Cruising from Florida can be done on the cheap more easily than from anywhere else in the world. This is a state with multiple embarkation ports along the coastline, all of which offer easy access to the Bahamas, the Caribbean, and Mexico on itineraries that range from two days all the way up to two weeks. Here, where the cheap cruises are plentiful, you just need to be in the know. Read on for our tips for finding cheap cruises from Florida.
1. Time your cruise well.
Summer and early fall in the Caribbean mean plenty of bargain fares, especially the last two weeks of August and the first week of September as families get ready for school. The first week of January, right after the Christmas/New Year’s peak fare period, also tends to be a great time for low-cost cruise fares from Florida to the Caribbean. Our advice: Plan to book at least six to eight months in advance to get the best deals on low-season sailings.
2. Know the players.
MSC Cruises, a Switzerland-based line that caters to Europeans, often offers seven-night cruises on its mega ship MSC Divina for as little as $499 per person out of Miami. Costa Cruises, which is headquartered in Italy but is part of the Carnival Corporation, has three affordably priced ships in the Caribbean from November to March.
Royal Caribbean International offers some great deals as well, especially on its three- and four-night Bahamas cruises, which dip as low as $199 per person. Norwegian Cruise Line has been bundling free drinks and dining packages with $599 per person fares on seven-night Caribbean itineraries — and that’s on its newest ships. Last, but not least, Carnival Cruise Line offers some super low rates on short Bahamas and Caribbean cruises, on its older ships especially.
3. Consider older ships.
Older vessels don’t have all of the fancy entertainment and dining venues and amusement park-type thrills of the newest mega ships, but many have been refit and offer cool new features. This is especially true on Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships.
Fares on older ships can be about half that of newer vessels in the fleet — $369 per person for a seven-night Western Caribbean cruise from Miami in early January 2017 on Carnival Splendor, for example. Norwegian is “refreshing” its older ships right now too, with everything from new carpet to a hot new Mexican restaurant.
4. Look beyond Miami.
Florida has five main cruise ship ports: In addition to Miami, you can cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Port Canaveral, and Jacksonville on the Atlantic Coast and Tampa on the Gulf Coast. Carnival cruises from all five, while Royal Caribbean and Norwegian offer itineraries from all but Jacksonville.
5. Opt for a three- to five-day cruise.
Not only are these shorter cruises, which typically visit the Bahamas or Key West and Cozumel, a great value, but they’re also a great introductory experience for first-time cruisers or couples with kids trying to determine if it’s the right kind of vacation for the whole family. Look for bargain basement rates of three days for as little as $179 per person or five days for just $269 per person.
6. Price interior cabins.
Does your bedroom at home have a balcony with an ocean view? Probably not, so an interior cabin, almost always the cheapest fare unless the category sells out, makes a cost-effective option on a cruise. Today’s ships have so many activities and entertainment venues that you’re not apt to notice you don’t have an ocean view from your cabin, especially since you’ll mostly be there when it’s dark outside. And you can enjoy sea views from almost anywhere else on the ship.
7. Third and fourth passengers get a discount.
If you’re a family of four, or four friends who don’t mind sharing a cabin to snag a bargain, look for cabins that can accommodate four people. Bunk up this way, and you’ll lower everyone’s fare by as much as 20 percent.
8. Sometimes kids sail free.
MSC has a “Kids Sail Free” program that lets two children under the age of 12 stay in their parents’ cabin without a charge on select sailings. It’s hard to beat that deal for a cheap cruise from Florida for a family of four!