According to P&O's survey, a two-week cruise holiday this summer in an oceanview cabin cost on average £1,579 per person. Back in 1998 the same holiday was priced at £2,520.
Says P&O's managing director Nigel Esdale, "compare that to a loaf of bread, which cost 48 pence and is now £1.08, or a pint of draught bitter which cost £1.70 ten years ago and is now around £3 a pint or even the well documented price of a litre of unleaded petrol which cost 67 pence per litre in 1998 and is now £1.12. Household expenditure on everyday items has practically doubled, whilst cruise holidays have become more affordable than ever."
Of course there's lots more to this survey than meets the proverbial travel budget -- and much of has little to do with P&O or the general economy. Cruise travel, which a decade ago was considered the holiday of choice for "the newlywed and the nearly dead," according to a popular slogan, has changed in substance and in style.
Emerging lower-cost lines like Island Cruises, easyCruise and Ocean Village, which have introduced a more light-hearted, less ritualized cruise experience, are responsible for attracting new-to-cruising travellers. And the increasing creativity of cruise lines when designing new ships -- introducing such features as gourmet restaurants, rock climbing walls, and recreation-oriented gyms, spas and shore tours, is also drawing young-in-spirit passengers.
And cruise travel is still uniquely original. It's the only comfortable way to cover a lot of ground (the Eastern Mediterranean in a week or 10 days in South America) without packing and unpacking multiple times, and hopping on way too many planes, trains and in autos to see the places a ship can rather seamlessly sail to.
If there's one caveat to all this good news it's that cabins indeed may cost less, on average, than they did ten years ago. But travellers can still spend more on cruises. That's because as cruise ships have gotten bigger, and lines have launched more innovative features -- that are priced separately -- there are more and more ways to part with a buck. Unless you're really, really disciplined -- check out our feature on one traveller who successfully minimised her onboard bill by taking a cost-conscious cruise on Island Star.
What do you think? Is cruise travel a better value than before? Vote in our poll.
--by Kelly Ranson, U.K. Editor, and Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief