Who hasn’t dreamed of an exotic vacation to a tropical island where palm trees sway next to a sparkling turquoise ocean? How about dining on lobster every night in an elegant dining room where men are dressed in tuxedoes and women wear evening gowns? Or a late night stroll on the promenade deck, breathing in fresh, salt air, while the sea slowly glides past. Romance is definitely in the air. Almost sounds like a scene from the old TV series The Love Boat, where most viewers could only fantasize of cruising on a luxury liner to visit far off lands.
Cruise vacations no longer carry the stigma of an expensive mode of travel reserved for the very rich. There’s a cruise out there that will fit into just about any budget, and an adventure on the high seas can be a great vacation option for singles, couples, and families. Whether a passenger is counting pennies and booked into an inside cabin or splurging on a penthouse suite, shipboard life doesn’t have to break the bank.
1. Cruise lines often have early bird specials when they announce a new cruise departing in two years is now available for booking. On the flip side there are last minute deals when a cruise hasn’t sold out. Moral of the story – book early or book late for the best prices.
2. If you drink a lot of soda pop, bring your own on board. For the price of what a ship charges for two cans of pop, a 12-pack of pop can be purchased at a local grocery store. At the very least bring a pack of ginger ale with you in case you’re not feeling well or to settle a seasick stomach. BYOB but only wine or champagne. Check with your cruise line but most allow one bottle of wine per passenger at time of boarding. Cruise lines don’t let you bring hard liquor or beer onboard because they make a lot of money selling them to you in the lounges or through room service. Drink in your stateroom. If you bring a bottle to the dining room to enjoy with dinner, you’ll be charged a corkage fee – $15 to $20.
3. Avoid the swanky restaurants onboard the ship. Dinners cost an extra $25 and up for this extravagant dining experience. The wonderful meals in the main dining room, lido buffet, and room service are already included in the cost of the cruise.
4. Don’t be tempted to turn on the cell phone unless it’s on airplane mode. Messages and emails that automatically download show up on the next bill in the form of hidden charges: international data roaming, marine charges, satellite fees, etc. Turning on the phone for a few seconds to check the time or take a photo can cost hundreds of dollars.
5. Take your own photos instead of buying from the ship’s photographer. You’ll see the ship’s photographers when you board and disembark at every port of call. They also walk around the ship, attend formal dinners, and set up times for photo shoots. Their photos cost around $20.
6. If you enjoy gambling and want to spend time in the casino, figure out a daily limit and stick to it. Liquor sales and the casino are the top income sources for cruise lines.
7. Check if booking airfare from the cruise line is cheaper. Believe it or not, sometimes it is.
8. Use independent shore excursions instead of booking through the cruise line. The advantages are smaller, more personalized tours that are priced well under a similar tour the cruise ship offers. In places where tours are expensive, such as Hawaii and Alaska, there might not be a big price difference. In the Caribbean and Mexico, huge savings can be found. The disadvantages, as warned by some cruisers who never book independently, is if something goes wrong and the tour bus is delayed returning to the port, the cruise ship will leave without you. These independent tour operators rely on their reputation. If they aren’t operating in a timely manner, cruisers wouldn’t book with them.
9. Check the cost before signing up for anything. Many cruise lines charge extra for yoga classes, wine tasting, flower arranging, etc.
10. If you’re thinking of buying anything onboard – clothes, duty free items, a massage, Internet minutes, wait until later in the cruise when prices might drop. Try to remember to bring all toiletries you need with you or you’ll pay higher prices at the stores on the ship.
Do you have any tips on how cruisers can save money? Leave a comment below.