Before we address the cost of small ship cruising, let's talk about value. It’s what we all want from our purchases: value. Any discussion of cost has to include value.
But what is value, exactly? How do we recognize it when we see it, and how do you know it when you’ve experienced it?
Value is a matter of perception, and that’s what makes it difficult to recognize. Different people value different things: Some people value a walk along the beach more than a stroll down Rodeo Drive. Some people value a sports car, while others would find more excitement in owning and riding a horse.
Not for everything. The word “value” holds at least one meaning in common for us all. There’s one sure way to test value which just about everyone can agree on: Something is valued if someone is willing – even eager – to spend time and/or money on it. That valued something is different for everyone, but the test is always the same.
So, will you value a small-ship cruise such that you are ready to spend the necessary time and money?
If you are like other small ship cruisers, you will tend to look at life in a special way. You will probably dream of visiting more off-the-beaten-path kinds of destinations. you will want to have the richest possible experience at the places you visit. You tend to gravitate to destinations – not for the nightlife or the shopping or the restaurants – but rather for the nature of the destinations themselves. If this description fits, you are probably a good small ship cruise candidate.
Let's talk about vacations in general for a moment. In all types of vacations you go away from home to stay in another place. You need a bed to sleep in, food to eat, and some entertainment. If you go to Las Vegas, it's all a la carte - you pay for your hotel room, then pay for meals as you eat them, and pay for shows or other entertainment in the evening. At the end of the day, you could add up what you spent.
If you go to an all inclusive resort or on a cruise, you know ahead of time what your daily costs for the basics will be. The difference between the resort and the cruise is that the resort doesn't go anywhere - where ever it is, is all you get to see.
You could go on a tour with meals and hotel included and you would also go somewhere but then you run into that other big problem of having to unpack and pack up again everytime you move.
So let's sum up - on a cruise vacation you have everything included in the price, you get to go somewhere, and you unpack and pack only once. It's the only vacation that has all of those benefits.
Comparing a small-ship cruise to a mass market cruise you will find that the small-ship is generally more. How much more? The "from" price for mass market cruise lines is considered very good if it is $100 per day per person. That's for an inside cabin. Oceanview cabins (almost all small-ship cabins are oceanview) will start at about $150 per day, balconies or suites are $200 to $250. Most small-ship cabins will begin at around $150 and commonly be found at $300 per day. Of course, the luxury ships (both small and large) can go much higher - $1,000 to $1,300 per day is not impossible.
If we were to try and justify logically the difference in cost between small and large ships, we might want to consider that, on average, the small ship cruises will include many more shore excursions that you would pay extra for on the big ships (often $50 to $100 per day per person). Most small ships do not have a "tipping" policy such as you find on large ships (usually $15 to $20 per day per person). Finally, because most small ships do not have casinos, you won't be tempted to try and double your fortune (usual loss $25 to $100 per night).
Considering these points, the cost of a small ship cruise is pretty close to the cost of a large ship cruise. But remember, it's not really about cost - it's about value. If you are a small ship person, you will go because of value not whether it costs more or less than some alternative.
We know how important the twin considerations of price and time are to the selection of a vacation. We also understand that it can be very difficult to compare prices because they are given in many different formats and there are a multitude of promotions going on at all times.
It is true that small ship cruising prices are a little more "stable" that mass market cruising. Like most tours, you will pay the brochure price unless there is some promotion going on. When you see some ad for "exclusive low price", don't think that it is unique - 90% of the time most organizations or agencies can get the same price.
Our plan to make price comparisons simple is to convert prices to "cost per person per night". We think you will find it easier than trying to figure out whether company A's 7 night cruise is actually a better deal than company B's 9 night version. One other point, nights are vacation nights - some companies try to slip in the night you spend on the plane getting to Europe as a regular vacation night - we take those out.
Another confusing fact about cruise pricing is that you never know what is included. When you see "from" pricing ("Cruise the Caribean in a beautiful cabin - from $795 per person") you have to look closely to see if it is as good as it sounds. Is that price for a cabin with a porthole below the waterline? Are the $150 per person port charges included or not? What about the $56.29 Government Fees, are they in there? When you see a price on this site, there are no extra fees - it's all in there.
Finally, how do we handle all of the massive variation in prices - 5 different cabin types, higher fare in June than in April, etc. We have a convention to try and simplify a complex process.
We display a per person per night price for a middle of the road cabin. On river cruises it will be a cabin with a French Balcony since that is most often chosen over the standard fixed window cabin. On other ships, it will be an ocean view since that is far more popular than a balcony. The end result is that you are looking at a representation of a cabin that you are likely to buy but you can also be comfortable that there are lower priced cabins available.
It doesn't account for specials (free air, second guest half price, $500 off per cabin on the October sailing) and it doesn't account for all of the different cabin types. We hope it will help you narrow your choices to a particular itinerary that you feel is affordable. Then we can talk about more exact prices. By the way, subscribing to our free newslettersubscribing to our free newsletter is an excellent way to keep up with the specials.