Cheap family holidays: Why a cruise could be the way to go

Self-catering holidays such as caravan parks, holiday chalets and camping are often assumed to be the cheapest holiday options for families on a budget. Whilst it’s true that they appear to have the lowest price on the face of it, the cost of food, entertainment, petrol and camping equipment can be many times greater, making self-catering holidays a surprisingly expensive option.

Cruise holidays, on the other hand, can appear to be expensive, and the prices advertised can make many families think that they are out of reach. However, what if someone told you that a cruise holiday can actually work out cheaper than a week on a holiday park? Would you believe them?

Work out the total price

Whilst the price of a self-catering holiday often includes only your accommodation, a cruise holiday includes so much more. As well as accommodation on-board your cruise ship, the price you pay upfront includes three-course meals in a choice of restaurants or the buffet, snacks such as pizza slices, chips, fruit salads and ice creams, as well as certain drinks like tea, coffee, water and squash.

Every day and evening children can be entertained in the kids’ clubs, which provide some of the best childcare in the world, for no extra charge. Each evening you can enjoy West End-quality theatre performances, as well as things like magicians, acrobats and live music, all included in the price of your cruise.

With so many free activities on-board your ships such as mini-golf, water slides, pools and hot tubs, rock climbing walls, bumper cars, virtual reality trampolines, surfing and skydiving simulators and more, there’s no need to pay for anything extra. This style of holiday much beats paying £2 per child every five minutes for fairground rides and ice creams as you might do on land.

Where to cruise from

Cruise ships depart from ports all over the world. Whilst fly cruise deals are available, which may also include hotel stays and airport transfers, the cheapest way for British families to cruise can often be to choose a cruise which sails from Southampton.

Sailing from the UK is really convenient, as you can avoid all the hassle of the airport, quickly checking in your bags at the cruise port and walking straight on to the ship to start your holiday immediately.

Mini cruises

If you’re on a tight budget, mini cruises which last three to five nights are a great option. Sailing from Southampton, you can visit family-friendly destinations such as Bruges, Amsterdam, or the Channel Islands. A mini cruise is a great introduction to cruising, and most people who try a mini cruise then go on to book longer cruises in the coming years.

When to book for the best deals

Those looking for cruises at the last minute are often disappointed. Even those looking to book several months ahead of travel are often shocked to learn that everything is sold out. You see, the family cruise industry is growing so quickly at the moment, that cruise lines simply cannot build ships fast enough to cope with the growing demand. The shipyards that build ships are booked up six years in advance.

As cruising used to be more popular with couples than families, the older cruise ships have a limited number of cabins that sleep three or four, with most cabins only having two beds. This means that whilst couples may be able to get great deals by booking late, families need to book way in advance.

Booking your cruise as soon as it goes on sale, one to two years before departure, not only gives you the widest choice of ships, cabins and destinations, it’s also when the best prices are available, as they tend to rise the closer you get to departure.

Booking your cruise early also gives you plenty of time to save up for it. If you choose to pay for your cruise monthly with an interest-free direct debit scheme, it also means that your monthly payments will be more manageable as you can spread the cost over a longer time period.

This article was provided by Jenni Fielding who writes for