Royal Caribbean cruises can cost as little as $50 per person, per night, but what’s the catch? Although it’s possible to find cheap cruise deals on Royal Caribbean, you should expect to pay more than what is advertised on the sticker price.
Budgeting for extras like gratuities, taxes and fees, shore excursions, and drinks are just some of the added expenses that come with any cruise. Plus, if you book the cheapest cruise deal you find, you'll have little choice over the ship, itinerary, and cabin category.
If you remain flexible, though, and understand what to expect when booking a cheap cruise, you can have a spectacular vacation for as little as $50 a day.
Here’s everything you need to know before you book a cheap Royal Caribbean cruise.
Manage your expectations
When booking a cheap, $50 per night cruise, you’ll probably be in an inside cabin.
If you book the cheapest cruise deal you can find, odds are that you’ll be sailing in an inside cabin. These windowless cabins are the smallest and lowest stateroom category found on a cruise ship, but that doesn’t mean they should be avoided.
Inside cabins provide the same cozy amenities found in other staterooms, including a king bed, couch or chair, television, closets, vanity area, and private bathroom. Plus, because you’ll save money on cruise fare by staying in an inside cabin, you can stretch your vacation budget much further than if you were to book a balcony or suite stateroom.
Know the difference between a guarantee stateroom and choosing your cabin location.
Before booking a cheap cruise, check to see whether the cruise fare you’re booking is for a guarantee cabin or if you can pick your own cabin location.
A guarantee cabin is when Royal Caribbean assigns your stateroom location, meaning you are unable to select exactly where on the ship your cabin will be. If you aren’t picky about your cabin location, booking a guarantee rate can be a nice way to save money.
If you’d prefer picking your own cabin location, though, expect to pay slightly more per person on the cruise fare.
The cheapest cruises are usually on Royal Caribbean’s older ships. Before booking a $50 per night cruise, research the ship to decide if it’s the best fit for you.
There’s a good chance you’ll find the cheapest cruise fares on Royal Caribbean’s oldest and smallest ships. Vision and Radiance Class cruise ships often have the best deals available; these ships are in far less demand than brand new cruise ships like Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas.
While there’s nothing wrong with sailing on an older Royal Caribbean cruise ship, it’s important to manage your expectations about the ship before boarding. If you book a $50 per night cruise expecting the most updated amenities, activities, and dining venues, you’ll end up disappointed.
Most cheap cruises are during the off-season. It's unlikely you'll find a $50 per night cruise during peak season.
Royal Caribbean’s pricing varies drastically depending on the month you sail. Alaska cruises, for example, are priced highest in June, July, and August, but you can usually find fantastic cruise deals to Alaska in May and September.
Likewise, cruises during the holidays are always in high demand, leading to some of the highest prices found all year. As a general rule of thumb, the best Royal Caribbean cruise prices are found during the school year, and more expensive prices are typical during school breaks.
The lowest price per night on a cruise vacation is often found on longer sailings as opposed to short cruises.
While it’s possible to find a $50 per person, per night cruise fare on short sailings, you’ll have the most luck finding cheap deals on longer cruises. Longer cruises, especially those over 7 nights, offer a lower cost per day than shorter sailings.
Some of the absolute cheapest prices per day are found on repositioning cruises on older ships. As ships move from one homeport to another, they often need to cross an ocean, leading to a sailing 10-18 days in length.
It’s common to find prices as low as $50 per person, per day on these sailings, and they visit some of Royal Caribbean’s most unique destinations, from Madeira to the Azores.
Extra costs to consider when booking a cheap cruise
Before booking a cheap Royal Caribbean cruise, it’s important to understand the extra costs associated with a cruise vacation. Airfare, gratuities, and onboard add-ons can significantly increase the price of your cruise. Because of this, you should never view the baseline cruise fare as the entire vacation cost.
Here are some extra costs you may incur when booking a cheap cruise:
Taxes & fees
If you browse Royal Caribbean’s website and are stunned to see a $100 cruise fare on a 3-night sailing, check the fine print below the cruise fare. The price listed in big, bold numbers does not include taxes, fees, and port expenses.
You can expect to pay between $50 and $250 per person for these additional expenses on a Royal Caribbean cruise. The exact taxes, fees, and port expenses vary depending on the destinations your ship will visit.
Airfare & Parking
Unless you’re lucky enough to live within driving distance to a cruise port, you’ll have to purchase airfare to your cruise.
Airfare prices can range from cheap $50 fares on budget airlines to $1000 transatlantic flights. Before booking a cruise, consider the travel cost to the embarkation port. If flying to Barcelona negates the savings of a cheap cruise fare, you might want to consider booking a cruise closer to home.
Likewise, even though one-way Alaska cruise deals are usually cheaper than roundtrip sailings, you’ll have to account for booking two one-way flights, which can often be significantly more expensive than a roundtrip flight itinerary.
If you’re driving to port instead of flying, budget for parking at the cruise terminal. Parking at or near a cruise terminal generally costs between $15 to $25 per day.
All passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise must pay gratuities, which can be prepaid before your sailing or charged on a daily basis once onboard. Gratuities are a way to reward crew members–including dining and bar staff, stateroom attendants, and hotel service teams–for excellent service.
Gratuities on a Royal Caribbean cruise are $16 per person, per night in Junior Suites and below and $18.50 per person, per night for passengers in Grand Suites and above. In addition, an 18% gratuity will be added to any beverages, specialty dining, mini bar purchases, and spa & salon services.
Pre-cruise hotel stay
Another pre-cruise purchase to account for–particularly if you’re flying to your cruise port–is a hotel stay the night before you embark the ship.
We always recommend arriving in your embarkation city the day before your cruise, as it gives extra wiggle room and flexibility in case of any travel delays. However, one additional cost required by arriving the day before is a hotel stay.
Hotels in cruise ports can range from $100 per night to over $500, depending on your budget and preferences. A rule of thumb is to budget around ~$200-250 for a pre-cruise hotel stay per night.
Drinks & specialty dining
While not a mandatory purchase, many passengers choose to spend extra on drinks and specialty dining on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
While it’s possible to spend an entire cruise without spending extra on food and drinks, purchasing cocktails, mocktails, soda, and specialty restaurant meals is a way many cruisers like to enjoy their cruise vacation.
Expect to pay between $10-14 for alcoholic beverages, $3 for a can of soda, and $8-9 for mocktails. Specialty dining costs around $25 per person for lunch and $50-60 per person for dinner.
Shore excursions are another optional add-on for any cruise vacation, and organized tours can cost as little as $25 per person up to $500+ per person. Most excursions will cost between $50-100.
Excursions aren’t necessary, however, and you can almost always save money by planning a day in port on your own. Nonetheless, excursions still come with benefits, from offering a convenient way to see a destination’s top attractions to having added protections when booking through Royal Caribbean.
If you plan to purchase internet on a Royal Caribbean cruise, budget around $18-20 per device, per day. Note that multiple people can share a 1-device internet package (the cheapest option), but both cannot use the internet on their devices at the same time.
If you don’t want to spend money on an internet package, you can always find internet in port at cafes and restaurants.
Bottom line: should you book a $50 per night cruise?
Cruises offer one of the best values in a vacation; food, entertainment, activities, and accommodations are included in one set price. A $50 per night cruise will almost certainly bring more value to your vacation compared to booking a hotel or resort on land.
Nonetheless, it’s important to understand what extra costs you may incur on a cheap cruise and what to expect once onboard. Although you may not sail on the newest ship or in the most luxurious cabin, there’s nothing wrong with booking a cheap cruise with the right expectations.