Families can benefit in many ways by cruise travel. Aside from the bundled cost, the ease and convenience of cruise ship travel is a huge draw to many traveling families. In my mind, the actual cruise is not what draws people away from a cruise: It is the cost of each port day. During my recent Carnival Cruise Lines – Carnival Dream experience, I was determined to maximize my cruising dollar at every port.
As I share my experience below I will be highlighting the overall cost at each port which included food, souvenirs and activities. While a family of four can certainly pay less, our cost is typically less than the average family. If you are planning a cruise soon, please keep in mind that cruise lines, like Carnival Cruise Lines, offers excellent cruise ship excursions which can be booked prior to or during your actual family cruise. This option is ideal for various reason but my goal is to share how families can be economical and have an memorable experience at each port without breaking the bank.
Tip: If your family is on a budget, perhaps book an excursion through your cruise line like Carnival at one port and budget during your other port visits.
Port 1: Cozumel, Mexico
Our first Carnival Dream port visit was Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel is a very popular port destination for many reasons. Having visited Cozumel in the past I noticed it is economical and very family friendly. When you visit Cozumel, there are numerous port retailers waiting for you to spend your travel dollar. For my family, we browsed through a few stores before locating the taxi line.
Keep in mind I have been to Cozumel and other parts of Mexico in the past. Traveling to a forgein country can be very dangerous. I have always found Cozumel to be very accommodating and friendly. My family of four easily hopped in a cab ($20 total) and made our way to Paradise Beach. If you are looking for the beach, simply mention Playa (beach in Spanish) and you will find an assortment of public and private beaches.
Paradise Beach is located in Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico which is about a 5 minute drive by cab from our port. There you can find clear water, white sandy beaches and clean facilities to make your stay more enjoyable with your family. Facilities, changing areas, bar and one of the biggest pools in Cozumel is available for only $3 per person!
In addition to facilities available at Paradise Beach you can also purchase a Fun Pass for $15.00 usd per person. The pass includes water sports like water trampolines,water slides, water mats, kayaks, bungee trampolines, snorkel gear, stand up paddle boards and much more. Since I have older school-aged children this was a perfect choice for my family.
Activities and entrance fees at Paradise Beach total: $42
Lunch and beverages (a bucket of beers) plus gratuities: $75
Taxi to and from port: $40
Total Spent for a Family of 4: $230
Tip: You can minimize your total by reducing your souvenirs. We bought 2 sombreros, 3 maracas, dulces for the kids, paletas, a pair of sunglasses for me and a few magnets and post cards.
Port #2: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
My husband wanted to shop and walk through town during our visit to Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Although there were many port retailers we opted to bypass those locations and make our way to Margaritaville and window shop. I did purchase a post card to mail back to my workplace. As we walked through town we found several museums and National Landmarks where we learned more about Grand Cayman & the Cayman Islands. The monuments are a great way to implement educational travel into your itinerary and free of charge.
Grand Cayman is breathtaking. The waters are pristine and like nothing we have ever experienced. After we shopped and toured the area, we spotted a Marine Park overlooking our Carnival Cruise ship, Carnival Dream and another Carnival cruise ship.
The Marine Park is near port and free of charge. If you purchased your own snorkel gear for your upcoming family cruise, this is a great location to utilize the equipment. We couldn’t help but join the other families snorkeling in the area and jumped in as well. The water can get deep quick and there is no lifeguard present so be cautious of your limits. In addition to free access, the area also includes several rows of lounge chairs that you can rest and sunbathe at your leisure.
Since we were next door to a local restaurant we decided to venture in for a quick bite to eat. Keep in mind that today the Cayman Dollar has more value than the American dollar. Our lunch was almost $80 usd with no alcoholic beverages. I thought that was pricey!
We left Grand Cayman and felt we could have reduced our lunch by sharing an entree. Also, the restaurant we visited offered no kid’s meal for my son. Our lunch was fair but not worth the $80 we spent. Lesson learned, YOLO!
Soft Drinks & a Snack $11
Total Cost for a Family of 4: $130
Port #3: Montego Bay, Jamaica
Although we had a pleasant visit to Grand Cayman my husband and I were determine to stretch our travel dollar even further. Unlike Cozumel and Grand Cayman, Montego Bay is not a place you can walk around freely through town. I’m not saying that it is not a friendly city, merely that the roads are extremely busy and walking through town can be cumbersome with a family in tow.
We took a cab (city tour vehicle to Aqua Sol Beach. Montego Bay has several beaches but Aqua Sol was nearby and less expensive than Doctor’s Cave Beach. Our cab was $5 per person to the beach and another $5 per person to port. Admission to Aqua Sol Beach is also $5 per person which offers clean facilities and lifeguard on duty similar to Cozumel. Aqua Sol Beach was breathtaking; Clear waters and not overcrowded as some might expect.
While in Jamaica, a local hair artist asked about braiding my daughter’s hair. She was excited about this so we took her up on her offer. The cost was $2 usd per braid. We thought it was a hair price and naturally the local hair artist at Aqua Sol Beach was very friendly, kind and also gave my daughter a few extra braids at no additional charge. We also utilized our snorkel gear and enjoyed our leisure day at Aqua Sol Beach enjoying the Jamaican sun. We enjoyed a light lunch then took the same cab back to Montego Bay Cruise Terminal.
Admission to Aqua Sol Beach: $20
Lunch and Braids: $38
Taxi to and from port: $40
Souvenirs: $34 Jamaican Blue Coffee & a liter of Jamaican Rum since the area is well known for the two items.
Total cost for a family of 4: $132
In total we spent less than $500 for a family of four which included food, beverages, plenty of souvenirs and a lifetime of memories made.
Have you visited the Caribbean? How did you maximize your travel dollar?