Thursday 21 October 2010

The cost of cruising as a means of transport

Some people are curious about the cost of the apparently outrageous luxury of crossing the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2.  I think if we were going around on freighter ships, people would just assume it was affordable, because it's less fancy.  I'm pretty sure they would be mistaken, and that it actually costs more for a family of three.  Maybe we'll find out eventually.

Here, I'm going to compare cruises to flights and see whether they work out very expensive or ... not so much.  For a start, we got the cheapest cabin we could lay our hands on, from the least expensive travel agent we could find.  That means all three of us in an inside cabin for seven nights.  For our Pacific crossing, which lasts 25 days, we've splashed out on a porthole!  So, the cheapest QM2 crossing we could find for our dates was priced at 3270 US dollars for the three of us.

How does that compares to a plane flight?  On Travelocity, I found a flight leaving on our embarkation date, on low-cost airline Air Lingus.  It would get us all from London Heathrow, to JFK in New York for 1752 USD.  We don't normally get such a good price when we fly to the US, because we don't usually leave from London.  But since the QM2 is sailing from Southampton, I was trying to get something as comparable as possible.

So, no surprises, getting to the US by plane is cheaper than going by boat, but is that all we have to take into consideration?  We're also getting 7 nights full board in a floating hotel, with miscellaneous entertainments included.  I'm sure they'll want to get extra money out of us for various things, starting with alcohol and tips, so it's hard to estimate the real cost of the stay at this stage.  But the starting cost of our hotel room, restaurant meals and entertainment for those 7 days is 217 USD per day for three people.  Not exactly dirt cheap, but not outrageous either.  Bed and breakfast followed by two restaurant meals can easily set the three of us back that much anywhere in Europe.

On our Pacific cruise, we do even better, though I suspect conditions may be less luxurious and the pressure to spend may be higher.  You can't buy a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney for the 30th October 2011 yet, but on 15 September, we could pay 2237 USD.  Our cruise costs 6736 USD, which means our board and lodging clocks in at 180 USD a day, for a slightly nicer room than on the QM2.  And we get taken to see a bunch of places on the way.

If you factor in transport, accommodation and entertainment, cruising seems reasonably priced.  It's still an extravagance for us, in that our budget for most of the trip doesn't run to hotel accommodation and restaurant meals.  But I think it's going to average out OK. 

NB: cruise prices seem to be like flight prices, they're variable according to date, demand and supplier.  So all the figures given above are really just an indication of the price differences other people might find at any given time.

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