I always get a lot of questions about how I’m able to travel for as cheap as I do. Most times, I save money by sleeping on beaches, couchsurfing, sleeping in my car and showering at truck stops, saving left over food, or traveling light and not having to pay for a checked bag on every flight I take. Little sacrifices here and there really add up fast!
Most everyone who wants to travel, would like to travel for as cheap as possible. However, I know that a lot of people would not be able to travel like I do… so I have a travel option that is great for everyone!
Cheap Cruises! I bet when you’re trying to decide how to make a vacation affordable, you don’t expect to even consider taking a cruise. However, you should! There is a secret to cruising that makes it even more affordable than other means of transportation.
Why So Cheap?
Hurricanes hit the Caribbean around June and continue until about September. Therefore, cruise ships in the Caribbean need to be moved so that they are not destroyed if a hurricane hits. Because of this, twice a year, cruises need to be “relocated” and are moved across the Atlantic Ocean. And just because a cruise is being moved and not traveling on a typical route, doesn’t mean they can’t pack it full with people! It costs millions of dollars to move a ship with or without people… so of course they’re going to try to fill it and at least break even.
Around the month of April, cruise ships are moved eastbound [usually to Europe] – away from the Caribbean and potentially treacherous weather. Around the month of November, cruise ships are moved westbound – back to the Caribbean to continue their Caribbeantours. These crossings across the Atlantic Ocean are called “TRANS-ATLANTIC CRUISES” and are really cheap!
Usually, cruises cost more than US$100 per guest per day. A two week cruise usually costs over US$2000 [and often even over US$3000]. However, a Trans-Atlantic cruise of the same two-week-vacation is only around US$430-US$650. That’s only about US$35 per person per day.
When comparing relocation cruises to other cruises then, yes, relocation cruises are definitely cheaper… But OK, I understand that to a backpacker, “US$35 per person per day” sounds like a lot. I agree; it does.
When I was in Asia, accommodation was US$3 per night and three meals + drinks + coffee was no more than US$10 per day [for two people]! So yes, in comparison to cheap countries, cruising is expensive and WAY over-the-top. However, whether you’re the type of person that needs your luxuries or you’re a backpacker, both types of people can appreciate relocation cruises…
Great for Anyone
When talking about the types of travelers out there, I think “cruisers” are on one end of the spectrum and “backpackers are on the other.
Backpackers usually detest cruises because it’s looked at as lazy, predetermined traveling with no emersion into any cultures. On the flipside, a cruiser might look down on backpacking as cheap “hippie-like” traveling with disgusting living conditions.
Actually, I not only agree with both of these stereotypes, but I also LOVE BOTH! …depending what I’m in the mood for, of course.
Backpacking is absolutely amazing for meeting new people, being thrown into different cultures out of your comfort zone, learning, and trying new things. However, cruises are great for a real vacation of eating, seeing a new place just for one day, and not worrying about where you’re sleeping that night and what you’re going to eat…
Convincing the Backpacker
After backpacking for 9 months, bargaining every day over everything, arguing with people on the streets over 20 cents, and finding US$3 hotel rooms and US$1 meals, a cruise for US$35 per PERSON per DAY sounded like a LOT of money to me. But think of it this way:
A relocation cruise is a rare cruise that only goes in ONE direction. For most people, they need to schedule a flight for the end of the cruise to get back home and go back to work… But for a backpacker, this isn’t just a great vacation from worrying everyday but, rather, a means of transportation!
If you plan on traveling, have the time, and can coordinate your departure from the Caribbean around April or your departure out of Europe around November, then take a Trans-Atlantic cruise instead of flying! It’ll not only get you across the ocean for LESS money than a flight, but you’ll also have an amazing two week break from “backpacker-life” and not worrying about money, food, location, weather, showers, bugs, cleanliness, etc.
If you are still skeptical that Trans-Atlantic Cruises are cheaper than flying and don’t want to take my word for it, then check out the math!
Below is a table of every flight taken during my 9 months of backpacking. On average, a flight costs about 23 cents per mile traveled. Whereas the Trans-Atlantic cruise only cost me 11 cents per mile traveled!
The Trans-Atlantic cruise I took turned out to be cheaper than 80% of all other transportation during 9 months of traveling. Not only are Trans-Atlantic cruises a CHEAPER way of transportation, but it also includes two weeks of all meals [gourmet meals: lobster, steak, etc.], snacks [coffee, cake, cookies], accommodation, 24-hour room service, activities, live shows, movies, stand-up comedians, as well as other locations to see in between your start and end point. You can not go wrong with this choice of travel.
My Cruise Route & Experience
View Trans-Atlantic Cruise in a larger map
Loyalty. I’ve cruised with a few different cruise lines… and although I like them all in different ways and like the variety and other options, some people would rather stick to just ONE cruise line. This might be because they like one line over another, but it’s also because the more you travel with the same cruise line, the more privileges you’ll get onboard. Some perks include free upgrades, free coupons to use onboard for drinks, etc.
Activities. You will NOT get bored on a cruise. In fact, you might be exhausted from all the activities offered. Aside from eating 11 times a day, on the cruise I was on there were a bunch of things to do: a mini-golf course, basketball, dance clubs and bars, sports pubs, a rock-climbing wall, a roller skating course, an ice skating rink, live shows every night, a movie theater, stand up comedians, lectures, towel/napkin folding lessons, trivia, board games, belly flop competitions, hot tubs, swimming pools, dance lessons, and much MUCH more!
Check for Deals Online. Use travel sites like Orbitz.com – usually websites like this have the best deals. One would think that the best deals would come straight from the cruise line website, but that is often not the case [I’m not sure why]. If you call the cruise line and ask for dates or prices, that’s great… but then double check the same cruise on other websites and I guarantee you’ll find it cheaper somewhere else.
Book last minute. If you book a relocation cruise months in advance, it’s still relatively cheap [about US$650]. Some cruise lines might even give you a deal of “pay US$800 and get US$200 of on board credit” [which means the cruise is only US$600 and you have US$200 spending money on board]… not too bad of a deal if you want to use that money for tips or drinks… However, I booked my Trans-Atlantic cruise only one month prior to departure and it was only US$429! Two months to one month to departure date seems to be the cheapest time to book. I checked the prices for the same cruise two weeks and one week prior to departure date and it was the same price and then sold out.
End with Cruise. If you’re a backpacker and you’re thinking about this option, I would suggest trying to make it work with the END of your journey. Although this option is always a great one, for a backpacker, it not as fun to go from riches to rags as it is to go from rags to riches. Travel for awhile and when you need a break from traveling cheaply and want a change of location, then hop on a cruise!
The Only Negatives
Duration. It does take two weeks to cross, so if you’re pressed for time, this might not work out.
Time of Year. If you’re working, then the time of year for both relocation cruises is a bit inconvenient. April and November are not common holiday months. Most people have the time to travel from their job in December-January or June-July.
Tips. Tipping isn’t included in the price and if you’re not from the U.S., this probably seems like an awkward concept. It is sort of awkward and kind of ruins the last day on the ship worrying about how much to give each person. However, even with all the tips, the cruise still comes out cheaper than flying. There are three options when tipping [which might differ depending which cruise-line you’re traveling with]:
1. Tip at the start of the trip. There is an option of paying US$150 at the beginning of the trip and it will get divided amongst all the people that are assigned to you. This way, you don’t have to worry about any money at all once you’re on the ship.
2. Provide a credit card at the end of the trip and a certain amount will be deducted automatically. It’s more or less the same as the US$150 at the beginning…
3. Bring CASH on board. If you bring cash, then you’re not forced into the other two options. Instead, you can tip only the people you want to tip – the people that helped you the most during your cruise. I always choose this option.
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Let me know what you thought of this information! Did it help? Are you pumped to book a cruise? Was there something you wish I covered? I’d like to hear your input! =)