8 reasons cruises may be a better value for a 7-day vacation than land-based hotel stays

FILE-Cruise passengers disembark from the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas cruise ship on Royal Caribbean's private coastal peninsula of Labadee, Haiti. (Photo by: Ron Buskirk/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Millions of Americans are getting ready to travel this summer, with recent research from the MMGY Travel Intelligence's Portrait of American Travelers study revealing that 76% of Americans plan to take a trip this year. 

With this travel surge, savvy consumers are always striving to reap value from vacation dollars. 

But does a cruise offer more vacation value than a land-based hotel stay?  


FOX Business consulted with four different travel professionals to find out how and if consumers can stretch their vacation dollars on a cruise vs. a hotel stay. 

Here's a deep dive into the issue — with eight intriguing reasons why cruises may win out in the end.

1. Cruise amenities are usually plentiful 

Cruise loyalists sail over and over again because of the "unpack once" concept — and the value a cruise can present. 

Not only can you visit several ports during one sailing, there are ample food options, activities and entertainment that your cruise fare covers. 


FILE-A cruise ship is shown docked at an unnamed location.(Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Also, there are often booking incentives with onboard credits, free drink packages, free Wi-Fi and military discounts on some cruise lines. For consumers who are driven by price, it’s worthwhile to research cruise options this summer. 

"When we look at pricing for mid-summer travel season in the Caribbean — a seven-night cruise in July, for example — we're seeing an average starting fare of $1,160 per person, or $165 per night, per person," said Colleen McDaniel, spokesperson with Cruise Critic, who is based in Denver. 

"And when you take into account the amenities included in that fare — food, entertainment and your room — it's an extremely competitive price compared with similar options on land." 


When you're considering apples-to-apples in terms of quality, you'd be hard-pressed to find a comparable hotel option for less, according to McDaniel. 

"At sea, you're experiencing not simply a room and a pool, but you've got an array of bars and restaurants, Broadway-caliber entertainment, waterparks and more," she said. 

2. A cruise's value can be stretched

Experts say travelers can make a cruise an even greater value than a land-based hotel stay.

"One perk of cruising is that it allows many American travelers to, in effect, 'drive' to their cruise destination — whether that's the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada/New England or Mexico, as homeports can be found along the East and West Coasts, and along with the Gulf Coast. So for many, it means there is an option to drive rather than fly," said McDaniel. 

Without the need to book a flight or numerous flights in some cases, you can save thousands of dollars if you were flying across the U.S. or to an island in the Carribean. 

Also in the win column for cruises: There’s the reduction of travel hassles.

"One could also argue that avoiding the airport — crowds, delays, cancellations, added fees — has even more value in the form of mental wellness," McDaniel said.

3. There is more choice in lodging picks

Unlike hotels, part of the cruise booking process also includes booking your exact cabin — and the room choices can be extensive. 



FILE-On the Carnival Ecstasy cruise ship: Lido Deck and the swimming pool. (Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

"So, rather than choose between a handful of room types at a hotel, most of which come at relatively the same price, you're able to select the cabin that best fits both your needs and your budget," said McDaniel. 

4. Cruise lines cater to travelers just as hotels do

Cruise lines cater to varying travelers. 

"Yes, there is definitely a tiered model of cruise pricing across the industry that's very similar to the hotel brands and industry," McDaniel said. 

"There are mainstream lines that are more budget-friendly, and other mainstream lines that are a bit more elevated in experience and price."

5. A cruise's tab is more predictable

When booking a cruise, you’ll generally face fewer separate costs, said Sally French, travel expert at NerdWallet in San Francisco. 

"Cruise fare tends to include meals, entertainment and lodging all in one," she said.


FILE-Two ladies take pictures in front of the Carnival cruise ship Elation in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)


However, she noted, "cruisers may see extra costs — particularly if they book add-ons like shore excursions, have a meal at one of the ship’s fancier restaurants, or take part in cruise offerings that necessitate an additional fees like a spa treatment."

Booking a hotel room, by contrast, typically means you’re still on the hook for filling your day and your belly, French said.

"While it’s not uncommon to find hotels that offer free breakfast and activities, travelers should typically budget for ongoing costs throughout the trip, such as dining out, entertainment and transportation between those spots," she said.

6. Cruises can be all-inclusive

It’s an interesting comparison when booking upscale travel

"Luxury cruise lines tend to be more truly all-inclusive," French said. 

In contrast, budget cruise lines tend to charge more for extras. 

For example, many affordable cruise lines only serve water, tea and coffee for free, but charge extra for soda, juice and alcohol.  

That said, "it’s rare to find a luxury hotel brand that offers free breakfast, except in unique circumstances such as [consumers'] elite status," said French. 

And, she said that hotels most likely to serve free breakfast tend to be the low-to-mid tier brands associated with major hotel chains.

Kim Guimaraes, vice president of national accounts with Crystal and Abercrombie & Kent, who is based in Miami, told FOX Business that in most cases, travelers who choose to vacation at a traditional five-star hotel can expect to pay additional costs for any on-site activities selected, in addition to food and beverage. 


"On upscale cruises, not only are guests receiving white-glove service around the clock, but they are also getting premium dining experiences, top-shelf spirits and wines, award-winning entertainment and innovative guest programming included in their cost," said Guimaraes. 

"This provides travelers an opportunity to relax and focus on the experience and their time together rather than what additional costs they’ll need to consider." 

7. Vacation transportation costs can be lower

A cruise takes travelers to multiple destinations, in many cases. 

"If you were to price out traveling to those ports, with train or air and hotel separately, it would add up to the same or more than using a cruise as your mode of transportation," said Kelly Connor, travel adviser with AAA Club Alliance in Marlton, New Jersey. 

"Figure in travel time and airport arrival and wait times — and a cruise is valuable in handling the travel for you, plus offering a fabulous sea view."

For instance, a Mediterranean cruise stopping in Capri, Mykonos and Istanbul and ending in Athens, said Connor, is much more affordable than trying to hop around to those places in a week on your own. 

"Plus, you have your choice of a wide variety of onboard experiences and entertainment at night and on cruising days — right there in walkable distance," Connor added. 

"The convenience is amazing and you don’t have to take a taxi to get back to your room."

8. Cruising can be more streamlined

Don’t overlook the value of trip planning, said French with NerdWallet. 

"With a cruise, there’s very little thinking involved once you’re onboard, and generally, you can eat when you want and partake in any of the available activities at your leisure," she said.

With a hotel stay, visitors are generally on their own in terms of planning their days.

Plus, if your land-based vacation involves nights in multiple cities, you’ll have to deal with checking in and out of multiple hotels and handling your luggage accordingly. 

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