Cruising can be a wallet-friendly way for families to travel, with the cost of meals, accommodations, and entertainment all rolled into the price of your trip. And now it's getting even more affordable, thanks to a growing number of deals offering free fares for children.
“We’re starting to see lines offer more passenger discounts as part of ‘choose-your-perk’ deals,” says Jaymie DeGaetano, deals production manager for ShermansTravel Media. “And more and more, they’re incorporating free fare for kids as one of the choices.”
Find one of these kids-cruise-free promotions, and you’ve got the golden ticket to a free third or fourth passenger in your stateroom. But where can you find these types of deals, and how "free" is free? Here’s everything you need to know about the kids-cruise-free deals.
What exactly are "kids-cruise-free" deals?
Cruise lines typically book fares as double occupancy, meaning the price is based on two people sharing a cabin. If you want to add a third or fourth person to your stateroom, you'll pay, on average, about half the fare for each additional passenger. With these deals, those third and fourth passengers can cruise for free as long as they are sharing a cabin with two people who are paying a fare.
Which lines offer them?
MSC was the first to regularly offer a kids-cruise-free program, which the line launched back in 2004. With this European line, children under 11 always cruise free as long as they are sharing a cabin with two adults.
Now, many family-friendly mainstream lines — including Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Costa — run kids-cruise-free promotions throughout the year. It's clear that these types of offers are catching on. Even Holland America, which typically draws an older crowd, has begun to include reduced fare for children as part of their choose-your-perk deals. Luxury line Crystal Cruises also has promotions including free fare for kids on select cruises, where a passenger 17 years old and younger can sail for free when sharing a stateroom with two adults.
Also, keep in mind that some lines wave fare for the youngest cruisers. For example, Cunard and Seabourn do not charge for children under the age of 2.
What’s the catch?
While you won't pay a fare for your kids with these deals, taxes, port dues, and other fees still apply to every passenger. Also, these deals sometimes have restrictions on cabin categories or require that the adults book at full price. If that is the case, it's smart to shop around to be sure that you are actually saving money versus just finding an amazing deal elsewhere, even if it means paying for the kids.
Another thing to keep in mind: Kids-cruise-free deals are usually offered in the slower fall and winter months when school is in session and less often in the busy spring and summer months when lots of families are looking to cruise during school vacations. As a result, you probably won’t snap up any amazing spring break discounts for the whole gang, but you can plan a family getaway for when it's cold back home.