s also many ways to stretch those cruise dollars farther and travel more often.

If you have any questions about cruising on a budget, leave them in the comments below. Maybe I’ll be seeing you on the high seas soon!

Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it. Proverbs 21:20

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