Welcome to cruise-chat. There are so many variables that go into cruise pricing that it's hard to pinpoint the "least expensive." For instance, time of year makes a huge difference, as does itinerary. Cabin selection is, obviously, a factor as well. Do you have particular dates in mind, or is your schedule flexible?
I am booked on the carnival glory in may. We are going to stay in a balconey room. Our first cruise was in a balconey so I will probably always want one. We were suposed to go in sept 2009 but because of last years hurricanes we moved it up to may. My hubby and kids refuse to go during hurricane season. But I would really love to cruise once a year or two if I could afford to. I realize if I lived in Florida this would not be an issue at all.
I have found cruise per diems tend to be higher from ports where there is little competition. Port Canaveral, Galveston, New Orleans, and Mobile have little competition. For instance this winter there have been 3/4 night cruises out of Miami for as little as $249. Whereas a 3/4 out of the above ports could be much higher.
As Lisa says there are many factors. Itinerary, cabin, length of cruise, time of travel, and even older or new ship.
We live in Ontario and know what you mean about the airfare being the most expensive part. We have a few sites that we use to look for airfare - www.kayak.com is a good place to start. Also watch for seat sales. If you sign up with the airline (it doesn't cost anything and you can signup with all of the ones you might use) you will get notices by e-mail.
Other hints - it is cheaper to fly into Fort Lauderdale than Miami
Yes, so many factors are involved in the prices. Look at our upcoming cruise from Baltimore to New England and eastern Canada. The old Grandeur Of The Seas is the only cruise ship doing 8 night cruises for this itinerary out of a port that has just one or two ships there at any given time. An inside cabin is over $1100 per person. Want a standard balcony cabin? Around $2700 per person. I paid less for an Owner's Suite to Alaska last year - on a sister ship. Demand and exclusivity.
I think if I had an owner's suite I would never want to get off the ship.
The New England cruise will be beautiful, We love to drive to Maine in the Fall. Bar Harbor is spectacular. If the weather co-operates you'll think you died and went to heaven.
It's hard to determine if one line is really cheaper than another. A deal is a deal is a deal. You will often find that some lines will offer drastic discounts on certain itineraries. It varies from region to region but, rest assured, someone is making money somewhere.