You've decided it's time to take that cruise to Alaska (or the Caribbean or the Mediterranean) you keep hearing about. But you're not sure how much it's going to cost you. The Mediterranean sounds awfully expensive, but what about Alaska? Perhaps a New England and Canada cruise would be more affordable?
Cruise pricing is never static; no matter which region you choose to sail, prices ebb and flow. Cruise line (and even the specific ship within the line, since newer vessels tend to command more), time of year, length of trip and, of course, cabin type are all factors that affect the price of a cruise. Plus, what's included -- or not included -- determines the overall affordability of any given sailing. But some destinations are generally more affordable than others.
Updated September 6, 2018
Cruise Critic compared sample itineraries in five popular cruise regions, using our Find a Cruise tool, to help you understand roughly how much you can expect to pay for any given region, breaking fares down into "low," "average" and "high" categories.
While perusing the sample pricing we turned up, you'll note that the low and average rates for any given itinerary are offered by the mainstream lines, while the highest-priced cruises are almost always the domain of the upscale lines. Keep in mind that the same line sometimes spills over into multiple categories, for example in instances where there's a costlier itinerary featured on a premium or newer ship within the line, or in some cases, when it features a more in-demand itinerary within a region.
(Prices cited reflect entry-level cabins and are listed per person, based on double occupancy, for 2018/2019 cruises. Rates are not inclusive of any additional taxes or fees, and can change at any time.)
The Caribbean is a year-round cruising destination blessed with (nearly) consistent sunny climes and easy access from cities fronting the Eastern Seaboard (most especially from Florida) and Gulf of Mexico. Winter months are prime time for warm-weather cruises, fueled by cruisers looking to escape blustery weather back home. Prices are usually at their highest during the end-of-year holidays, as well as during the summer school vacation period; you'll find deals if you're willing to chance sailing during the height of the post-summer hurricane season between September and November.
Caribbean sailings run the gamut from quickie four-nighters to lengthy two-weekers, but the bulk of regional itineraries run a standard one week.
Sample Itinerary: Seven-night cruises sailing from Miami in January
Low: Starting from $379 to $599, on lines like Carnival, MSC, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean Average: Starting from $683 to $1,128, on lines like Celebrity, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean
High: Starting from $1,649 to $2,899, on lines like Oceania and Viking
The Mediterranean offers a wide selection of departure ports (with biggies like Barcelona, Rome and Athens), making this destination tough to narrow down. A year-round sailing destination, the summer months are the busiest -- and priciest – when school's out and the beaches are in full swing. You'll find fewer sailing options and cooler (but not cold) temps during the off-peak winter months, but can hone in on comparative bargains. Fall and spring cruises fall right smack in between summer and winter in terms of pricing and temps.
As it's difficult to see much in less than a week, you won't see many Med itineraries running less than seven nights in duration (with the vast majority of offerings falling within the 7- to 14-night range), though a handful of lines do run five-nights-or-less jaunts, too.
Sample Itinerary: Seven-night sailings from Barcelona in October
Low: Starting from $449 to $649, on lines like Costa and MSC
Average: Starting from $779 to $1,549, on lines like Celebrity, Costa, MSC, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean
High: Starting from $1,799 to $3,799, on lines like Crystal, Seabourn, Oceania and Windstar
May through September is Alaska's sailing season, with June through August comprising the peak (and priciest) period; May and September fall on the fringes, offering the coolest weather, but the biggest bargains. Departing from Seattle is typically an easier and less expensive trek than flying to embarkation ports like Vancouver, or Seward or Anchorage within Alaska.
With travelers coming some distance to cruise here with destination immersion in mind, there are only a handful of Alaska sailings that are less than a week in duration; the majority of voyages are scheduled for seven nights, though you'll find plenty of options in the eight- to 14-night range, as well.
Sample Itinerary: Seven-night sailings from Seattle in June
Low: Starting from $849 to $899, on Holland America
Average: Starting from $984 to $1,564, on lines like Carnival, Celebrity, Norwegian, Princess and Royal Caribbean
High: Starting from $1,699, on Oceania
Hawaii sailings are on offer year-round, and there's no bad time to sail here weather-wise (apart from a mild winter wet season). Pricing tends to spike during the winter months (thanks to an influx of winter-fleeing sun-seekers), and again over the summer holidays.
The shortest available option here is a weeklong cruise, sailing round trip from Honolulu (on Norwegian), though the majority of available itineraries fall within the 10- to 15-night range -- lengthier in duration because of the time needed to cruise round trip from the West Coast. Most of these involve a one-way run between Honolulu and Vancouver, or operate round trip from cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Sample Itinerary: 10- to 15-night cruises in April
Low: Starting from $969, on Carnival
Average: Starting from $1,169 to $1,499, on lines like Carnival and Celebrity
High: Starting from $1,629 to $1,749, on lines like Celebrity and Princess
Canada & New England
The seasonal Canada and New England cruise calendar runs from May through October, with the bulk of regional sailings timed to coincide with the area's peak foliage period. Accordingly, fall months attract leaf-peeping devotees; summer months reel in more of a family clientele (with cruise fares during both periods priced pretty similarly). Cruising on either end of the sailing season in May or late October means that temperatures can get chilly, especially the further north you head into Canada.
Primary embarkation ports include Baltimore, Bayonne (New Jersey), Boston and New York, as well as Montreal and Quebec City in Canada. Given the vast swath of coastline to cover, sailings rarely fall below seven nights in length, and more frequently run in the duration of 10 to 14 nights.
Sample Itinerary: 10- to 14-night cruises from NYC in October
Low: Starting from $729 to $849, on lines like Holland America and Norwegian
Average: Starting from $999 to $1,804, on lines like Celebrity, Holland America, Princess and Windstar
High: Starting from $3,635 to $8,715, on lines like Crystal, Regent Seven Seas, Seabourn and Silversea