In these recessionary times, getting more bang for your buck or punch for your pound has never been so important. And that’s where cruising comes into its own. Choosing a cruise, where so much is included in the overall price, gives this type of holiday a head start over land-based leisure trips.

1. Offers & Discounts

Growing competition between cruise lines means prices are more competitive than ever, thanks to the huge range of special offers and discounts available.

Ocean Village has been offering free places on its winter Caribbean cruises – for every two full0fare paying passengers, up to two other people could travel for free if they shared the same cabin. Oceania Cruises meanwhile has scut single supplements to 25 per cent on selected sailings in summer 2009, and Cunard cut £300 off the price of certain transatlantic sailings on QM2.

Yachts of Seabourn president Pamela Conover says the value of cruising can’t be disputed. “When you look at what Seabourn offers with its all-inclusive cruises and then compare that to a land-based vacation it is great value. In today’s market the value is even better because the pricing is particularly attractive. Compare prices to the room rate of a five-star resort and add in breakfast, dinner, tea, drinks and tips and, overall, we come out at a lower cost.”

2. Family Friendly

There are plenty of bargains among the more mid-market and value cruise lines, with some of the biggest savings aimed at families.

Recently Italian line MSC Cruises ran a special promotion that gave every person who paid the broachure price on selected 2009 cruises the chance to take a second person for just £1. This meant couples were able to snap up extraordinary summer sailings in Europe for as little as £616 – which equates to just over £300 each.

For the US market, Norwegian Cruise Line is offering a three-night Bahamas cruise costing from around $33 a night, or a one-week Mexican Riviera cruise that starts at $349, or a two-week Caribbean cruise from $599, excluding the air fare.

But overall, families can be the real winners on some lines, such as P&O Cruises and Disney Cruise Line which run tactical ‘free kids’ offers, and others such as Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises which do it as a matter of course with children under 18 only paying for their flights and port charges if they’re sharing a cabin with fare-paying adults.

3. Value for money

Experienced cruisers are tuned in to the value that cruising offers, but first-time cruisers are often surprised at just how much is included in the fare and what good value for money this type of holiday actually represents.

Whether it’s the price of soft drinks and ice creams, children’s clubs or sun-bed hire, travellers taking land-based holidays find themselves facing far more hidden costs than cruise passengers. It’s estimated that food and drink alone can take up to half the holiday budget.

Step aboard a cruise ship however and you need barely put your hand in your pocket for the bigger times. Meals and entertainment are included in the fare, alcoholic drinks are sold at duty-free prices on board and on the more luxurious ships even drinks and gratuities are included.

4. Extra Charges

There can be extra charges on cruises for speciality dining, spa treatments and the like, but these are made clear. Even then, the on-board prices can be significantly less than the equivalent services ashore.

Take the speciality restaurants found on so many ships now. Passengers on P&O Cruises’ newest ship Ventura can choose to dine in celebrity chef Marco Pierre White’s fine-dining restaurant The White Room for an additional charge of up to £20 per person, and on Crystal Cruises ships, passengers can eat in an Asian restaurant serving signature dishes that have been created by internationally renowned Japanese master chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, for no extra charge at all. Yet to enjoy the culinary creations of both these chefs in their various restaurants ashore carries a hefty price tag that significantly outweighs any on-board supplements that the cruise ship passenger will find themselves faced with.

5. Exchange Rate

This year British tourists will have to contend with higher prices in many of the most popular tourist destinations due to the weak pound. But cruises can be a great way to soften the blow of currency fluctuations.

When the US dollar’s value was low against the pound sterling and the euro, many Americans discovered that Mediterranean cruises were a great way to explore both the UK and Europe without the pain of high prices. By choosing an American-run cruise line such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises or Carnival Cruise Line, they found themselves able to pay for their holiday in dollars and then enjoy on-board prices in dollars too.

Now the tables have turned as the dollar has strengthened against the pound so British cruisers can work the system to their advantage by choosing to cruise on UK-operated lines such as P&O Cruises, Fred Olsen Cruises and Ocean Village, where everything is, of course, priced in sterling.

6. So Much to See & Do

You’ll never be bored on board. Rainy days in resort hotels can be a bit depressing but if the sun goes behind a cloud during your cruise there’s still lots to do. And what’s more, a lot of the larger ships have a sliding roof to cover one of their pools, creating an indoor oasis on cloudy days.

As British cruise agent Phil Nuttal of The Cruise Village explains, “If it rains what is there to do in a hotel – perhaps a kids’ club, fitness classes, and evening shows, whereas on a cruise ship you’ll find a whole array of organised activities such as ice-skating lessons, rock climbing, dance classes, lectures, talent shows, fitness sessions, photography classes and reflexology lessons to choose between.

7. You Only Unpack Once

Cruises offer the best way to explore several destinations on one trip without checking into numerous hotels.

On a week’s cruise, you may visit as many as six ports, with time to explore each one in depth whether you take a guided tour or explore independently. The joy of cruising is that if you fall in love with a place, you can go back and if you’re less keen, at least you’ve tried it!

Read our First Time Cruise Guide here