“If you talk to anyone who has traveled — or attempted to travel — this summer, chances are you’re going to hear a horror story,” said Chris Gray Faust, Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic. “The only travel area bucking this unfortunate trend is cruises.”
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Flight prices have skyrocketed this summer and many are being delayed or canceled altogether. Hotels are also expensive and are struggling with labor shortages. Vacation rentals will be picked up. Driving isn’t the budget-friendly option it used to be, either.
Cruise cabins are still available for last minute travel this summer and into fall. “The rates are some of the cheapest we’ve seen in a long time,” Gray Faust said. “You’ll be hard pressed to find a more affordable or convenient land-based travel experience this summer.”
Four- and five-night Bahamas cruises on Carnival in August and September are as low as $25 per night on some travel sites, including Priceline and Cruises.com. Taxes and fees are not included and in some cases higher than the fare.
You can book a 7-night cruise on the Mexican Riviera on Carnival in August for $40 per night, and if you want to take the same cruise in September, it’s $36. A seven-day Royal Caribbean cruise in September costs $92 a night — and if you want an ocean-view room, that’s a steal compared to what you’d pay for a decent hotel.
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Outside of the Caribbean and Mexico, prices are low. For a seven-day trip to Northern Europe with Royal Caribbean in August, stopping in Norway and Denmark, an ocean view room is $97 per night and a room with a balcony is $109 per night. A balcony room on a Princess France and Italy cruise costs $123 per night, slightly more expensive than the other cruise options.
Demand for cruises has pent up. Cruises returned to US waters last summer after docking in March 2020, but only a limited number of ships sailed. These cruise ships had occupancy limits that allowed only 50 percent capacity. Now, a year later, most cruise lines have fully returned, and occupancy limits are gone. “The number of cabins available has increased dramatically, which of course makes room for more competitive fares as lines work to fill cabins for the summer season,” Gray Faust said.
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When it comes to pandemic-related risks, some travelers feel safer on cruises, while others feel the risk is higher than any other form of travel. In this month alone, the Coral Princess in Australia has had more than 100 Covid cases on board. Cruise lines have grappled with the reality that the coronavirus will find its way onto ships. As of last Wednesday, 93 of the 94 ships reporting coronavirus data to the CDC were observed on board for Covid cases.
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ended a pandemic-era program of opening coronavirus cases on ships to the public. While companies will continue to report cases to the agency, travelers should now check with their cruise line about precautions and coronavirus levels, according to the CDC. The agency removed cruises from its pandemic travel advice in March.
Many of the major cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Carnival, require passengers to be vaccinated and provide a negative test result before boarding. Earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line dropped its testing requirements; it still has a vaccination order. But the BA.5 variant carries a high risk of infection, even for travelers who are vaccinated or have been infected in the past.
Coronavirus risks aside, cruising isn’t everyone’s preferred way to travel. But when you compare cruising to land and air travel, the value and convenience of a cruise vacation is hard to beat, Gray Faust said.
“We have heard from many cruise lines that they have no intention of significantly increasing prices in the short term,” she said. “After such a long time without a cruise, they want to be sure not to add unnecessary booking hurdles.”