Cruise vs Resort, Travel Tips

At sea & on land


Why cruises may be a better value for families with teens rather than young children

Cruise vs. Resort Stays

What you don’t know about pricing

Although cruise ship cabins may appear to be floating hotel rooms, room rates are calculated much differently, especially when it comes to children's rates. It's important for parents to understand the differences when they are considering their vacation choices.

Hotel rates are based on the occupancy and the ages of the guests. You'll see lingo that reads “$150 per person based on double adult occupancy with existing bedding.” Translated? That hotel room costs $300 per night for two adults.. When it comes to kids’ rates, you'll most likely see something that says "kids under 17 stay free with parents using existing bedding.” This means if there are two queen beds in that room, then two kids under 17 can share the room with their parents for $300 per night.

With all inclusive resorts, food, drinks (including alcohol), and entertainment need to be calculated into the total cost. Here you'll see the same lingo but instead of kids staying free, children under a specified age will pay a reduced rate. So let's say a particular all-inclusive resort offers reduced rates for kids under the age of 12 and your child is 13 years old, that "child" would need to pay a full adult rate. True, your teen won't be drinking at the bar, but these are the rules nonetheless.

Cruise lines calculate their prices differently. They, too, need to include food and entertainment into their fares. Cruise lines charge by the number of passengers sharing a room, regardless of their age. Instead of saying "prices are based on double adult occupancy" like hotels do, cruise lines base cabin prices on first and second passenger rates. Just like hotels, cruise lines adjust their pricing according to two people sharing the same cabin; the distinction here is the word “people.” On a cruise ship, you could have a 75-year-old grandma sharing a cabin with her 3-year-old grandson, and both would pay the same price for that cruise.

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How cruise lines are tricky

Cruise lines offer "reduced fares" for the third and fourth passengers sharing the same cabin, again regardless of age. This means that a family with a 2 year old and a 5 year old would pay the same third and fourth passenger cruise rates as a family with a 19 year old and a 25 year old.

So from these examples, it's clear that cruise vacations offer a distinct pricing advantage to families with tweens, teens, and adult children. Families with infants, toddlers, and young children may find better value per dollar with a land-based resort or hotel vacation.

Cruise lines often will advertise enticing deals like "kids sail free,” “50% off third and fourth passengers” or even BOGO (buy one, get one free) offers. While these tag lines certainly catch the attention of vacation-desperate parents, they may or may not actually be a deal. Often these discounts are calculated against the highest rates known to man followed by extreme fine print limitations. In other situations, first and second passenger rates are actually increased to give the illusion of a discount for third and fourth passengers.

Advantages of working with a travel agent

It's always best to check with an experienced travel agent to make sure that you're getting the most value out of your vacation dollar. Agents monitor cruise line prices. We can spot a proper sale from a mile away. Travel agents often will have their own exclusive deals that you won't find online like upgrades, extra perks, and even on-board credit; that’s extra credit to spend on the ship at the bar or spa. Travel agents also have deals and contacts to help you customize your vacation when it comes to shore excursions.

Plus know this: when you’re researching online hotel, resort, and cruise prices for your family, travel agents’ commissions are already calculated into those advertised prices. So when you book your vacation online yourself, the hotels, resorts, and cruise lines simply pocket those commissions. That’s why you may want to partner with a trusted travel agent to plan your next family vacation. For more, read our 8 reasons why you’re better off booking a family cruise through a travel agent than online here.

Sally Black is the founder of the travel agency Vacation Kids and author of the book, “Fearless Family Vacations.” She’s also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training for the Family Travel Association.

If you’d like Sally to help you plan your next cruise or resort stay, use this link to contact her. Vacation Kids is a trusted KidTripster partner. Know that if you decide to book with her, KidTripster gets some coffee money at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support.

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Cruise vs. Resort Stays