What’s the best way to fight off winter’s chill? Spend a week cruising the Caribbean of course! Right before Christmas the Root of Good family did exactly that. I wanted to share a few pictures from our eight day, seven night cruise aboard the MSC Divina sailing out of Miami, Florida.
After two lazy days at sea, we reached the island of St. Maarten where we watched airplanes zip by just feet off the beach. The next day we docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico where we explored the city and toured the Castillo San Cristobal fort. Then we enjoyed another relaxing day at sea before we reached Nassau, Bahamas. We didn’t get off the boat in Nassau since we seem to visit the island on every cruise we take. Relaxing on the ship while everyone was on shore proved to be the perfect way to spend the last full day of our vacation.
Since this is a finance blog, I’m compelled to share the numbers for our trip. We spent about $2,100 total on this cruise.
- Cruise tickets for five: $1,600
- Gas to/from Miami from Raleigh: $150
- Hotel on the drive down: free with Marriott points (travel hacking)
- Parking at South Miami Park and Ride lot: $40
- Local bus in St. Maarten: $14 round trip
- Mandatory gratuities for housekeeping/dining staff: $294
MSC offers a “kids sail free” promotion on many of their Caribbean cruises for kids up to age 10 or 11, and a steep discount for older kids up to age 17. Their mandatory gratuities are also halved for kids ($6 per day compared to $12 for adults). MSC served up an incredible experience along with great value for our family.
It’s also worth mentioning that we’ll get around 10% cash back from buying the cruise at Expedia after clicking through the Ebates online shopping portal. After factoring in the cash back, the final cost will be closer to $2,000.
The Beautiful MSC Divina
The MSC Divina is your typical monstrosity of an oceangoing cruise liner. At almost 1,100 feet long and a displacement of 140,000 tons, it’s big. The crew of 1,388 works hard to make things happy for the more than 4,300 guests on board. Built in 2012, it’s the newest cruise ship we have sailed on.
Entertainment options – How to never get bored
Time to eat!
Overall, the food on the MSC Divina was great. Possibly the best we have enjoyed at sea. Compared to the past few Carnival cruises, the buffet restaurant was amazing. The formal dining room wasn’t as impressive this time around. Since most of the formal dining room’s appetizer and entree choices appeared in the buffet restaurant, we tended to dine in the self-serve buffet restaurant for most meals during this cruise.
Port of Call: St. Maarten
This was our second time visiting the island of St. Maarten. We hopped off the ship and walked about a mile into the center of town where we picked up a local “bus” (minivan). Then we made our way to the nearby Maho Beach. The beach itself is pretty but not great for swimming. The airplanes landing a few feet away made up for it.
Port of Call: San Juan, Puerto Rico
The last time I visited San Juan twelve years ago I didn’t have time to visit the massive fort watching over the harbor entrance. During San Juan round #2 I finally got to tour the fort!
Port of Call: Nassau, Bahamas
Our cruise stopped in Nassau on the last full day. Being lazy, we decided to enjoy a day on board the ship (which is basically a floating luxury resort) instead of muscling our way through the throngs of tourists and touts in the port terminal. We have probably visited and explored Nassau a half dozen times in the past, so we’ve seen most of the noteworthy destinations on the island.
Miami and the drive to Raleigh
We had a great time as a family and really enjoyed the MSC Divina and the warm weather. Cruises are our time to relax and enjoy some modest luxuries. That’s why we saved all this money, right?
Although $2,100 is more than we typically spend for a week of vacation, it would be hard to beat that price for the five of us at a land-based all-inclusive resort.
Interested in cruising? Check out all the posts in my “Going on a Cruise” series:
Ever been on a cruise? How did it compare to a land-based resort or other kind of vacation?
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