This summer I’ll be loading up the car, much like Clark Griswald and his family in the original Vacation movie, and headed off to Texas to visit family, friends. During the trip I’ll be equal parts tourist, family visitor, and even an amusement park enthusiast. Lets hope I don’t turn into a “Cousin Eddie”.
For this trip it will be just the kids and me, with my husband staying behind to work. My total budget for the trip is about $1800 total, or $600 per person. That includes the following expenses: Gas, Lodging, Amusement Park Admission, Eating Out, Groceries for Self Catering, Alcohol, Talent Show Entry Fee, Entertainment and Golf. A two week cruise for three would probably be somewhere in the range of $1800-3000 per person, probably even more depending on cabin choice, cruise line, itinerary, and time of year, with the 3rd person being slightly less. That would include cruise fare with all meals and some beverages plus the add-ons like possibly one or two specialty dining evenings, entertainment, a few excursions, tips, and alcohol. I thought it would be interesting to compare this type of road trip vacation, which I think is really more of the typical “American Family Vacation”, verses the cruise experience, which is probably more expensive, but includes much more in the way of luxury and relaxation.
When it comes to comparing traveling by cruise ship to a family sedan, I think the cruise ship has the family sedan beat “hands down”. I am planning on a 14 hour drive to Texas on the front end of the trip and then a two day drive back on the return trip. If cruisers live near a cruise port and only have a few hours to fly or drive to the cruise port, that definitely beats a 14 hour drive. Once on the ship the cruisers have the luxury of the ship traveling over night from port to port with their every need taken care of during that travel time. I’ll be crammed in a car, eating sandwiches and fruit from a cooler and stopping at some of the loveliest gas station and rest stop restrooms in all the Southwest.
My lodging is mostly free as I’ll be staying with family, but I have to admit that I will miss the luxury that comes with cruise ship lodging. While cruise ship accommodations are famously small, the daily cabin steward service and convenience of the location, in walking distance of all my dining, entertainment, recreation and fitness activities, is an area where a cruise ship is the ultimate vacation experience. During my stay in Texas, I’ll have to drive to all my outside dining and daily activities.
Entertainment, Amusement and Sports Activities
Our big amusement activities include trips to Six Flags, a Small Town 4th of July Celebration, the Schlitterbahn Water Park, Medieval Times, The Folklorico Fiesta on the River Walk San Antonio, and Two Golf outings. This comparison is a tough call for me. Many of these activities are available to cruisers either as excursions, or as part of the amenities or entertainment provided on the ship. Many ships now have extensive water parks. Cruises often feature folkloric productions as part of the ship’s entertainment. The “Small Town 4th of July” might somewhat compare to the afternoons of music by the pool or the festive theme parties offered on special evenings on cruise ships. The 4th of July activities include a talent show with a small entry fee of $5. Not really a big deal at all, but when cruise lines have talent shows, they have no entry fee. I guess its included in your cruise fare. Many cruise lines offer golfing excursions to their guests, that often allow them to play on some of the nicest courses in the world. My teen age son will have opportunity to golf with some family members on two very nice golf courses. When evaluating all of the entertainment options, I have to give this area nearly a tie, with possibly the cruise ship edging out the family trip simply because of the variety and volume of nightly entertainment options that are offered just steps away from accommodations.
Dining out on a cruise ship is one of best parts of a cruise experience. Guests can order breakfast delivered to their room, or walk only a few hundred steps to the buffet area for everything from cereal and yogurt to custom omelets and fresh made waffles. During sea days most ships open the main dining room for a sit down lunch experience, or cruisers can enjoy a meal at the buffet with a variety of different cuisines, or even go super casual with lunch by the pool from the grill restaurant. Dinner usually offers a wide variety of quality food from the main dining room usually accompanied by impeccable service and high quality preparation. For those diners seeking an even more upscale experience most cruise lines now offer specialty dining at around a $25 up charge per person. For this trip the dining will vary from upscale Italian to hot dogs on a grill at a camp ground and every thing in between. We also will be doing quite a bit of self catering, from gourmet sandwiches on the go in car, to home made breakfasts, to gourmet evening meal prepared by various family members. Of course with all those wonderful home made meals on a family trip comes the shared responsibility of cleaning dishes and washing pots and pans. While some of the food quality may be comparable, for complete relaxation and luxury, the cruise ship wins the dining category.
I think it is no big secret that most cruise lines make a huge profit on alcohol sales. Part of the reason that they can do this, is that with guest completely devoid of daily responsibilities like cooking, cleaning, and most of all, driving, they are more likely to indulge. During this trip, I’ll still have all those responsibilities and when I do drink, it will be most likely at my hosts’ homes. So since I’ll save so much money on alcohol on trip compared to a cruise, I’m probably going to give the advantage to the family trip over the cruise ship.
While you can see from my above comments that over all I’d probably rather be cruising, I have to admit that there is a time and place for a family road trip. This trip will give us the opportunity to see many extended family members, attend a little family reunion, and also get to visit some very nice locations in Texas. While a cruise ship does make a fantastic family reunion venue, it is not always easy to line up everyone’s schedule and budget to make it happen. I’ll still enjoy this trip, but I’m very much looking forward to taking my next family cruise as well.