How much does it cost to go on a cruise? When deciding which particular itinerary to take, the question you should really be asking is: how much will it cost us to get off?
Prices for similar-looking cruises vary from line to line. Some seem great value for money, but it is what's included, or more to the point, what isn't included, that counts. While every cruise fare includes unlimited meals and various entertainments, many stop there, meaning you could find a hefty bill for extras waiting for you when you return to your cabin on your last night.
Increasingly though, lines are including more in the fare. Take two Alaska cruises on the same, one-week itinerary that sailed last month. To book in February, the Regent Seven Seas (rssc.com) website price for an all-inclusive cruise was £4,021 per person. On the same day, for a similar-sized balcony cabin, on a Celebrity ship (celebritycruises.co.uk) it was £2,558 per person. But by the time the costs of flights, pre-cruise night in a hotel, four excursions, dinners in speciality restaurants, alcohol and soft drinks plus service charges and gratuities had all been factored in, that Celebrity cruise came out at £4,862 per person: £841 more than the Regent cruise which included all those things in the up-front fare.
Some lines offer savings in the form of an "onboard spend" on certain departures, letting you choose your own extras. For example, Silversea (0844 251 0837; silversea.com) has a cruise sailing for nine nights from Athens on 29 July aboard the Silver Wind. The cost, from £2,899 per person, includes flights, transfers, all drinks, gratuities, shuttle service into town from ports and $1,000 (£667) per cabin onboard credit.
Crystal Cruises (020-7287 9040; crystalcruises.co.uk) is another line that is now almost all-inclusive. The "Journey to Crimea" itinerary, departing Athens on 6 September for 12 nights, is from £3,109 per person. The cost includes flights, transfers, open bar, speciality dining, gratuities and port shuttles, but not excursions. Regent Seven Seas (023-8068 2280; rssc.com) offers a seven-night round trip from Miami aboard Seven Seas Navigator to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize on 8 November, from £2,369 per person. This is the all-inclusive price, with up to 41 shore excursions on offer.
A week's cruise on the Adriatic aboard Azamara Quest (0844 493 4016; azamaraclubcruises.co.uk) departs on 12 August. The cost, from £2,382 per person in a balcony cabin includes flights to Venice, transfers, wine with meals, all non-alcoholic drinks and gratuities, but not excursions.