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Cruising for a cheap vacation

As you’re reading this, I’m sitting poolside on a cruise ship, dancing with my family to a live reggae band and eating what is probably my third daily helping of crème brûlée.

Cruises are our go-to vacation because they get us the most extraordinary bang for our buck. Yeah, I know they aren’t as hip as agritourism or as eco-friendly as backpacking through Europe, but we like cruises for several reasons.

First of all, they’re ridiculously cheap. We got a seven-day cruise out of New York City for $289 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

That’s $41 per person, per day! You can barely get a motel room on Niagara Falls Boulevard and a meal at Applebee’s for that price.

Not only does our cruise fare include all the food and entertainment we can possibly consume (and then some), there’s free child care (most cruise lines have excellent day camp programs for kids), an excellent team of hospitality workers pampering us at every turn and we get transported to five different ports of call.

Sounds like a bargain to me.

While some folks were scared away from cruising when recent mishaps grabbed headlines, all I saw were dollar signs. We booked our trip during the height of the infamous “poop cruise” debacle of 2013, when cruise prices plummeted.

But cruises are a tremendous value even when ships are not tipping over on their sides. When you consider all the perks included in a cruise vacation, even prices of $100 per person per day are pretty dang competitive.

Even if you don’t go ashore at the ports of call, there is plenty to keep you entertained at seemingly all hours. Some ships have movie theaters showing the latest releases, or open-air swimming pools. Even playing basketball or soccer while the ship is under way can be a memorable experience. Best of all, you are never far from your cabin when you decide you need a break from all the activity.

And while Caribbean cruises are awesome, not all cruise vacations travel in circles around the Bahamas.

Our ship is visiting Boston, Mass; Portland, Maine; Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick. Other cruises journey to Alaska (the cheapest times to go are May and September), the Mediterranean (beginning of April and end of November are cheapest), northern Europe and the Baltics (go in early May or late October), the Greek and Canary Islands (early March or late December) and Asia (January and February). The cruise lines typically release their schedules well in advance, so you can look ahead to next year and see what destinations appeal to you.

Repositioning cruises, where cruise ships relocate from one cruise region to another, are a particularly good deal. In spring and fall, when it’s time to move ships from, say Canada to the Caribbean or Alaska to Mexico, cruise lines will sell one-way trips at a discount rather than move empty ships without paying passengers aboard.

So if you want my vacation advice, I’ll quote a bad TV show theme song: Come aboard; we’re expecting you.

email: Like me on Facebook at or follow me on Twitter @DiscountDivaSam.