A cruise is not only a wonderful experience, it can also save you money, especially in the world’s most expensive countries. With sterling buying less abroad, you may think twice before holidaying in destinations such as Norway and Iceland, but when compared with the costs of independent travel, a cruise, which with one or two exceptions includes all meals, and maybe drinks and excursions too, can seem very good value.
The potential savings on accommodation and flights (on cruises from the UK) are obvious, but when a panino for lunch in Stockholm can cost £10, even a roll and banana snaffled from the ship’s breakfast buffet – we’ve all done it – may save two of you £200 on a 10-day holiday. If travelling with family you can expect huge savings.
A recent cost of living survey from Numbeo, which monitors the prices of around 50 items in 121 countries, from food and accommodation to taxi fares and leisure activities, found that Bermuda has the steepest costs, followed by Switzerland and Iceland. Below are some examples of how cruising can make visiting these countries more affordable.
Iceland is not only expensive, but about to become more so as the krona soars and the nation looks to limit what it sees as an unsustainable rise in visitor numbers (up from 490,000 in 2010 to an estimated 2.3 million this year) with an increase in hotel taxes and other costs.
The cheapest, non-hostel accommodation I could find in Iceland in September costs £59, and a return flight with Wow ( wowair.co.uk ) around £110. A main course in a restaurant will set you back £35, a beer £10.
A cruise works out cheaper across the board. Cruise & Maritime Voyages (0844 998 3806; cruiseandmaritime.com ) offers an 11-night Land of Ice and Fire voyage (also visiting Ireland and the Faroe Islands), a round trip from Cardiff departing May 16, 2018, from £1,069pp. That’s £97.18 per night – or what you may spend on less than three meals ashore.
A 14-night voyage with P&O Cruises (0843 373 0052; pocruises.com ), departing Southampton on June 16, 2018, also visiting Norway and Dublin, costs from £1,549pp (£110.64 per day). Fred Olsen (0845 314 2723, fredolsencrises.com ) offers an 11-night cruise with a full circumnavigation of Iceland, from £1,499pp (£136.27 daily), departing Newcastle on August 28, 2018.
The Norwegians were voted the world’s happiest people in a poll earlier this year, so are obviously not fazed by the high prices they have to pay; the country came fourth in Numbeo’s survey. A dorm bed in a hostel can cost £45 a night, and reckon on £9.30 for a McDonald’s Combo Meal or £25 for a main course elsewhere.
Whether you cruise from the UK or fly (typically to Bergen) to join your ship, a cruise will save you money compared with land-based travel. One of the main Norwegian operators, Hurtigruten (020 3811 4693; hurtigruten.co.uk ), offers its classic 12-day Round Voyage cruise (departures year-round) from Bergen to Kirkenes and back – 2,875 miles of peerless coastal scenery – at prices from £947pp (£78.90 a day), excluding flights. Travel independently and it will cost around £51 (550NOK) for just a three-hour fjord cruise out of Bergen ( rodne.com ).
Denmark, Finland, Estonia and Russia
Construct a city-based itinerary to the Baltic countries, visiting, say, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Tallinn and St Petersburg, and you’re looking at a large bill. A return flight alone to St Petersburg in September currently costs from around £453 on average ( ba.com ).
Yet sign up for the 12-night Northern Delight cruise, a round trip from Southampton with Royal Caribbean International (0844 417 0290; royalcaribbean.co.uk ), and you can visit these cities and more for as little as £999pp, departing June 15, 2018. That’s £91 per night – little more than double your potential airfare to one city –and when you consider the £92 (800 krone) quoted by Numbeo as the price of a meal for two in a mid-range Copenhagen restaurant, a Baltic cruise begins to look very good value indeed.
At first glance, Austria’s prices don’t look too bad – it’s the 24th priciest nation. But that ranking is based on averages countrywide: in Vienna, for example, costs will be higher.
A river cruise that includes several excursions will show you the sights for less: Avalon Waterways (0800 668 1843; avaloncruises.co.uk ) has a nine-day Austrian Highlights and Bavaria cruise that focuses on Austria (visiting Vienna, Dürnstein in the Wachau Valley, Passau and Melk Abbey) and also visits Germany, Prague and Bratislava.
Prices start from £1,497pp (£166 daily), including flights and transfers to and from your home airport (up to 100 miles). Also included are seven guided excursions: when a basic three-hour walking tour of Vienna costs €24/£20 ( viennacitytours.com ), you could save around £150 on sightseeing alone.
Stockholm is high on most travel wish lists, with its archipelago considered one of Europe’s most beautiful bodies of water. But with a night in the mid-range Rival, one of Telegraph Travel’s recommended Stockholm hotels, costing from £138, and a meal in a mid-range restaurant from £35-£50 per head, it is not a cheap city-break option.
Cruising affords the best of both worlds – a view of the archipelago from the ideal vantage point (the sea) and the city within easy reach. Better still, there are additional scenic diversions, such as the Swedish fjords, and other ports of call en route. Fred Olsen (0845 314 3938; fredolsencruises.com ) offers an 11-night round trip from Newcastle on September 25, 2018, from £1,399pp. This includes more than two full days in Stockholm, scenic cruising in the archipelago and fjords, and stops in Gothenburg, Malmö and Visby. A departure from Edinburgh on May 16, 2018, costs from £1,199pp (or £109 nightly).
The US (Florida) and Bermuda
The cheapest return flight in October to Orlando is around £530 with Condor-Thomas Cook. Yet a package with Iglu (020 3131 3231; iglucruise.com ), from £929pp, includes flights, car hire and three nights’ accommodation in Orlando for Disneyland, as well as a four-day cruise with Carnival (0843 374 2272; carnival.com) to Bermuda, the world’s most expensive country. Departing October 29, 2017, the cruise calls at Freeport and Nassau.
If you prefer to concentrate on Disney’s attractions, an 11-night fly-cruise-stay package with Virgin (0344 739 0633; virginholidayscruises.co.uk ) costs from £1,506pp for a November 2017 departure. This includes a three-night Bahamas cruise on Disney Dream, car hire and seven nights’ room-only accommodation at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Booked direct, the 10-day return Virgin flight in November costs £523 and seven nights at the Pop Century Resort from £735 – making your Bahamas cruise effectively free.
It costs a lot to fly to Australia – the world’s 12th most expensive country – so why not save once you’re there? Cruises that visit three or more ports offer big savings on internal travel, as do sailings that include excursions. On its 18-night Australia to Asia voyage departing Sydney on March 7, 2018, Azamara Club Cruises (0844 493 4016; azamaraclubcruises.co.uk ) sails to Hardy Reef on the Great Barrier Reef, a visit that would cost £88/$245 with a shore-based company ( reeffree.com.au ). Greater savings accrue from tendered visits to Hamilton and Thursday islands, and a cruise of the Whitsunday Islands, experiences that would otherwise require paid-for excursions.
Ports of call after Sydney include Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Darwin. Costs for the cheapest internal flights in March 2018 are as follows: Sydney to Cairns, £88; Cairns to Brisbane, £192, and Brisbane to Darwin, £160. Currently the cheapest 13-day car-hire deal (Sydney to Darwin) for March is £435, or £34 daily ( rentalcars.com ), plus petrol, for a trip of more than 3,100 miles. Factor in costs such as these, plus the fact that Azamara also takes you to Bali and Singapore, and the cruise fare starting from £4,270pp, or £237 daily, including meals, drinks and more, seems a good deal.