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Thursday, December 11

Bon Voyage: Eight Night All-Inclusive Vacation for Two For $500!

Tomorrow morning we are headed to Miami for our 7 Day Eastern Caribbean cruise.  The cruise visits Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk.  For less than $500, we are spending one night in Miami and 7 nights aboard Carnival Glory.  This is the ultimate in frugal travel:

  • We are leaving the car at the house, so no parking fees.
  • We will take the PSTA buses from the house to Tampa's Marion Transit Center ($10).
  • From there, we ride the Megabus to downtown Miami ($36 roundtrip).
  • We spend the night in Miami at a high-end hotel.  It's a mystery shop, and lunch, dinner, breakfast and alcohol are all covered).  I also am paid $50.
  • If we need transportation while in Miami, we have (2) $10 credits on Uber to use.  If not, we'll use it to get home when we arrive back in Tampa.
  • For two, the cruise was $619.  This includes the cruise rate of $174 each ($24.86/day/person) plus taxes and port fees.
  • I have an onboard credit of $117.78.  This includes a $100 shareholder benefit and a random $17.78 credit.  I usually receive these small unexplainable credits when I cruise.  The only explanation I saw in the online forums was that if port fees drop, Carnival refunds the savings as an onboard credit.
That's an all in cost of $665, less my $50 shop fee and $117.78 in credits for a total of $497.22.  Of course, gratuities will add to the cost as will any money I lose while gambling.  

There are some other ways we will be frugal onboard, particularly with mitigating the cost of alcohol:
  • Carnival allows you to bring one bottle of wine and one 12 pack of soda per guest.
  • I reach Gold Status in their VIP program on this cruise, so we will be invited to a cocktail party while on board.
  • The art auctions give free champagne.
  • If I gamble enough, all my drinks in the casino will be free.  Last cruise we did this the first night, so all our drinks were free.  Unfortunately, I lost a good bit of money trying to get the free drinks, so I have to be more careful this time.
  • We typically eat all meals onboard, even on port days.  
I am 100% convinced that for the moment, cruising is the best value one can get for the vacation dollar.  The cruise industry has added so much capacity, coupled with recent snafus that scared some people away from cruising, that costs are artificially low.  It costs less to cruise than the airfare alone would cost to visit any one of these locations.  Then you'd have the cost of your hotel, food and ground transportation on top of that.


  1. Where did you find that great cruise rate of $619 for 2 for that many days? I am soooo jealous lol!

    1. Marilyn,
      It's not too hard if your dates are flexible. I periodically check the Carnival website as prices drop if the cruise is undersold. It seems October-January have the cheapest Caribbean itineraries.

  2. That sounds like fun and you got a really good deal. The cruise I took last year was definitely a better deal than the all-inclusive vacation I took this year.

    1. Andy,
      It's also really convenient since your hotel room travels with you. If you gamble onboard they will send you offers for free cash and other discounts.

  3. When you get into port, do you have to pay fees for getting to and from the different locations? (Nassau, St. Thomas, San Juan and Grand Turk).
    Also, how much money did you lose exactly gambling?
    I can't make a decision based on fact omissions if this is really a good deal.

    1. Cindi,
      The port fees are included in the totals above. Excursions are extra, but we usually just explore on foot. It's good exercise, let's us see how the locals really live, and is cheap. In Nassau, we will walk to a free botanical garden on Paradise Island.

      After the cruise I will post my actual spending (stay tuned - we leave today!) If a traveler wanted to keep things really cheap, skip the casino. I enjoy the social aspect of sitting at a poker table talking to my fellow cruisers.