In November I’m sailing on Norwegian Breakaway from New York. I have never been on a real cruise before. By “real” I mean sailing for some meaningful period of time on a modern mega–cruise ship, so my 2-day Halong Bay cruise doesn’t count, no matter how thoroughly I enjoyed it (and I did).
The reason I don’t go on cruises is twofold. First, I don’t know if it won’t bore me to death. Second, I’m a glutton. Spending a week in a confined space with all that food readily available is like staying at an all-inclusive resort with no options for getting out. Spells trouble to me.
Having said that, I’ve always been curious. And then my mom told me she’d like to travel again.
My mom has very limited mobility. I took her to Paris a few years back, and while that trip had its share of challenges, she was thrilled.
Unfortunately, she had medical issues after both flights despite being in a comfortable business class seat, which is why flying is no longer an option. So what’s left? This is when it dawned on me. There are cruises sailing from New York and New Jersey. What else could I have wished for?
What I Wanted from this Cruise
- A big, modern ship with capable Wi-Fi. I’m going to keep working on board and must be connected. Norwegian Breakaway, from what I’ve gathered has the best internet connection in the fleet.
- It had to be not too long or too short. One week would be perfect, I think.
- Two balcony cabins for my mom and me. I believe, having your own balcony is worth extra money, no matter who says otherwise.
- Finding a good deal. I am what I am, after all. Not cheap, but frugal (and yes, there is a difference).
What I’ve Got So Far
Despite my utter lack of previous cruise experience, I think I’ve found a pretty good deal. You can tell me if it is, or if I’m kidding myself.
First of all, I booked two cabins for practically the price of one. I didn’t even know it was possible. Every cruise I had ever checked would charge a solo passenger for 2 people in a cabin.
I’ve booked 2 cabins on Norwegian Breakaway: a balcony and a mini-suite balcony. That “suite” part appears to be a joke, but it has a larger bathroom and was only $100 more. In total, I paid $1,193 for the balcony cabin and $1,293 for a balcony mini-suite for my mom (click to enlarge).
As you can see, that amount includes taxes and gratuities but excludes service charges, which are some $90+ more. There are also 18% service charges for all drinks and meals in specialty restaurants.
The Itinerary Is Nothing to Write Home About
For someone like me who does care about the destination it’s not too inspiring, but exploring new horizons is not exactly our goal for this trip. Although I have wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center for quite some time.
And here are all the promos at a glance (1 per cabin).
- $200 onboard credit
- Additional $50 onboard credit
- Specialty Dining Package – 3 meals in specialty restaurants
- Adult Beverage Package – unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for up to $15 (that weirdly don’t include bottled water)
I’m planning on using my $250 credit to cover my unlimited Internet connection ($29.99 a day plus 18% service charge).
How I Booked 2 Norwegian Breakaway Cabins for the Price of One
Only some cabin codes qualified. I checked several cruise aggregate sites (which employ the same booking engine to my untrained eye) and ended up booking with Orbitz. While the prices were about the same everywhere, including the Norwegian website, I found that Orbitz offered more in terms of promos. The base price for a balcony cabin was (and still is) $649.
I didn’t take it. This is the small print I didn’t like.
An actual cabin in your selected category will not be assigned at this time. Final cabin category and location (including deck) are at the total discretion of the cruise line. Upgrades are possible, however, be advised that most premium cabin categories are likely to be sold prior to sailing. Your cabin number will be assigned at the time of ship check-in.
Some research on Cruise Critic revealed that this cabin could be anything, including the one with an obstructed view. We don’t want that, especially for our first cruise. Instead, I scrolled down and found this.
My cabins (Balcony and Mini-Suites) qualify for a $200 onboard credit (each) that we will presumably be able to use anywhere on the ship. We’ll also get another $50 onboard credit, 2 unlimited drink packages, and 3 dinners at premium restaurants. That’s worth something. Could I live without premium restaurants? – sure, but I’m positive I would spend at least $30 a day on alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
To me this credit and promos combined are worth around $550. Although for my mom it’s much less, I’m sure. But she’ll still have her $250 credit to spend at the casino, aside from better food and an occasional drink.
Unfortunately, this rate is not available anymore, at least for my sailing date, as every cabin I’m clicking on shows the double price for one passenger. However, if you’re traveling solo and if you’re OK with a guaranteed rate, you can still have a guaranteed balcony cabin for only $649.
Or a mini-suite for a little more:
The only difference between a balcony cabin and mini-suite, from what I can tell, is a better bathroom.
Not Just for Solo Cruisers
I believe being able to get 2 cabins for the price of 1 is beyond terrific, and not only if you’re a solo traveler. Since the cheapest cabins are tiny, you get a chance to spread out even if you travel as a family. One of your rooms can be an inside cabin, and you would still enjoy a private balcony in another room (until your partner kicks you out). Why not splurge if it doesn’t cost more money?
Bottom Line: I have no idea if I got incredibly lucky, but I’m guessing it’s worth a few extra clicks to see if you can get a better deal, especially if you’re flexible with dates. I’m also testing a little hack to reduce the price further, and will report on whether it’s worked for me or not.
Flying to Dallas for FinCon tomorrow morning. If anyone is there – let’s have a drink!
Not quite a “hack” but you can monitor for price fluctuations and rebook if the price goes down. I use cruisefish to monitor for me. $1. (Probably ok for your frugal budget! 🙂 )
You will enjoy yourselves. Be sure to book ahead any show times where possible, try the Italian place for lunch (with cooked to order pasta), remember that the first night is usually lobster night (so dont book a specialty resto), and drink up!!!
Really? Is there a time frame for that, like can I rebook a day before the cruise, for example? Also, what’s lobster night, what restaurant? Thanks!