Should I Stay or Should I Cruise? Comparing the Value of Staycations and Cruises To Nowhere

As life under coronavirus restrictions grinds on, hospitality businesses have modified their services to weather the lockdown as best they can. We looked at the costs and benefits of a hotel staycation versus a "cruise to nowhere".
Woman relaxes on the balcony of a cruise ship suite

Many hotels now offer no-contact staycation packages for those weary of being stuck at home, while Dream Cruises has been offering 2- and 3-night "cruises to nowhere" on its lone operating ship, the World Dream. To help Singaporeans understand the costs and benefits of each option, we gathered staycation rates from four major hotels to compare their relative value against a cruise.

Key Findings:

  • The average cost per night for the most basic hotel staycation was S$396, but prices varied significantly by hotel, room size, and package level. Dream Cruises offered an average of S$488 per night on its cruises to nowhere.
  • Seasonality affected cruise tickets more than hotel rates. The average cost of a cruise to nowhere increased by 20% between May and the summer month of June, while hotel staycation rates remained about the same.
  • Whether you sail or staycation, going on weekdays may be wise. The hotel rates we found were 9% cheaper on midweek check-ins than on weekends, and Dream Cruises also charged 18% less on midweek departures.
  • The decision between a hotel staycation and a cruise with no stops comes down to two factors: the greater variety of activities onboard a cruise ship versus the roomier, more comfortable environment of a hotel room.

Cruises to Nowhere Cost Less Than Top Tier Staycations But More Than the Cheapest

According to rate data from the four hotels we looked into, the average cost of a basic staycation package was S$396 per night. This was significantly lower than the average cost of a ticket with Dream Cruises for a round-trip cruise around Batam, which was S$488 per night over two to three nights. However, the comparison depended heavily on which hotel and room sizes we chose.

Column chart showing cost per night for Singapore cruise to nowhere versus four hotel staycation packages
Dream CruisesFullertonHiltonMarriott Tang PlazaMarina Bay Sands
BudgetS$294S$330S$421S$550
StandardS$488S$347S$379S$548S$868
PremiumS$696S$384S$471S$761S$1,057

In our data, both the Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel and Marina Bay Sands Hotel staycations cost more at the higher room tiers than a ticket with Dream Cruises. This was likely due to the fact that the packages include a generally higher quality of accommodations plus a number of unique perks, such as access to the Marina Bay Sands' well-known rooftop Infinity Pool or the Marriott's menu of curated dinner experiences.

We were also surprised by the affordability of hotel staycation packages from the Fullerton Hotel, one of Singapore's landmark establishments. Guests staying one night there receive a second consecutive night for free, making the Fullerton's staycation offer the best hotel deal at each of the room tiers we compared.

Cruise Ticket Prices Rise in Summer While Staycations Hold Steady, But Both Cost Less on Weekdays

Thanks to the coronavirus, seasonality isn't affecting the cost of travel quite the same as in previous years. However, our analysis did find that cruise ticket prices rose by nearly 20% to an average of S$555 per night in June, from S$463 in May. Meanwhile, the hotel staycation packages we examined actually fell slightly on average for June.

Column chart showing increase in Singapore cruise prices for June 2021 compared to hotel staycations

One bright spot for frugal consumers was that both cruises and hotel staycations were more affordable on days in the middle of the week rather than weekends. Cruises leaving on Wednesdays cost an average of S$427 per night, an 18% savings versus cruises that depart Sunday or Friday (S$525). Weekday savings on hotel staycations varied by establishment, ranging from just 2% lower at the Hilton to 25% off at the Fullerton but 9% lower overall.

Column chart showing decrease in Singapore cruise prices and hotel staycations for midweek bookings

Hotels vs. Cruises: What Perks Do They Offer?

A close look at the perks included in each package ultimately showed that the cruise to nowhere was a decent all-around value for families needing a variety of activities to choose from, while the hotel staycations seemed best for couples seeking to indulge in fine dining and in-suite comforts.

Most hotels offer at minimum a free breakfast for two, with some throwing in food and beverage credits between S$50 and S$100. A few of the more creative packages by Hilton and Marriott also included special dinner experiences, while others included significant discounts on spa treatments from the hotel's attached spas.

PackageFood PerksOther BenefitsRoom Size
Dream CruisesWorld DreamAll day buffet and dining for all; some restaurants cost extraWide variety of shopping and activities onboard20-37 sq m
FullertonComplimentary Night StayBreakfast for two; S$100 Food and Beverage credit; 20% off a la carte dining menus20% off Fullerton Spa treatments39-53 sq m
HiltonOpus Steak-cationDaily breakfast and Opus premium steak or seafood dinner with 2 hour free flow wine for two2,000 Hilton Honors Points per stay32-69 sq m
Marriott Tang PlazaIconic City StaycationBreakfast for two; S$50 Food and Beverage credit32-42 sq m
Blissful EscapesM Club breakfast, hors d-ouevres, cocktails, and curated Set Dinner at Marriott Cafe for two24-hour access to pool terrace60 sq m
Marina Bay SandsBOOK DIRECT AND SAVE S$20Breakfast, afternoon tea & evening drinks for Club Rooms and SuitesEntry to SkyPark Observation Deck and Infinity Pool; up to 50% off Banyan Tree Spa treatments; up to 10% Resort Dollars on stay, shopping and dining35-136 sq m

The major difference between a hotel stay and a cruise ship may be the most obvious: cruise ship cabins are far smaller than hotel rooms, which means that passengers must get out of their cabins and find things to do onboard in order to get their money's worth. The cost of the ticket is tied up in enjoying the ocean view, seeing shows, and visiting shops and restaurants.

We thought that the variety available in the cruise to nowhere matches up favorably to hotel staycation packages, which in some cases seemed to imply that guests would not be allowed to occupy their hotel rooms for a continuous 24 hours. In such cases you would be forced to find other activities in the city itself, an experience that we think few people would consider a true "getaway".

When Money is No Object: Comparing the Most Expensive Options

We also decided to explore the question of which service offers the best possible experience at the absolute top of the scale, where money is not a concern. In this scenario, the selection of suites at the top end of Dream Cruises' offerings becomes more tempting. Massive suites like the Palace Villa combine the unique ocean view of a cruise with roominess and luxury that almost matches the best hotels on shore.

Dream Cruises - Palace VillaMarina Bay Sands - Straits Suite
Cost per NightS$3,524S$6,154
Size224 sq m330 sq m
Room Features
  • Private balcony
  • Sun deck with whirlpool
  • Baby grand piano
  • Private gym
  • Jacuzzi tub
  • Baby grand piano
  • Media room with karaoke
  • Hermès bathroom products
Food and Drinks
  • All-day table service
  • Afternoon tea
  • Stateroom dining
  • Breakfast buffet
  • Afternoon tea
  • Evening drinks
Services24-hour butler concierge
  • 24-hour butler concierge
  • Laundry, drycleaning or pressing (2 pieces/day)
Experiences
  • Water slides and pools
  • Ocean views on deck
  • Asian and Western spas
  • Bowling alley
  • Arcade
  • VR entertainment centre
  • 3D film theatre
  • Infinity Pool access (1 hr/day)
  • SkyPark Observation Deck
  • 1 Banyan Tree Spa massage for two
  • 1 In-room Bartending Experience
  • ArtScience Museum

The most expensive hotel in our study was the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, a familiar part of Singapore's skyline and hospitality industry. Despite costing 75% more per night than Dream Cruises at the highest level, the room quality and size appear only slightly superior to the top end suite onboard the World Dream.

Moreover, the hotel's main draw - its unique and famous Infinity Pool - is only available for one hour and fifteen minutes per day even with the most expensive suite, thanks to the need for coronavirus precautions. We felt this was a significant downside of the Marina Bay Sands staycation package.

If you have the luxury of choosing between options at this level, the main limiting factor will be the time you have available. While the cruise offers far more variety in terms of activities (along with a much smaller passenger population thanks to distancing requirements), you'll only have three days at most to do everything you'd like. We suggest the Marina Bay Sands for those seeking pure relaxation and the cruise to nowhere for people who need to stretch their legs through a variety of activities.

So Should You Stay or Should You Cruise?

One hard truth in the current situation is that the cruise to nowhere is a limited version of the experiences that cruises can deliver in normal times. In contrast, staycation packages represent an expansion of typical hotel experiences made necessary by the shutdown of regular business. Rather than simply housing Singapore-bound tourists, hotels have had to pivot towards becoming attractions themselves.

Given this convergence of quality - with cruises having become less interesting and hotel stays more interesting - it's plausible to claim that staycations offer better value for the money. But the answer really boils down to what experiences you're seeking. Dream Cruises offers a good variety of family-friendly shipboard activities such as a VR experience, performances, and a range of eating options. Hotel staycations mostly appear to be geared towards couples seeking a relaxing stay and memorable dinner.

Ultimately, both cruises and staycations offer a rare chance to escape the confines of your home at a time when getting away is extremely difficult. They're also an opportunity to use your Singapore ReDiscovers vouchers as well as any travel rewards that you may have sitting idle in your credit card account. Whether you prefer to get a whiff of ocean air onboard a cruise liner or switch it up by staying over in a luxury hotel, the current difficulties faced by the hospitality industry offer a unique if curtailed opportunity to punctuate your day to day with some variety.

Methodology

To understand the cost of Dream Cruises' round trip cruise packages and hotel staycation offers in Singapore, we used the companies' online booking platforms to gather rate information for stays in late March through June 2021. In order to allow for fair comparison, we averaged the cost of the different packages on a per night basis.

We matched our sample hotel bookings to the cruise schedule found on the Dream Cruise website for the World Dream cruise ship, currently running 2- or 3-night round trips around Batam with no port visits. To better understand the different price levels available, we gathered rates for "basic", "standard" and "premium" stay packages as follows:

Dream CruisesFullertonHiltonMarriott Tang PlazaMarina Bay Sands
BasicNone availablePremier Courtyard RoomKing Deluxe RoomDeluxe King RoomDeluxe Room
StandardBalcony StateroomStraits Club Quay RoomKing Hilton Premium RoomExecutive RoomClub Room
PremiumPalace SuiteStraits Club Marina Bay RoomKing Hilton Executive Plus RoomPool Terrace RoomOrchid Suite

Most of the four hotels we looked at offer many other room configurations at a variety of price levels. For each hotel, we selected the cheapest option plus two other options that most closely matched the size and quality of the room levels we picked at other hotels. As for Dream Cruises, we used the only two cabin sizes currently available for booking: the Balcony rooms and Suites.

For a full list of hotel staycation packages on offer in Singapore, check out the Singapore Hotel Association's list of active deals.

Chris Moon

Chris is a Product Manager for ValueChampion with years of experience in addressing critical questions about insurance and banking products through financial analysis. He spends his time evaluating insurance providers and policy features to understand where consumers might find the most cost-effective coverage. Chris has contributed insights to the New York Times and many other publications. Prior to joining ValueChampion, Chris worked as a product manager at ValuePenguin analysing banking and insurance products in the US.

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