If you’re new to cruising, you may not yet have realised what incredible value a cruise holiday is. So much is included on board – all meals, entertainment and lectures, daily classes in the gym and on some voyages, drinks.
The convenience is a real consideration, too. Step up the gangway and simply relax; all you have to do is enjoy the scenery and explore exciting new ports every day. Your ship will whisk you effortlessly from one gorgeous spot to another.
A cruise can be many things. In Norway, let the scenery unfold as you glide along glassy fjords against a backdrop of snowy mountains and tumbling waterfalls. In France or the Mediterranean, a cruise resembles a string of effortless, glamorous city breaks, with no flying in between, your floating hotel often moored right in the city centre. Further afield, a journey by ship is a convenient and pleasurable way of visiting a series of hard-to-reach ports in a relatively short space of time.
Life on board is all part of the adventure; the friendly crew, the romance of sailing away at sunset, cocktail in hand, anticipating the night ahead, or the excitement of waking up with a new view every day.
Land-based holidays have their place, of course; we’re prepared to admit that not everywhere in the world is accessible by ship. But we reckon that once you’ve tried your first cruise, value aside, you’ll be hooked on the freedom, the friendly atmosphere, the fine food and the attentive service that makes everybody feel like a VIP.
So, which option is the better value? Here, we tackle three different destinations and styles of holiday – the Norwegian fjords, northern France and southeast Asia – and dig down into the costs each type of holiday offers. We’ve used three different Fred. Olsen cruises as the benchmark. Clearly, we’re not always pitting like against like – but these comparisons should give you a clear picture of the fantastic value offered by a cruise. All prices are per person.
The Norwegian fjords
A seven-night cruise, or a self-drive holiday from Bergen?
This seven-night Spellbinding Fjords of Norway cruise on Fred Olsen’s Boudicca sails round-trip from Dover and includes stops in historic Bergen, with its colourful waterfront, Bryggen; Olden and the unspoilt village of Flam, both surrounded by mountains; as well as a rare sailing of the entire Naeroyfjord, a narrow, winding route only accessible to smaller ships, against a backdrop of towering mountains and ribbon-like waterfalls. Extensively rerfurbished in 2018, the 880-passenger Boudicca has three heated pools, Jacuzzis, a large sun deck, a library, self-service laundry, five restaurants and a spa and gym.
- No flying
- You only unpack once
- All meals and drinks are included so budgeting is easy
- Long days to relax on deck as the ship sails along beautiful fjords
What’s included: All meals including snacks, afternoon tea, room service and tea and coffee; all entertainment and lectures on board; alcoholic drinks; Captain’s formal welcome party.
- Seven-night Norwegian fjords cruise on Boudicca: £1,099
- Meals and drinks: Included
Total per person: £1,099
…or a fly-drive holiday
- A seven nights’ self-drive, including flights, car hire and accommodation: £1,707
- Seven-night self-drive holiday including flights, car hire and half board hotels: £1,707
- Budget for wine with dinner each night: £100
- Budget for lunch on seven days: £100
Total per person: £1,907
The cruise is a clear winner on price, all the more so as it’s all-inclusive. Beautiful though it is, Norway is an expensive place to visit on a land-based holiday if you’re having to budget for meals and drinks.
All-inclusive resort or a 14-night cruise?
This 14-night Indonesian Island Discovery cruise on Fred. Olsen’s Boudicca packs in the experiences, with opportunities for beaches, snorkelling, visiting temples and markets. There’s an overnight in spotless Singapore, for street food, the spectacular, lush Gardens by the Bay and Singapore Slings in Raffles; and a day in Semarang, jumping off point for the Borobudur temple complex. In sleepy Lombok, waterfalls and volcano hikes beckon, while Komodo is famed for its massive dragons, which you should spot on a hike with a ranger. The voyage ends in Bali, with an overnight before disembarking.
- Multiple ports to give you a real insight into the destination
- Overnights in Singapore and Bali
- A chance to see the famous Komodo dragons
- Sea days for relaxing on deck by the pool
- All meals included so budgeting is easy
What’s included: Flights, transfers, all meals, tea and coffee, afternoon tea; entertainment; Captain’s Drinks Party and Gala Buffet.
- Holiday cost including flights: £1,899
- All-inclusive drinks upgrade \@ £19 per night: £266
- Meals: Included
Total: £2,165 per person
…or an all-inclusive resort in Thailand
- Two weeks at Phuket’s Mandarava Resort & Spa: £2,127
- Meals and drinks: Included
Total: £2,127 per person
The all-inclusive resort works out marginally cheaper and is an obvious choice if you simply want to flop on a tropical beach. But look at the opportunities on the Fred. Olsen cruise; you’ll see seven different faces of Asia, with overnights to explore Phuket, Singapore and Bali, as well as having lazy days at sea to recharge the batteries and lounge by the pool.
A mini-cruise from Southampton or a city break in Paris?
This leisurely Five Night Seine cruise from Southampton on Boudicca is essentially two mini breaks in one, as you’ll overnight in both Rouen and Honfleur. There’s time sailing the bucolic countryside of Normandy as the ship makes its way inland, too, an experience you can only enjoy on a vessel small enough, like Boudicca, to navigate the river. With an overnight in Rouen, there’s time to explore the medieval city and learn about the tragic story of Joan of Arc, or join a tour to Giverny to see Monet’s dazzling garden. Paris is easy, too, as an excursion or on your own by train. The intercity service does the journey in just over an hour and a quarter, whizzing you to the heart of the city for the museums, galleries, shops and gardens.
Then, there’s an overnight in gorgeous Honfleur, the picturesque port that inspired Monet and his cohorts to capture the colours and the light. Make time for fresh seafood and a glass of chilled white on the waterfront, watching the boats.
- No flying, as you sail from Southampton
- An easy and convenient way to see two beautiful cities
- A chance to spend an evening or a day in Paris
- Scenic sailing along the dreamy Seine
- No need to budget for meals, as they’re included
What’s included: All meals, alcoholic drinks, tea and coffee, afternoon tea; entertainment; Captain’s Drinks Party and Gala Buffet.
- Holiday cost: £699
- All meals and drinks: Included
Total: £699 per person
…or a three-night city break in Paris
- Three nights’ B&B in a four-star hotel, including Eurostar travel, transfers, metro tickets, a Seine cruise and a museum pass*: £658
- Budget for dinner with wine on three nights: £75
Total: £733 per person
The five-night cruise is certainly more affordable than a three-night stay in the French capital, and with all food and drinks included, the only extras you’ll incur are excursions and shopping. Of course, you may want to focus entirely on Paris, in which case a Eurostar break is a convenient option, but there’s a wonderfully relaxing quality to a voyage on the Seine, mooring in lovely old cities for the night.
- Norway: The Hidden Fjords itinerary from Discover the World
- France: City break with Kirker Holidays
- Thailand: Mandarava Resort & Spa from Tui
Intrigued by Fred. Olsen's small ship cruises? Read more on Cruise Critic:
With more than 19 years of editorial experience and a number of awards and nominations, London-based journalist and editor Rebecca Barnes has sailed around the globe in order to create travel and cruise-related content for countless consumer, trade and customer titles. Rebecca, who is a former editor of World of Cruising, currently works with Best Magazine, Cruise Adviser, Cruise Critic, easyJet, The Jewish Chronicle, The Telegraph and Travel Weekly, among others.