I recently took my family on a cruise, the Carnival Fantasy. We went as a group with my wife’s family, so I don’t know if these prices are typical or if the group rate is a lot cheaper than retail.
The Carnival Fantasy 5-day cruise leaves from New Orleans, and goes to Progresso and Cozumel Mexico.
What did it cost?
The total spent for 5 people was $2620.11 or $524.02/person. That breaks down like this:
|Food & Lodging – New Orleans||$219.70|
And the travel agent, Cruises Only, put in a $100 on-board non-refundable credit.
Drive or fly?
We drove from Omaha to New Orleans, which took 2 days each way. That meant 2 extra nights in a hotel, and lots of food and gas that we would not have had to purchase if we had flown. Also, parking the car in New Orleans. Still I could not find plane tickets for a good price, so we drove. The total was $616.77 and flying would have been $1250 at least.
If you do drive, don’t make the mistakes I made. It might seem like a good idea to park at a hotel, many offer free or reduced parking if you stay over one night. It’s not a good idea, because you’ll have to take a taxi or something to get back to your car after the cruise. Many hotels offer a shuttle to the French Quarter, but none will bring you back.
The best parking deal is: Fulton Place Parking, $10/day with a shuttle that takes you right to the boat, and picks you up afterwards. And they are just a few blocks from the terminal.
How was the cruise?
Even though a cruise is promoted as a all inclusive vacation, the whole ship seems to be set up to separate you from your money. First of all, none of the shops or bars take money. Instead you use your cabin key card to pay for things on your account. This takes away all the pain of spending, and leaves you wondering how much you spent. And then there were constant announcements over the intercom, mostly to tell you about how you could spend more money.
One evil note: The cruise company charges $10 per day per person in automatic gratuity to your cabin account. I have come to an uneasy truce in my hatred for tips, since I read an article about how tipping is a form of price discrimination, allowing the cheap and stingy to pay less, instead of simply raising prices and having those people shop elsewhere. But, automatic gratuity is evil. That is just a way to lie about your prices, and then surprise your customer when it is too late to back out. I asked them to remove the auto-tip at the customer service desk, and they did, without any questions. That was good at least.
The ship wasn’t very kid friendly. There were water slides, which were very nice. And free food (not free I suppose, pre-paid might be a better word), which is good for picky eaters. It was basically a casino on the water. There was a show every night, and I was uncomfortable bringing the kids to all of them. We attended 3. A revue show, in which the dancers wore thongs. Then there was a singer and a comedian. They were dressed appropriately, but the comedian was making jokes about sex. Then we saw a Beatles tribute show, again with thongs.
The food was good. Our waiters at the dining room were very friendly, and the kids loved Gilbert (our head waiter). The buffet was good also, and there was a Mongolian grill next to the pool.
In Progresso we went to see the Dzibilchaltún ruins. Instead of paying $54/person through Carnival, instead I used the company Autoprogreso. The ruins were absolutly worth the time and money to see. Not only is there a ruined village there, but a museum also. There is a cenote where swimming is allowed, but it looked too scummy for my taste.
The guide from Autoprogreso was very knowlegable. We loved this part of the trip.
The shore excursions are very expensive from Carnival. Despite the scary messages from the cruise line, there is nothing wrong with the vendors in Mexico that are offering excursions for half what the cruise charges.
The beach is really far from ship terminal in Cozumel. Expect to take a taxi to one of the privately owned beaches. Each beach has it’s own policies. For example, we went to Paradise Beach, which expects you to spend $10/person at their restaurant. But right next door at San Francisco beach, they encourage you to spend money at the restaurant without specifying a minimum amount.
Would I cruise again? Yes, I think I would. But if I go on another cruise while my children are still young, I think I’ll try to avoid Carnival.