A Unique Transport Option for Long-Term Travelers

Last year at the start of a 2-month trip, my wife Becki and I spent 2 weeks on a boat.

It was more than a boat, though. It was a floating skyscraper, a buoyant building with a population greater than many of the small towns back home in Wisconsin. This boat was insane, and we’ll never get over the shear magnitude of it.

Want to learn more about<br />
transportation on RTW trips?
Want to learn more about
transportation on RTW trips?

But this post isn’t about the boat itself – it’s about a transportation option that most long-term travelers don’t even consider, or when they hear about, most immediately dismiss as not for them.

Do you think taking a cruise ship across the ocean can be a good option for budget travelers?

Misconceptions

Sunset

Now I know when you hear the word cruise, the last thing you think is budget, cheap, or Indie Travel Manifesto, right? Same here.

But hear me out! As I was quitting my job before our trip, Becki and I went on a rampage putting together travel plans so we would have at least a few things set in stone.

While last-minute deals don’t seem to exist for flights anymore, they still show up in other parts of the travel industry, and cruises still offer some sweet bonuses for people as disorganized as us.

As we found out, and I’m sure many of you have too, the prospect of booking a flight last minute to get a great deal is not a reality. It doesn’t exist – maybe 10 or 15 years ago it did, but apparently the airlines have upgraded their booking software since then, and they no longer need to sell unbooked seats at discounted prices. All seats appear to be booked on all flights all the time these days.

While last-minute deals don’t seem to exist for flights anymore, they still show up in other parts of the travel industry, and cruises still offer some sweet bonuses for people as disorganized as us.

After checking out our options, and after learning that Royal Caribbean is not the cruise company whose boats have been flipping over at the dock and randomly bursting into flames, we booked a 14-night trans-Atlantic cruise for $649/person on The Adventure of the Seas.

Fourteen nights, starting in Old San Juan, PR (one of our favorite places ever), and going across the ocean for only $649! After taxes and fees, it came out to $735pp, which we thought was still a great price.

As always, there are pros and cons to every type of travel, so let’s check out both sides of cruising across the Atlantic:

Pros

Adventure of the Seas

Two weeks of travel for $649: This isn’t bad at all for any level of accommodation, but especially not for high-end digs in a first-world setting (I would say first world “country” instead of setting, but you’re not actually in a country for most of the cruise, so….). We ended up going to five different countries on this cruise, not including the start and end ports, for a total of seven countries in a pretty short time period.

  • Luxurious accommodations: The cabbie that took us to our boat in Old San Juan described Adventure of the Seas as Las Vegas on the water, and I’d agree. Awesome entertainment, gambling, drinks, great people watching, and tons of glitz and glamor built right into all parts of the boat. Not sure about other cruise lines, but Royal Caribbean put classy before party.
  • Free entertainment: This includes dance & musical numbers, lectures on a variety of topics, Q&A sessions with the Captain and Officers, an artist in residence, and even an ice show. Possibly the best part of the cruise.
  • Food is included: All you can eat, high-quality meals for 14 days? Not too shabby since, depending on where you’re traveling, food is often one of the biggest costs while traveling.
  • Take care of yourself: Free use of a pretty respectable gym, pools, sauna, jacuzzis, steam room, etc.
  • Cachet: Not a lot of people these days can say that they’ve taken a boat across the ocean. It’s a very unique way to get around the world and brings back some of that golden age of travel feeling.
  • The natural world: If you love looking out at the water, watching sunrises and sunsets, feeling the wind in your face, seeing a storm out on the ocean, the outline of an island as it disappears into the horizon, seeing a full-moon over limitless ocean, and possibly the best stargazing of your life… cruising across the ocean might just be for you.

Cons

Crowds

  • More expensive than expected: A $12 service fee for housekeeping, twice per day, that we didn’t really know about before we started this trip. Don’t get us wrong, it’s great to tip the housekeeping staff, we just wish we knew ahead of time that a $24/day mandatory tip was enforced.
  • Time in port is too short: You only get about 7 hours to explore. That might be okay in some instances, but we quickly found out that the cruise docks aren’t often close to the city centers. And it takes a long time to get anywhere on mountainous Caribbean islands.
  • No internet: Unless you want to pay some very hefty fees to browse, it’s $0.65/minute to work Google like you own it, and a lot of time will be spent waiting as it’s satellite based, and most satellites aren’t aimed at the middle of the ocean.
  • No phone: Again, unless you want to pay even higher fees than the internet, it’s $7.95/minute to call a landline from the boat. It’s possible to get your cell phone setup to work on the boat, though we didn’t look into that too much, and you know that’ll of course cost a pretty penny as well.
  • Huge fee for laundry: If you want to have your clothes done with their laundry service, it’s $25. We just did ours in the sink and hung it on the bathroom clothesline to dry. Not great since there’s not sun or wind to dry them, but it worked for the necessities (and prepared us for the rest of our trip).
  • Pricey drinks: In all fairness, the drinks are no more pricey than at your average western bar. However, that means every drink you have is at bar prices. There is an all-inclusive drink option, but at $770/person, it seemed a little pricey for us. With an average drink price of $7.50, you’d have to get 102 drinks (which is 7 per day over 14 days) just to break even.

If you’re detecting a pattern here, it’s because cruise liners know they can basically charge whatever they want.

In The End…

Pool Bar

Is taking a cruise ship across the ocean a viable option for budget travelers? It ended up costing us about $2,100 for two people to go one-way across the Atlantic. Depending on where you’re coming from in the US, you can most likely make the same trip for less money if you fly.

However, is it a good value for the money?

We got two weeks of travel in very luxurious accommodations, had all of our food taken care of for those two weeks (including drinks, though we didn’t party like crazy), went to five countries not including our start or ending ports, and got across the ocean. All of that for $2100, or $150/day.

If you want to break it down even further, that’s $75/day per person, comparable to how many people would define “budget travel” for first world accommodations – not too shabby.

In the end, we certainly don’t regret taking the cruise. It was a unique experience and will demonstrate to you the sheer magnitude of our planet in a way nothing else can. You even get a certificate at the end proving that you traveled over 5,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic on a boat – truly a unique keepsake!

And if you’re doing a trans-Atlantic cruise for the cruise instead of as a means of transportation, it would be even better. Splurge a little more on the drinks, have a good time, the lack of internet and phone for two weeks will turn from a con into a pro, and you’ll have a great time.

Andy and Becki Kremer are currently living in Madison, Wisconsin. They started DiscoverwithAndy three years ago to tell about our experiences with travel and giving our readers helpful tips and information about where we have been. We took time last year to put our everyday life on hold to travel for a couple of months. After returning, we are now focusing on traveling our home state.

Read more about methods of travel you may not think of as “indie:”

Photo credits: Brian &Jaclyn Drum, Brooke Novak, Brian & Jaclyn Drum, Brian & Jaclyn Drum

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