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Budget Cruises for the Trip of a Lifetime


July 24, 2023

Looking for the best budget cruises? You can find some amazing deals if you know where to look! Below, we’ve got five of the best cruises for couples on a budget and travelers who want a great vacation without breaking the bank.

All cruises listed sail in 2023 and are round-trip from a U.S. port. We consider them “budget” because they come in at under $100 per person per day. That’s pretty extraordinary when you consider that the fare includes accommodation, food, and entertainment.

Heads-Up Before We Start

We’d be remiss if we didn’t share a few conditions and exceptions with you before we begin:

  • The cruise-only fares below are per person, based on interior cabin double occupancy, and don’t include taxes, port fees, and gratuities.
  • Cruise prices are subject to change. We’ve quoted the most recent rates, but prices may shift by the time you read this. Any offers we call out from partners are also subject to change.
  • We’ve called out any special community discounts you can score as an community member! Be sure to click the link to get any savings you qualify for as a member of a verified community.

5 Budget Cruises to Exciting Destinations

7-Day Alaska Cruise with Norwegian Cruises

Round trip from Seattle, WA on the Norwegian Encore

Cruising is the best way to enjoy the spectacular Alaska coastline. This week-long, round-trip cruise from Seattle stops in Juneau, Skagway, Ketchikan, and Victoria, BC, and includes a day of cruising in the incredible Glacier Bay National Park.

Prices: From $479 per person

Save money on Norwegian Cruises: Norwegian frequently has great offers! They include adding a third and fourth guest for free in the cabin, free airfare, and all-inclusive packages.

Norwegian Cruise Lines

10% Off for Military, veterans, and their spouses

3-Day Bahamas Cruise with Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

Round trip from Palm Beach, FL on the Margaritaville at Sea

You don’t have to be a Jimmy Buffet fan to enjoy this 3-day, 2-night cruise, but it helps! Sailing out of Palm Beach, Florida for (2 nights) at (Freeport, Bahamas / Grand Bahama Island), you have the option of extending your vacay by staying at one of the resorts on the island for a few nights and catching the ship back another day.

Prices: From $199 to $214 and up per person on multiple sailings from August through the rest of 2023

Save money on Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line: Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line sometimes runs a Buy One, Get One cruise fare deal, so you can get double your money! It also has Late Boarding Deals for last-minute travelers. Solo travelers, college students, and heroes (military, veterans, law enforcement, first responders, and teachers) can also find special deals.

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

See budget cruise discounts and offers for Military, First Responders, Teachers, Students, and Government Employees

10-Day Bahamas Cruise with Celebrity Cruises

Round trip from Fort Lauderdale, FL on the Celebrity Equinox

We picked a specific trip for this one – a low-cost option from a luxury line. Check out this 10-day cruise that takes you to some of the most beautiful and exclusive spots in the South Caribbean. The itinerary: Fort Lauderdale to Antigua, Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Kitts and Nevis, and back to Fort Lauderdale on the Celebrity Equinox.

Price: From $945 per person sailing on Nov. 11, 2023

Save money on Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises is a premium cruise line, but you can still get good deals like 40% off, Buy One, Get One 75% off, and onboard credit deals if you time it right. The “Always Included” fare includes free Wi-Fi, drinks, and gratuities, which you typically pay for on other cruise lines.

Celebrity Cruises

Get 2.0% cash back! Travel on a luxury resort at sea sailing to the world’s best places.

Cruise Deals with MSC Cruises

Winter, Cruise-Only, and Weekend Budget Cruises

MSC Cruises offers budget cruises and packages for the winter season and weekend getaways. MSC offers cruises in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, South America, South Africa, China, the United Arab Emirates, and Sir Bani Yas. Cruise prices generally include accommodations, main dining and buffet, select beverages in the buffet, daily activities and entertainment, activities for families, and most kids club activities. You can add drink packages and activities separately, so you pay only for what you want.

Prices: From $149 per person

Save money on MSC Cruises: MSC is the only cruise line with status match, so if you’ve reached, say, Diamond or Platinum status on another cruise line, MSC will give you all the matching perks and benefits you’d get on the other line. MSC also regularly runs limited-time deals like Kids Sail Free, BOGO, onboard credit, and free drinks and wi-fi packages.

MSC Cruises

Explore cruise deals – up to $20 Cash Back!

5-Day West Coast Cruise with Princess Cruises

Round trip from San Francisco, CA on the Crown Princess, sailing Nov. 21, 2023

Here’s a cost-saving 5-day budget cruise! Cruise the beautiful Pacific Ocean on the Crown Princess, which goes from San Francisco to Ensenada, Mexico, San Diego, and back to San Francisco.

Price and dates: From $469 per person sailing on November 21, 2023

Save money on Princess Cruises: Princess regularly runs great deals like “third and fourth guest sail free,” up to 40% off fares, and all-inclusive packages.

Princess Cruise Lines

Explore offers and get up to 1.5% Cash Back

Top 3 Tips for Booking Budget Cruises

Book Early or Late

There are good deals to be found at any time, but you’ll get the best fares if you book either very early (a year in advance or more) or very late (within a few weeks of sailing). If you live within driving distance of a cruise port and have flexibility in your work and travel schedule, you can get some amazing last-minute deals as cruise ships scramble to sell open staterooms.

Sign Up and Track Deals

Many cruise lines promote limited-time deals that are going away very soon, so you have to book now or you’ll miss out! Of course, the secret is that there’s always an offer of some kind, so you don’t have to feel pressured to book before you’re ready. If you don’t like the current deal, wait to see what the next one is; maybe a Kids Sail Free offer isn’t appealing, but a free drinks and wi-fi package is. Check back on the cruise line’s website often and sign up for their email newsletter so you can track the special deals right from your inbox (and get exclusive email-only deals, too).

Book Your Own Excursions  

Cruise lines offer excursions in most ports of call so you can explore when you arrive. And while it’s convenient to purchase excursions from the cruise line, it can also be expensive. Consider booking tours and excursions on your own through a travel site like Viator, which tends to be much cheaper. Just make sure to leave plenty of time to get back to the ship before it sails away because the ship doesn’t have to wait if you’re late!

Viator, a TripAdvisor Company

Up to 5.0% Cash Back on Viator, the world’s leading resource for researching, finding, and booking the best travel experiences worldwide

Cruise FAQs

What’s the cheapest month to go on a budget cruise?

You’ll find better deals during the off-season, when kids are in school, from mid-January to May and September to mid-December. The highest prices are generally over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays, spring break, and summer. The cheapest month also depends on your destination. For instance, the Alaska cruising season runs from May through September, so cruises at the start and end of the season are cheaper than those in June and July.

Is food free on cruises?

Yes, all the major cruise lines have free breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks included in the fare. Typically, a ship will serve free food in the main dining room, buffet, and a few other locations (depending on the size of the ship), and also offer “specialty dining” – premium restaurants that cost extra.

Do I need a passport on a cruise?

Yes, you will most likely need a passport on any cruise.

The reason is the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 (sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Jones Act, which is a similar but separate act). It forbids ships flying a foreign flag (i.e., the vast majority of cruise ships) from sailing exclusively between U.S. ports and requires a stop in a foreign port. This is why, for example, Alaskan cruises often stop in Vancouver, Canada, and West Coast cruises go to Ensenada, Mexico.

One notable exception is Norwegian’s Pride of America, a U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed ship that sails exclusively between the Hawaiian islands. U.S. river cruise ships also fall into this category, which is why U.S. river cruises tend to be more expensive.