The Carnival Price Tag, Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

With several carnival veterans forgoing Trinidad Carnival 2018 in an effort to experience other carnivals and bucket list travel, I decided to once again, address the rising cost of carnival but more so to mention where folks can get the most bang for their buck. Two years ago, I wrote about how to cut down on your  carnival expenses by mixing the type of events you attended or even staying for less days.  Now that most party promoters are hip to game, all parties and costumes are starting to come at a premium. So where can you go if you’re a carnival lover but don’t want to pay a small savings toward a carnival?

GlobalCarnvalist Shoot 2017

Let’s discuss…

Trinidad Carnival

Trinidad Carnival can cost you upwards of $5,000 to 6,000 dollars. Yes, $5/6000 all depending on what events you attend, where you stay, the length of time you stay and the amount of feathers you feel like paying for.

Accommodations: Typically, people stay from Wednesday to  Ash Wednesday, which is the expensive week. Most hotels/guest houses force you to stay for a 7 day minimum during that week so that they make most of their money. If you and 3 of your friends get a place together, you will still pay between $4-500 per person.

Costumes, Costumes! Our favorite part of Carnival. Now backline and frontline costumes have different associated costs, especially depending on the band you choose to play mas with. Frontline with Tribe Carnival will cost you about $1500usd where as a frontline costume with Ronnie and Caro could cost you $1100usd. You could use that $400usd for your lodging. Please note: Ronnie and Caro does not have the same amenities as Tribe, always keep amenities and quality of service in mind when selecting a band.

Backline or male costumes ($660usd) aren’t cheap either. And yes, you truly only get a bra, panty and some gems with a backline costume (In tribe). Yuma, Ronnie and Caro and even Legacy Band tends to give you more feathers for your $760usd than the more lusted after bands.

Island People Mas had the best lunch stop known to man, ice cream, and foot massages. Tribe has a refresh section, vanity zone, and Tribe staff re-gluing gems on your costumes. Yuma had the best dessert sections and several cuisine options to choose from. There are even more amenities I have not listed. So is the costume price worth it? I think so.

soca-brainwash-festival-of-love

Fetes: The cheapest fete I have seen during Trinidad Carnival is $50usd. Please believe, drinks are probably not included or you have to bring your own. Cooler Cruises are very popular, it’s a way to keep costs low, give you great vibes and you can bring exactly what you want to drink in your cooler. We have what I consider your mid expensive fete, like Soca Brainwash ($150usd), Candy Coated Cruise, Caesar’s Army Ambush, Sunny-Side ($160usd), Shades ($140usd), Beach House etc. These fetes are all inclusive and bring the vibes. You might say to yourself, “OMG $150 just for a party,” but think of it this way, you want the best soca DJs right? Decor, food, unlimited premium alcohol, and great service. That will cost you.  The most tolerable way to look at it, you paid $50usd to get in, $50 on drinks, $20 on trinkets, $10 to eat and $20 towards the DJs. Make sense now? Read my review for Trinidad Carnival 2017. 

Getting the bang for your buck? Debatable. I do believe Trinidad Carnival is expensive, however, the experience keeps people returning year after year and Promoters truly put an effort into providing the best fete experience. 

An Alternative to Trinidad? Jamaica.

I went to Jamaica Carnival for the first time in 2015 so prices have definitely gone up, however it still remains more affordable than Trinidad.

I paid $450usd for a frontline costume in 2015, Can you imagine? LOL that’s the price of backline now for Jamaica Carnival 2018. But still, you can get a frontline costume for $600usd. I’m pleased that for $600, even with it being one day, you get great amenities and even a beach day cool day or some following party with your band of choice.

All inclusive fetes are also cheaper, $80usd was what I paid in 2017 for an all inclusive in Jamaica for Carnival 2017, half the price of Trinidad’s.

Because Jamaica is a tourist central location, lodging tends to be more abundant, and because higher supply drives the price, prices are still relatively affordable. [at least for now]

I will say for Jamaica, I have seen flight prices go up during that weekend. I paid $350usd for a flight in 2015 which is now, $585 for 2018. But again, demand will drive the price.

Getting the bang for your buck? Yes 

carnival in Jamaica 2017

An Alternative to Jamaica? Bermuda.

Bermuda is the perfect balance of beauty, fun and relaxation.

Costumes are still $250usd. Yasss!! As newbie carnival prices are still low. You could even get yourself a t-shirt section for $160usd and wear a sexy swimmie or your old monday wear, and wine your life away.

Note: I have seen a frontline costume for $700usd in Bermuda and that is certainly way too much. While the customer service is great, for one day, the band pulls in way too early for the money spent: time spent wining ratio to be balanced.

A flight to Bermuda (depending on your city) is low also, at least until the airlines realize why we’re all flying down there. My flight cost me about $230usd in 2017.

Fetes are also very low, granted, you will pay $40 to get in but you can either pre-game or buy VIP tickets for about $100 so that you can drink to your heart’s content.

Lodging for Bermuda will be the most expensive thing. Because Bermuda is a beach haven, lodging can be upward of $400 per person (room with 4 people). But everything else is so low, this is certainly do-able.

Party People

Getting the bang for your buck? Yes  

A carnival I believe is too expensive for what you actually get is Crop Over. (Please do not kill me if you’re bajan but I’m going to be honest here)

I was hearing for years that Crop Over competes with Trinidad and could take the number one slot as best carnival ever (LIE). Imagine my disappointment. Unlike other islands during carnival season, you land, and the whole ISLAND has the carnival vibe. Food cooking on the pavement, outside of restaurants, music playing, carnival decor throughout the city, and even if you don’t attend a carnival party, there is still a pavement lime going on. Barbados DOES not have this. Barbados was conservative. You landed, three mannequins had on costumes, you were bound for a quiet drive to your hotel and I’m still waiting to see a man with a grill making some food on the side of the road. No carnival awnings, no loud speaker box, nothing. Just pink eye and disappointment. Read my review from 2017 to get the joke. 

Accommodations in Barbados are gorgeous – $300-$500 per person gorgeous and if you stay outside of the St. Lawrence Gap area, could even be cheaper.

Eating here nuh cheap though, because “street food” is limited, you will pay $15usd for some flying fish and bread.

Backline costumes are $4/500, Frontline is about $7/800.. Individuals aka Super frontline, which is a thing in BIM (Basically what you get in Trinidad) is about $1400/$1500usd. Here is my problem with a $1500usd costume in Barbados. CARNIVAL IS ONLY ONE DAY AND ENDS WAY TOO EARLY FOR THIS MADNESS! What is the $1500usd for? Rihanna, two meals and goose feathers? At least in Trinidad you get two days of pump, a mas that goes way into the night, more like MIDNIGHT, amenities, snack and other goodies.

While lunch was good, with my band, lunch time was at 3:40pm. No foot rubs, no desserts, just a chaotic lunch area and someone telling you time to go home. Only Super Frontline members got VIP access which meant you could get some snacks while on the road but if you just spent your measly $800 dollars for regular Frontline, you will either pay for mid day snacks or wait until lunch time to eat. [This might differ per band].

Unfortunately, Crop Over ends about 6pm and some bands pull in about 4pm.. I don’t know about you but I would like to twirl some more in my $1500 super frontline costume. I’m sure I saw a $1900usd costume in Krave this year but I won’t even go there.

Fetes are the same price as Trinidad Carnival. $120 – $150usd range for an all inclusive, the other thing truly missing, vibes. Bajans are a bit more stush with their partying, so it’s all about looking good, standing around and liming more so than pumping. You can also drown your own liver for your $160usd all inclusive fete but I promise you, it will just be you [And other visitors of course].

Getting the bang for your buck? No 

Bliss Crop Over -- Crew

An Alternative to Crop Over? Spice Mas.

Spice Mas still has what I call, non-commercial fun. You know that kind of fun when the carnival mafia hasn’t touched it yet so it’s still pure. Flights are the most expensive though. Small islands have limited flights so getting here can cost you $700usd, almost $1000usd if you wait too late to purchase.

Costumes are nice and affordable. Backline is on average $330usd and Frontline is $550usd. Carnival is two days… You cannot beat that.

There are fetes that still cost 40xcd which is $15usd. LIKE WUH? Sign me up

Getting the bang for your buck? Yes  

Another Alternative to Crop Over? Caribana

Caribana doesn’t have as much pace and the fetes could use improvement however, if you’re a carnival junkie, you can still get a costume at an affordable price. Lodging is affordable, you truly cannot beat that. I went to Caribana in 2013, 2015, and 2016 and they have never disappointed.

Getting the bang for your buck? Yes 

An Alternative to Crop Over, Caribana or Spice Mas? Nottinghill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival [London] is also a very popular carnival that isn’t ridiculously expensive. Premium parties are in the $25 to $95usd range. Backline costumes are still in the $180 to $350usd range, however, you will not get most of the amenities as you would in the Caribbean. Frontline costumes are still cheaper, so you’re paying for your costume more so than the foot massage, vanity sections and other amenities we’ve come to expect.

Getting the bang for your buck? Depends. Londoners stated that they would not pay more than $550usd for a Frontline Costume.

Yuma Trinidad Carnival 2016

Other notable mentions that I will not go into detail about [because this article is already long] is St. Vincent Carnival, St. Lucia Carnival, Berlin Carnival, and Miami Carnival. They are worth their weight in gold.

Been to all the listed above and want to experience something completely new? Try heading to Sugar Mas (St.Kitts), Antigua Carnival, Mas Dominik (Dominica Carnival) and Anguilla.

Yours in Mas,

GC Signature

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Carnival from a masquerader perspective - Where to fete? Band reviews? What to wear? I got you!

4 thoughts on “The Carnival Price Tag, Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

  1. Excellent Read!!! I’m trying Trinidad Carnival 2K18 with Plan TNT this year. I agree the Trinidad Carnival is becoming a bit expensive.

    Honestly, considering prices, I think of all the Carnivals Worldwide, Miami Carnival is going to continue to grow and get bigger and bigger. The reason I say this is because 1. Many of the Layover Flights to the Caribbean are in Miami thus competing airlines keep the flights reasonably priced (More Competition = Better Prices for Consumers 2. Its usually cheaper to go to Miami during October because of Hurricane Season (which usually goes is at its tail end) and 3. There is a lot to do in Miami outside of the usual Fetes etc.

    I was very pleased with my costume and Jouvert package for Miami Carnival this year ($400 usd) total.

    I want to go to Jamaica Carnival but I already have plans to visit Jamaica later in the Summer.

  2. Great breakdown of the different carnivals and elements within (costume, road experience and fetes). From my observation, Jamaica and Miami stand out as excellent value for money especially coming from the UK!

  3. That’s a really great article! I’m Bajan and I agree with what you said about our Kadooment. It’s no hype and everyone wants to see Rihanna. I did get conjunctivitis (groan) and I was thinking on ditching Kadooment 2018 and go Caribana for the first time. I’m going Trinidad Carnival for the first time and I’m hoping to also go to Jamaica. Kadooment is way to expensive and the vybes are STUSH to all!!!

  4. Very nice article.
    I plan visit Bermuda in 2018 so this definetely should help (me? not so much); all I need is a pants and drinks. But for women, costumes can be a bit expensive.
    But I wanted to add my Bahamas Carnival experience to the conversation. I went on the blue monkey cruise (similar to Uber) and for $600, we got a weekend cruise, costume and a concert with a bunch of artistes. The only draw back is we were only in Bahamas for one day (Saturday morning to Sunday morning) so didn’t get to see Atlantis etc. But between Trinidad which is in February-March, Caribana in August and Miami in October, the cheapness was a major factor in deciding to go. Bahamas is not as big a Trinidad or Miami but it a nice, inexpensive getaway bwteeen the “big” carnivals.

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