Cruises offer the convenience of entertainment, meals, and activities served up while sailing among magnificent destinations. A cruise can be an expensive proposition, but Cheapism.com has narrowed the fleet to four cruise ships with modern amenities, positive reviews from experts and passengers, and prices starting well under $100 a night for each person, even without a special deal. Here's how to get the best fare on these highly rated ships.
CHOOSE AN INTERIOR CABIN
Cruise lines list the lowest prices for interior cabins with double occupancy. Rooms with ocean views or balconies (and, of course, suites) have higher price tags, although special deals may allow for free upgrades. On Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas, an eight-night Eastern Caribbean cruise starts at $604 a person for an interior cabin. An outside cabin ups the total by more than $200 a person. Staterooms throughout the cruise ship -- the largest in the world when it debuted in 2006 -- were renovated and new ones were added in early 2015. The least expensive itinerary is a five-night sailing for $481 from Port Canaveral, Florida (departing Oct. 30) to a private Royal Caribbean-owned island in the Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico.
TARGET SHOULDER SEASON
The lowest cruise rates are normally available at the beginning or end of the season; off-peak periods from May to mid-June and October to December are often the best times to land a cheap Caribbean cruise. A seven-night Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival Cruise Lines' Dream, for instance, starts at $689 a person leaving March 20 -- spring break for many schools. Pushing back the departure date to Nov. 27 drops the price to just $389, or about $53 a night for each person. (Passengers who book by Feb. 29 also pay a reduced deposit, get to choose their room location, and receive price protection.) The itinerary includes New Orleans and ports of call in Honduras and Belize. Carnival Dream is part of a fleet known for value, and reviews praise the family-friendly cabins and activities.
LEAVE FROM A PORT CLOSE TO HOME
Coastal cities in Florida, such as Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral, are the most common home ports for ships sailing the Caribbean but may add airfare or a long road trip to the cost of a cruise. Carnival Dream's base in New Orleans is more convenient for many passengers. Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway departs from New York City, saving a trip for cruisers in the Northeast. Inaugurated in 2013, Breakaway earned a Cruise Critic award for best new ship. Voyages start at $499 for a seven-day round-trip to Florida and the Bahamas -- if you're willing to pack up and leave Feb. 28. A current promotion offers a choice of free onboard amenities.
BOOK A REPOSITIONING CRUISE
Repositioning cruises are discounted one-way trips designed to relocate a ship between seasons. Celebrity Constellation leaves Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to spend the summer plying the waters around Europe and the Arabian Peninsula. It's offering a 13-night voyage to Rome, leaving April 2, with stops on Portugal's Madeira Island, at the Rock of Gibraltar, and in Cartagena, Spain, for only $549 a person -- less than $40 a night. If you can find a deal on a flight home, this is a cheap way to see some exotic destinations and take full advantage of onboard amenities. The Constellation was upgraded in 2013 to emulate Celebrity's larger Solstice Class ships, with newly designed staterooms, updated pool areas, and new restaurants and bars. Passenger reviews note the impressive and varied entertainment as well as the quality of the food.