There's no disputing the fact that short cruises are great value for money. Credit: Shutterstock

Why it pays to cruise

Author: Nicole Carmichael

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What’s cheaper – an all-inclusive cruise or a land holiday? Nicole Carmichael takes a look at the best value holiday options

Talk to anyone who has never been on a cruise, and the chances are one of their reasons for not getting onboard is the price.

A couple may see a per person price and balk at the mere idea that they need to double the figure before they even think about splashing out on their holiday wardrobe.

But when you weigh up the costs of a land-based holiday versus a similar standard (or generally better) cruise option, penny for penny, the cruise will always win.

"Cruising presents a panorama of unbeatable value that’s hard for traditional land-based holidays to rival," says Sarah Wikevand, managing director of ROL Cruise. "A cruise effortlessly takes you from one enchanting destination to another, while your fare often includes gourmet meals, ensuring you indulge without the shock.

Evening entertainment? It’s on the house, from live shows to disco nights. Car rentals become obsolete, as ports open directly to exploration points. When you add it all up, cruises fuse transport, accommodation, gastronomy and fun, giving travellers unparalleled value and an ease that land-based holidays can’t match."

For starters, a land-based holiday generally means that you will stay in one place for at least a few days at a time. After all, who wants to be packing and unpacking every day? With a cruise, you only have to unpack all your clothes once, plus all your other packing paraphernalia and your floating hotel will transport you to your next destination while you sleep.

True, you might love the routine of being in one place for seven days, but if that’s the case, find your favourite spot onboard the ship, grab a (free) long cold drink and relax into your holiday.

A holiday at sea is often a better value than a land-based getaway – if you choose wisely. Credit: Shutterstock

Fancy a day exploring a new town or visiting a historic landmark? No need to trouble yourself with maps, car hire and queuing for tickets; everything’s taken care of for you. Excursion prices include travel, entrance fees and expert guides.

You may also be offered exclusive access to leading landmarks and museums before other tourists are allowed to visit. These are experiences money simply cannot buy. And many of the premium and luxury lines, like Viking and Regent Seven Seas, offer complimentary excursions too.

If you opt for a land-based holiday, there is nearly always a similar cruise option, and the chances are that your cruise accommodation will always be considerably better than a land-based choice.

Great beds are standard, your room will always be immaculately cleaned regularly and throw in a whole host of onboard entertainment and eating options included in the price, and you are already getting your money’s worth.

Need more proof? We’ve done the maths on five comparable holidays to some of the world’s top travel destinations via land (package holidays and self-planned) versus a similar standard of cruise holiday to the same place.

We’ve gone for budget and premium options, though, of course, luxury cruises like those offered by Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises are available to these places, too - as are the super-expensive land options.

We compared budget flights, hotel and car hire comparison sites and allowed a generous daily budget to cover every eventuality.

A cruise is often cheaper than a land holiday. Credit: Shutterstock


For Autumn 2024, a seven-night all-inclusive Greek island cruise from Marella starts at around £1,300 per person. The cruise we focused on (see below) includes flights from London, a cruise to six different Greek islands, with excursion options in every port.

Onboard facilities include swimming pools, a beauty salon, a gym, a spa, a casino, a theatre, a cinema, 10 restaurants, 10 bars, shops, and a sports deck. Prices include all-inclusive meals, entertainment, selected alcoholic and soft drinks, flights and transfers, plus all tips and charges.

A seven-night ‘Aegean Shores’ cruise onboard Marella Explorer, round trip from Corfu via Crete, Santorini, Kusadasi (Turkey), Piraeus (for Athens) and Kefalonia, departs October 12 2024. From £1,051 per person.

We compared this with buying return flights to Corfu (with the same baggage allowance as the cruise-based flight, so roughly £300), accommodation for seven nights in all of the islands visited on the cruise at £150 per night including local island charges), an allowance of around £100 per day to cover food, drinks, snacks, tips, transfers to and from hotels and islands (ferries, taxis etc) and other sundries to reach a total of £2,050.

Cruise price: £1,051
Land-holiday price: £2,050
Cruise holiday saving: £999

Enjoy a sun-soaked afternoon on one of Greece's many islands. Credit: Shutterstock


Various cruise lines offer round trip holidays to the fjords, with budget lines (and some premium cruise lines such as Princess) offering seven-day cruises for under £1,000 per person.

We checked out a seven-night round trip cruise from Tilbury to various ports in Norway offered by Ambassador Cruise Line. Prices start at £749 per person with 50 per cent off for the second guest. Prices include full board cuisine, afternoon tea, daytime activities, including guest speakers, quizzes and classes, evening entertainment and full use of all the onboard leisure facilities.

Extra costs include onboard gratuities of £5 per person per day. For two people with the discounted rate, this came to £1,125.

A seven-night ‘Autumn Fjordland’ cruise aboard Ambience round trip from London Tilbury, via Bergen, Flam, Eidfjord and Stavanger, departs September 26, 2024 from £749 per person.

We compared this great value cruise with a package holiday from Expedia, based on a budget airline with baggage allowance, a daily B&B at a city centre hotel, car hire, £100 per day per couple for meals and drinks (which is low as Norway is very expensive). With Expedia savings, this trip came in at £2,510 per couple, so again, the cruise comes in cheaper. Plus, you’re sailing right into the heart of the fjords, rather than negotiating long journeys by road to get to each destination.

Cruise price: £749
Land-holiday price: £1,255
Cruise holiday saving: £506

The Norwegian fjords are known for their outstanding natural beauty. Credit: Shutterstock


Depending on how you tackle it, visiting three Mediterranean countries in one week is no mean feat when you are trying to organise a land-based holiday, so if you fancy seeing a lot of the Med in a short space of time, cruising is the best way to go.

Even entry-level P&O cruises offer dining, premium accommodation and entertainment, all for an all-inclusive price. Onboard you’ll find four swimming pools, sports facilities, three theatres and lounges, high-tech gyms, a casino, shopping and lots more. And with prices starting at £549, this is a super smart choice.

A seven-night ‘Spain, France and Portugal’ cruise aboard Ventura, round trip from Southampton, via Vigo, Lisbon, Porto and Cherbourg, departs October 19 2024, from £549 per person.

Whether it’s planes, trains or long drives between the three countries, time spent travelling will dominate your holiday time. Flights alone from London-Vigo-Lisbon-Porto-Rennes (the closest airport to Cherbourg) to London cost around £800 per person. We also factored in £100 per night for a hotel stay and £150 per day for meals, drinks, transfers, etc, giving the grand total for a couple of around £3,350.

Cruise price: £549
Land-holiday price: £1,675
Cruise holiday saving: £1,126

Visit the gorgeous Valencia, Spain on a Mediterranean cruise. Credit: Shutterstock


When it comes to picture-perfect beach holidays, the Caribbean is a sure-fire winner. Azure blue ocean, swaying palm trees, fantastic food, rum punch and laid-back vibes – it’s got it all.

It’s the world’s most popular place to cruise, and you’ll find an amazing array of deals to suit every budget. Whether you prefer the Eastern, Western or Southern Caribbean, there are itineraries to suit everyone.

We’ve plumped for the Southern Caribbean to include the beautiful U.S. Virgin Islands, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados and found a wonderful seven-night cruise from Royal Caribbean coming in at £643 per person.

Seven-night ‘Southern Caribbean Cruise’ aboard Rhapsody of the Seas, roundtrip from San Juan, via the U.S. Virgin Islands, St Maarten, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados, departs October 6, 2024, from £643 per person.

Compare this with the same land experience, and you’ll be hard-pushed to find a package holiday that offers so much variety. Even a multi-centre all-inclusive deal with flights, accommodation and transfers won’t unlock as many Caribbean islands and experiences.

For a start, holidays are generally 10 days, and everything we looked at was at least double the price of a cruise. was offering 14 nights in Barbados and Antigua from £1,395 per person, and Sandals (via offers 10 nights all-inclusive to Antigua and St Lucia from £2,849 per person.

Cruise price: £643
Land-holiday price: £1,395
Cruise holiday saving: £752

St Kitts and Nevis is full of history and beautiful views. Credit: Shutterstock


Travelling around Italy by land is relatively easy with great airport links, trains and motorways, but getting from popular cities such as Venice to Rome and on to Naples and Sicily takes planning and cash.

We priced up a land-based holiday to various locations in Italy with a similar 10-night Celebrity Cruises trip which also includes Montenegro and Croatia, and the results speak for themselves.

10-night ‘Best of Italy and Croatia’ aboard Celebrity Constellation, from Rome to Venice, via Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Portofino, Naples, Sicily, Brindisi, Kotor (Montenegro) and Split & Zadar. Departing September 17 2024, from £999 per person.

For a land-based version of this cruise, per couple, return flights to Italy cost around £280 (including baggage), seven days’ car hire costs £240, hotel accommodation is £100 per night plus an allowance of around £100 per day to cover food, drinks, snacks, tips and transfers. We didn’t even cost up the Montenegro and Croatia parts of the holiday, and we had already racked up a bill of £1,746…

Cruise price: £549
Land-holiday price: £1,675
Cruise holiday saving: £1,126

Sail from Trieste with Holland America Line. Credit: Shutterstock

How to save £££s on your next cruise

  • Get on mailing lists and sign up for newsletters from cruise companies to be the first to know about special offers, early booking discounts and exclusive sailings
  • Visit our website for great daily offers
  • Shop around online and get tips from expert cruise vloggers for tips on how to make your money go even further
  • Plan ahead - the earlier you book, the less you’ll pay, you'll also get access to special offers such as discounts for second guests, stateroom upgrades and more.
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