For families with school-aged children and college students alike, cruises are a popular way to spend spring break vacation.
What better way to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life than relaxing on the adults-only sundeck while your kids hangout in the youth clubs? Or getting a group of friends together for a weekend of drinking, dancing, and eating before (or right after) midterms?
The Main Dining Room beats dining hall food, that’s for sure.
If you've never taken a spring break cruise, you might be wondering if it's right for you and your travel party. What should you know about planning a spring break cruise? What's the difference between sailing then or during other times of the year?
Here's a guide of everything you should know before setting sail.
How busy is a spring break cruise?
It's safe to say that you should probably expect your cruise to be sailing at or near full capacity.
After Christmas and New Year's, spring break is the first opportunity for families to vacation together. Kids have an entire week off of school, so parents don't have to worry about them missing class as a result of pulling them out.
That being said, just because the ship is busy doesn't mean that you can't have a great vacation. Most likely, you won't even know it's any livelier than usual, with the only place you'll experience crowds (other than embarkation and disembarkation) being the pool deck.
Will there be a lot of college students onboard?
It depends! College students are less likely to take a weeklong cruise due to budget constraints. In other words, you won't find many on a 7-night Eastern Caribbean sailing.
3- and 4- night cruises are much more popular among this crowd, and you can expect to find more of a party atmosphere.
College students are also more likely to take shorter cruises if they are interested in purchasing a drink package.
Families should choose a kid-focused ship, like the newer Royal Caribbean and Norwegian vessels or Disney Cruise Line, to make the most of their time together and avoid the college party animals.
College party cruises
College Party Cruises (CPC) are sailings hosted by Ignite Cruises and Tours. They advertise "the largest group of Spring Breakers at sea" and offer exclusive events on the ship and ashore.
In Nassau, for instance, you can attend the CPC Beach Party and enjoy music, beach games, and other activities. And at night, they host late night parties for CPC guests only.
You must book directly through the College Party Cruise website to be considered part of the group and attend events.
If you're a family sailing during the month of March, you'll want to make sure that your itinerary does not overlap with the scheduled college party cruises.
The 2023 dates are March 6-10 and March 13-17. Both sailings are onboard Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas.
Another way to see if your sailing is going to have a large group of spring breakers is to Google your ship name and sail date, as well as the words "spring break."
As an example, you could search "Carnival Liberty April 3, 2022 spring break." Sometimes, larger groups will create a group or event on Facebook, too.
Cruise line age policies
If you're a college student looking to hit the high seas during your break, it is important to familiarize yourself with the age policies of each cruise line. Most require guests to be at least 21 years of age to travel on their own without a parent or guardian.
The below age policies apply to sailings originating in North America. Rules may be different for sailings originating in South America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, and Asia.
- Royal Caribbean: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. No guest under the age of 21 will be assigned to a stateroom unless there is a guest over the age of 21 staying in the same room.
- Carnival Cruise Line: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. Those under the age of 25 must be accompanied by a relative or guardian 25 or older. It's important to note that the guardian does not need to be a legal guardian. In other words, if you are 20, you must have someone over the age of 25 in your travel party/stateroom.
- Norwegian Cruise Line: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. No guest under the age of 21 will be assigned to a stateroom unless there is a guest over the age of 21 staying in the same room (or a connecting/adjoining stateroom).
- MSC Cruises: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. No guest under the age of 21 will be assigned to a stateroom unless there is a guest over the age of 21 staying in the same room.
- Celebrity Cruises: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. No guest under the age of 21 will be assigned to a stateroom unless there is a guest over the age of 21 staying in the same room.
- Princess Cruises: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. No guest under the age of 21 will be assigned to a stateroom unless there is a guest over the age of 21 staying in the same room.
- Holland America Line: Passengers must be 21 years of age on embarkation day to travel on their own. If they are under the age of 21, they must be accompanied by a parent, guardian, or chaperone, and there must be one adult chaperone for every five guests under the age of 21.
There are, of course, certain exceptions to these rules, like if you are able to provide proof of marriage.
Do you need a passport?
No. United States citizens may travel on sailings that begin and end in the United States if they can present a birth certificate as well as a government issued photo ID.
Read more about closed-loop cruises.
How much does a spring break cruise cost?
The price of a spring break cruise depends on a few different factors, including the ship, cabin, and itinerary. A 7-night sailing on the newest ship is going to cost a lot more than a 4-night cruise on a ship that's a few years old.
Additionally, since cruise lines see a higher demand for sailings during the spring break period, prices will be higher than if you were to book in late February or early May.
If you're new to cruising and trying to understand pricing, here are some fundamentals that you should know:
- Inside cabins are the cheapest, with ocean view and balcony cabins being more expensive. They are, however, less than suites.
- Short cruises tend to cost less, but longer cruises can be cheaper per night.
- Most food and entertainment is included in your base fare.
- Alcohol costs extra. If you plan on drinking a lot, you might save money by purchasing a drink package, like Royal Caribbean's Deluxe Drink Package or Carnival's Cheers! Package.
You can book a 4-night cruise onboard the Carnival Liberty departing March 27, 2023 for as low as $279 per person. Note that this price excludes taxes and gratuities.
As mentioned earlier, short cruises tend to cost less. An 8-night cruise onboard the Odyssey of the Seas departing March 25, 2023 starts at $881 per person, again excluding taxes and gratuities.
You should compare different cruise fares to figure out which sailing will be the best deal for you. Our advice is to book as easily as possible, as cruise prices tend to increase over time.
Should I book with a travel agent?
Travel agents are great because they handle the logistics of payments and price adjustments. Plus, if you've never cruised before, they are a great source of knowledge and can answer common questions.
Sometimes, they can offer perks like onboard credit, prepaid gratuities, a bottle of wine, or complimentary speciality dinner!
Additionally, a travel agent can assist with anything from canceling your cruise, changing the sailing date, and purchasing flights and a pre-cruise hotel. All you'll have to do is pack your bags and feel the pre-cruise jitters!
How to get a deal on a spring break cruise
As mentioned earlier, prices during the months of March and April tend to be higher than if you were to cruise in the "off" season.
You should book your spring break cruise as early as possible. As you get closer to spring break, ships start to fill up. Because of the higher demand, cruise lines will usually begin to increase their prices.
If you book a cruise and happen to find that the price does in fact drop later on, you can usually reprice your sailing before the final payment date.
While scoring a last minute deal is not impossible, you should not bank on that happening. You may find that your desired stateroom sells out or end up paying more in the end because you decided to wait. This is especially true if you'd be buying last minute airfare.
Where do spring break cruises sail to and from?
March and April is before the Alaskan and summer European cruise seasons begin, so you'll most likely sail to the Caribbean and Bahamas. Most itineraries range from 3- to 7-nights and depart from various ports in Florida: Port Canaveral, Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), Miami, and Tampa.
If you don't wish to travel to Florida, look into sailings departing from Galveston, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; and Charleston, South Carolina.
Perhaps you want to visit a cruise line's private island -- like Royal Caribbean's Perfect Day at CocoCay, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, or Carnival's Half Moon Cay -- for a calm and relaxing day on the beach.
What about visiting ancient Mayan ruins in Mexico or snorkeling at the Belize Barrier Reef, the largest barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere?
No matter where your itinerary goes, you can expect to find beautiful beaches and fun activities that will satisfy your entire travel party!
Should you take a spring break cruise?
Cruising can be a wonderful way to spend your spring break vacation. Who doesn't want to return to work or school rested from a week sipping cocktails (or mocktails) by the pool?
It's important that you know what to expect when cruising during this time of year. If you are a family that gets booked on a cruise with a large group of spring breakers, it doesn't mean that has to define your vacation!
You'll still have loads of fun, as cruise lines are great about providing programming for different age groups and interests.