The 7 Cheapest Cruise Lines (In Order)

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When booking a cruise, most of us have to consider the budget at some point. It’s rare to be able to book any cruise you want without having to check what’s a reasonable amount to spend.

MSC Fantasia and Poesia

And sometimes, you may just be looking for the cheapest option.

I regularly take cruises that cost around $50 or £40 per night, and I love nothing more than to find cheap deals and share them with the people on my email list.

I’ve looked at some of the cheapest cruise lines in the world, checked their cheapest cruises, and worked out which is the lowest-priced – and some other interesting stats too.

The cheapest cruise line is MSC Cruises!

The cheapest cruise line is MSC Cruises. On average, their cheapest cruises can be as much as 30% less than other similar cruise lines. Generally, the cruises are not as well-reviewed as those from other cruise lines, but most people still have a very enjoyable experience.

MSC cruise ship in Santorini

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every MSC cruise is going to be cheaper than cruises from other cruise lines. There are a huge host of factors that go into deciding the price of a cruise, including the month that you cruise, the duration, location and more.

But on average, MSC cruises tend to be a lower price than other, similar cruise lines.

Other low-cost cruise lines, provided you book at the right time of the year and for the right duration, include P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean. These offer the best value cruises even if some of them are hardly considered budget cruise lines!

Read more: Why Are MSC Cruises So Cheap?

The 7 cheapest cruise lines

Deciding the cheapest cruise line isn’t an easy task, because there’s so much you need to consider.

It’s not just about the advertised price, but also any other fees you have to pay – port taxes, gratuities, and so on.

Plus, different cruise lines offer different cruise lengths. Some cruise lines may offer cheap 7-night cruises but they’ll never beat the price of a 2-night cruise with another, ‘more expensive’ cruise line.

So to work it out, I’ve taken a look at the cheapest cruise option for several of the biggest cruise lines in the world, but not just their single cheapest cruise – I’ve looked at their cheapest 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-night cruises and then taken an average of their cost per day to cruise.

Cruise LineCheapest 2-night cruiseCheapest 3-night cruiseCheapest 4-night cruiseCheapest 5-night cruiseCheapest 6-night cruiseCheapest 7-night cruiseAverage cost per person, per night
Carnival $265pp$310pp$399pp$472pp$624pp$556pp$102
Costa CruisesN/A$246pp$219pp$382pp$481pp$567pp$75
MSC Cruises$112pp$201pp$276pp$428pp$352pp$466pp$67
NCL$464pp$334pp$387pp$766pp$811pp$652pp$137
Princess Cruises$233pp$387pp$479pp$583pp$599pp$615pp$112
P&O CruisesN/A$352pp$402pp$503ppN/A$566pp$100
Royal Caribbean$325pp$446pp$429pp$503pp$651pp$628pp$120

These prices include all port fees and taxes, and the gratuities that you’d be expected to pay.

But what’s really important to remember is that this is just the cost of the cruise. And so it doesn’t mean this is the average price you would pay when you booked, because it depends on the location.

If you live in the UK, you’re hardly going to get a cheap deal booking a 4-night cruise to the Caribbean from Florida! And if you’re in the US, you can’t really take advantage of the lower port fees for cruises from Australia, without paying a huge amount on flights.

couple enjoying Mediterranean shore

1. MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises are often some of the cheapest you can book. They’re a fun, family-friendly line that primarily sails around the Mediterranean, although they do have sailings in the Caribbean, Middle East and other destinations.

Cruise Mummy with MSC cruise ship

The cheapest cruises will be on older ships in the fleet, rather than the epic World Europa or upcoming World America. And they usually won’t be round-trip sailings either, so you’ll always need to arrange flights. Depending on where you’re based, that can push the prices up.

2. Costa Cruises

Costa is an Italian cruise line that offers most of its cruises around Europe. Fares are typically low and there’s not much variation between the cheapest itineraries and those in peak seasons, so even during the most popular months, you’ll get a good price.

Costa Cruise ship

The quality of a Costa cruise depends on your tastes and what you want from your cruise but reviews are typically good, even if there’s not as much to enjoy onboard as on say a Carnival or Royal Caribbean ship.

3. P&O Cruises

P&O Cruises is a popular choice for British travellers. While the cheapest prices are unlikely to be found on the newest ships in the fleet like Arvia and Iona, the older ships are still well-maintained and offer a great experience.

Iona

Prices vary a lot with P&O, so depending on the destination and the month, fares can be a lot higher. But there are some excellent deals to be had if you’re more flexible.

If you’re a family or are cruising with friends and don’t mind having more than two to a cabin, look out for special offers where the third and fourth guest sail for free. This can half the price of your cruise.

Pullman bed on Iona

4. Carnival

Carnival has a reputation as one of the cheapest cruise lines, but when you factor in the costs of port fees and taxes, it’s not quite as low-priced as the line’s website makes out at first glance. But the older and smaller ships in the fleet do still have some excellent prices available.

Carnival ships

The only problem is that most of them are from US ports, so if you don’t live within easy reach of Florida or Texas, you might not be able to enjoy the best fares that this cruise line has to offer.

Port Canaveral Cruise Port in Florida

5. Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises is considered a slightly more premium cruise line by some, though it is still cheaper than many other cruise lines targeted at a mainstream audience.

Cruise mummy with Princess cruise ship.

With Princess, the lowest prices are split between cruises all around the world, so no matter where you live, you may not get a price as cheap as another cruise line but you won’t be paying huge sums more than the typical best Princess fares.

Just be careful though, because Princess also offers the upgraded Princess Plus and Princess Premier fares, which can add a lot onto your cruise price.

6. Royal Caribbean

You might be surprised to see Royal Caribbean on a list of cheap cruises, especially with the sky-high costs of newest ship Icon of the Seas, but remember this is based on the cheapest available cruises.

Royal Caribbean has a lot of older and smaller ships in the fleet like Vision of the Seas and Rhapsody of the Seas. You won’t get the same low prices on the Oasis-class ships, never mind Icon of the Seas, that’s for sure!

Mariner of the Seas

But if you want a fun-packed cruise then it’s worth checking the cheapest Royal Caribbean prices as you will often find some fantastic fares, though again your flights can push the price up a lot.

7. Norwegian Cruise Line

NCL cruises aren’t the cheapest, but they’re far from the most expensive when compared to luxury cruise lines too. It’s the short breaks that tend to drive the average prices up, although once you look beyond the cheapest fares you’ll see that the newest ships are also a bit more costly.

However, an important caveat is that NCL will almost always have an offer where your fare includes something extra – maybe free drinks, free WiFi or some free excursions. This is also important to bear in mind when comparing prices.

Cruise drinks package

Older, smaller ships tend to be cheaper than big new ones

There is no single answer for the cheapest cruise ship in the world, but look for older cruise ships sailing for the cheaper cruise lines. MSC Orchestra and MSC Opera are two of the cheapest cruise ships sailing in the world.

The ship does play a part in the cost of your cruise. Older ships tend to – but only tend to – cost less to cruise on than newer ships.

And the reason for that is down to the quality of the ship. The newest ships are nicer, they’re better maintained, and because they are often bigger, they have more exciting things to see and do onboard.

MSC - Seashore

Whereas older ships, even if they’ve been renovated, can sometimes feel a little tired. They might not have the fancy go-kart tracks or virtual reality or robotic bartenders. And so cruise lines charge less because the experience isn’t worth the same.

MSC - robotic bartender

But again, the ship is just one factor when it comes to pricing a cruise. An inside cabin on a brand-new megaship will likely be cheaper than a suite on an older, smaller ship for example.

It’s possible to cruise for $25 per night!

The cheapest cruises you can book are often $100 per person for 2-3 nights, though these may not include tips and port fees. It is possible to cruise for $25 to $30 per night, but you’ll need to factor in other costs like flights too.

MSC - Splendida

Obviously, the cheapest cruise available to book at any one time will constantly change. Prices aren’t static, new itineraries and dates are released on a regular basis, and sometimes the cheapest cruises sell out, leaving another cruise to become the cheapest one available.

There are some cruises that are shorter than 3 nights but they are rarely any cheaper than around $80 total, so getting a 3-night cruise for around that price (with taxes and tips on top) should be seen as excellent value.

Advertised prices vs. the price you actually pay

When you’re booking a cruise, you should always check what’s included and what other fees you might still need to pay.

I’ve already mentioned these briefly, but the two most common additions are for port fees and taxes, and for gratuities.

Port fees and taxes are completely mandatory. Some cruise lines will include them in the advertised price, while others will mention them underneath the price, often in small print, so you may only see them when you get to the final booking stage.

Read more: What Are Port Fees And How Much Are They?

Tips aren’t completely mandatory but you really should pay them. Cruise lines will add them to your account automatically, and if you don’t want to pay them then you need to speak to Guest Services to have them removed. They make up a large part of the crew’s salary though, so removing them has a significant impact.

Read more: Can You Refuse To Pay Gratuities On A Cruise?

While researching the cheapest cruise line, I thought it was interesting to compare the advertised price – the one you see in big, bold numbers when you search on a cruise line’s website – and the actual price you pay with fees and gratuities included.

Because I’ve included fees and taxes in my stats above, this doesn’t impact which cruise line is cheapest, but it’s good to know so that you’re always careful when booking your own cruise, and you aren’t duped by a false low price.

Cruise lineCheapest 7-nt cruise (advertised price)What’s included?Actual cost of cheapest 7-nt cruisePrice difference% extra
Carnival$332ppFare only$556pp$22467%
Costa Cruises$490ppFare & taxes$567pp$7716%
MSC Cruises$466ppFare, taxes & tips$466pp$00%
NCL$512ppFare & taxes$652pp$14027%
Princess Cruises$503ppFare & taxes$615pp$11222%
P&O Cruises$566ppFare, taxes & tips$566pp$00%
Royal Caribbean$367ppFare only$628pp$26171%

The difference is often huge – indeed with Carnival and Royal Caribbean, you’ll pay over two-thirds more than the price that they advertise as being the cost of the cruise!

The bottom line

If you want a cheap cruise, you’re best checking the cruise lines like MSC, Costa and P&O Cruises if they sail near you, to see what their best prices are. Carnival and Princess also have some lower-priced sailings too, if you’re happy on older ships.

But if you want the best experience, then a newer ship, or a better cabin category, might be preferable. Don’t skimp too much – you still want to enjoy your cruise.

And there are always ways you can get a good price, even on ‘more expensive’ cruise sailings.

Read more: How to Get Cheap Cruises: An Insider Guide

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Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

Read more about me



3 thoughts on “The 7 Cheapest Cruise Lines (In Order)”

  1. Not everybody wants a new Mega Ship with slides and climbing walls, because that is not cruising it’s a holiday camp on water, older ships still have their place for many long-time traditional cruisers, unfortunately even those are not what they once were and if you find a ship where you can lay in the sun without noise and watch the water go past you will pay a premium for it.

  2. Why do you not include companies like TUI in the price comparison articles, is it because they are all inclusive, along with all tips included. So harder to compare,Or is it they are they just middle of the road, neither good nor bad ?

    Just wondering really
    Regards Mike

    • Hi Mike. That’s a great question. Because Marella (TUI) is all inclusive with flights and drinks it will never be the cheapest but could well be the best value! Its hard to compare, but I agree, Marella is well worth a mention here. Jenni

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