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You can save big on a cruise right now with 'kids sail free' deals

July 17 2022
6 min read
Family jumps into pool
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Prices may be soaring for many vacations, with sky-high airfare and sold-out hotels, but cruises are one sweet spot in the current travel economy. Now, we're seeing a new wave of free sailing offers for kids that make family cruises an affordable vacation option.

As with all things offered for free, of course, you should take a close look at the fine print.

For these deals, you'll still pay taxes and when you add in gratuities, it could add up to a few hundred dollars per child.

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Also note that these fares only work when little ones sail as the third or fourth guest in a single cabin, so your family of four may be bunking up in tight quarters.

Related: 7 cruise lines where kids sail free

Still, if you're looking for a vacation deal, you should check out these offers.

To help you choose which cruise line will give you the best bang for your sailing buck, we compared five current free kids cruise offers by looking at multinight Caribbean itineraries in a balcony room.

Other offers may be available as well, and many of them can be stacked with these "kids sail free" options.

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Princess Cruises

(Image courtesy of Princess Cruises)

There are multiple cruise lines with free offers for kids to come on board several times a year. However, this may be the first time Princess has ever offered a Kids Sail Free cruise booking opportunity.

Eligible itineraries include the Caribbean, Mexico, the Mediterranean, coastal California, Alaska and itineraries that pair Canada and New England. For this deal, you must book by Aug. 15, 2022, for travel in 2023.

These free sailings for kids (as the third and fourth guests in the room) can also be paired with discounts of up to 25% on adult fares.

When looking at cruise fares, it was easy to find this offer and simple to determine the final price.

(Screenshot from princess.com)

A four-night Caribbean cruise in early 2023 using the "kids sail free" offer was $1,336, plus $481 in taxes. The final price for four people is $1,817.

Related: The 5 best cruise lines for families

Royal Caribbean

Royal Caribbean runs a Kids Sail Free promotion periodically throughout the year, though there are a number of caveats, such as a restrictive age policy.

However, Royal Caribbean offers a wide range of kid-friendly clubs and entertainment, so it could be a great fit if the timing works.

For the current offer, the kids sail free pricing applies to new bookings made by July 31, 2022, on sailings departing on or after Aug. 2, 2022, to May 25, 2023.

The free cruise fare is for third and fourth guests who are 12 years old and younger and applies to sailings of three nights or longer.

Be sure to read the fine print as the free cruises for kids come with many restrictions, such as blackout dates over major holidays and school vacation periods, as well as minimum sailing lengths.

How did this offer stack up? We looked at a four-night Caribbean cruise in late August for a family of four with two kids under the age of 12 in a balcony room.

(Screenshot from royalcaribbean.com)

The stateroom price before tax is $2,254. The discounts looked substantial ($1,668), but taxes are high — $746 for four people. The total came to $1,420 for four people.

Related: Why Wonder of the Seas is awesome for families

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line's Free at Sea promotion offers free kids fares in a roundabout way.

The offer allows passengers to choose one or more complimentary booking perks such as free specialty dining, beverage packages, shore excursions, complimentary Wi-Fi or also a free third and fourth passenger in the same room.

(Screenshot from ncl.com)

We tried to make this work, but the pricing seemed to revert to another offer — 40% off fares for everyone, as you can see above.

Pricing for a four-night Caribbean cruise in a balcony room showed a non-discounted price of $3,748, then a discounted price of $1,622 plus $902 in taxes, and an additional $178 in tips (including for an open bar for four people, which is a cost that seems inappropriate for underage sailors).

There were also lots of Free at Sea inclusions that were automatically added, making it hard to tell exactly what the overall savings are here. The total price for four people is $2,702.

Related: The 8 best cruise ships for kids

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises frequently offers its Kids Sail Free promotion throughout the year in combination with other offers, with a nice perk for families with older children being that the line extends the offer to those up to age 17.

As with the other lines we looked at, kids count as the third or fourth guests in the same room with two paying adults.

(Screenshot from msccruisesusa.com)

For this four-day Caribbean balcony cruise, the all-in price is $1,243. This should include two free children, but we never saw a page that broke down these costs. The total price for four people in a balcony room is $1,243.

Holland America

Holland America Line offers special promotions including its Kids Cruise Free program throughout the year.

The line is currently running an offer that allows third and fourth guests up to age 17 to sail for free on select itineraries for the rest of 2022.

For HAL, there were no four-night offerings in the Caribbean or Mexico, so we looked at a five-night deal.

(Screenshot from hollandamerica.com)

HAL doesn't break down the discounts, but it had a very easy interface that allowed us to quickly find pricing. The total price for five nights for four people is $1,578.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured photo by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • 6x points on eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy program
  • 4x points at restaurants worldwide, U.S. gas stations, wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and U.S. shipping
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases
  • Earn a free-night award each card renewal month (up to 35,000 points)
  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees