As an experienced cruiser, I've got tons of tips to make your next cruise vacation a breeze.
Is Cruising on a Budget Possible?
As exciting as it is to make big travel plans, most of us struggle with the nagging issue of how to make our wallets stretch to accommodate them. So what do you do when you want to travel but you’re on a budget? There is a way to make it happen. There doesn’t have to be a massive cash roadblock in the way of your next trip, and budgeting properly is only part of the equation.
As those with cruise-holiday obsessions know well, cruising offers some of the better deals around; if you have yet to take your first cruise, you may be surprised at some of the cost-effective travel packages there are to be found.
Cruising Offers More Bang for Your Holiday Bucks
I love being able to wake up at a new port most mornings whilst having enjoyed a relaxing journey there. With cruising, there's none of the mess that can be associated with catching flights and transfers and all of that; but you will get the same opportunity to travel to more than one location. You are basically getting multiple trips out of one, which is already great value to start with.
There are also numerous onboard benefits—unique activities, immaculate service and a wide range of dining choices that are either included in your fare or offered at subsidized costs are just a few of the treats you might experience! With that said, there are several things you can do to make sure you're getting the most for your money. Here are my top tips for planning a cruise vacation without breaking the bank.
7 Tips for Saving Money on a Cruise Vacation
Here are seven tried-and-true ways that you can save a little coin on your next cruise (without missing out on any of the fun!).
1. Sign Up for Mailing Lists and Save Big.
While you can find some good deals just by searching the internet, the best thing you can do is join the mailing lists of the cruise companies that you want to travel with. They may offer you savings that you won't see anywhere else. (Most of them won’t spam you terribly, so don’t worry about your inbox filling up in five minutes.)
If you have a travel agent, then sign up for their list too. Don’t be afraid to vie for competing offers, either. If your travel agent offers you a deal, you can always reach out to the cruise line to see if they can do better, and vice versa. It won’t always work, but in the day and age, it can’t hurt.
But subscribing to these emails, you will gain access to the latest and greatest information regarding deals and discounts that are currently available. You might even get a sneak peek at some new features or offers if you are lucky.
2. Book Your Trip Well Ahead of Time.
The longer you wait to plan your trip, the more expensive it can become, especially if you miss out on those elusive last-minute deals. Instead of waiting for deals that may never come, start planning early. This will give you plenty of time to get a feel for the options available before those options run out the door. That way, you can jump on the options that have limited availability and sell up quickly when everyone else gets on the boat (ha!).
In my opinion, the real benefit of planning ahead is having your pick of cabins on the ship. It will also allow you to shop around for some decent deals on flights and accommodation, etc., if you need any of that on either end of your chosen cruise holiday.
3. Dig for Discounts.
I’ve always found that the best and most effective way to save money on your cruise holiday is to find your savings on the fare itself. Kick it off by looking first at the cruise lines’ website; then circle around to other providers and your travel agent.
Starting with the cruise line's site first will give you an idea of where the baseline is; from there, you will know what a real deal looks like when it comes to fares and their attached itineraries. You will usually find that there are a decent number of deals and discounts available on cruise line's sites, such as discounted inclusions or free dining at some of their specialty restaurants.
4. Consider Purchasing a Drinks Package.
I’ve enjoyed most of the drinks available on cruise ships over the years, and one thing I have noted is that when you buy them on a per-drink basis, the cost can add up in a hurry (and not just for the alcoholic ones, either!).
Whether you fancy a soda, a specialty coffee or a margarita, the cost will add up quickly if you buy your beverages on a per-drink basis. This is where a decently discounted unlimited-beverage package will save your bacon and allow you to enjoy the drinks that you want. Many packages include everything from spirits, daiquiris, margaritas and wine by the glass, to specialty coffees (though this doesn’t normally include iced coffees) and soda for one fixed and often relatively low price.
5. Book Shore Excursions as Soon as Possible.
Booking your shore excursions early is probably one of the better ways to keep your cruising holiday costs down. Getting in on deals before you get on the ship allows you to put that money aside ahead of time, which means you won’t get a scare when your sail-and-sign card bill turns up on the last night of the cruise.
It is always easier to curb the costs when you know what is coming around the corner. With planned excursions, I think the best thing is that you don’t have to worry or stress about anything because it is all set out and planned for you and you know exactly what you are going to get up front.
I personally hate having to try and figure out what I am going to do for excursions once I get on the ship. At the very least, I try to do enough research so that I can make quick and informed decisions after I have finished having a sail-away drink and a snack, and have stowed my luggage.
There are also a number of benefits to booking your shore excursions through reputable tourism companies at the ports ahead of time. Going directly to them cuts out the middleman, giving you the chance to make some really solid savings.
6. Consider Duty-Free Shopping for Gifts and Souvenirs.
Before you even leave home, set some money aside for duty-free shopping. Buying gifts and souvenirs for the loved ones that you left at home is a lot easier when you know you’re not going to have to go back home and pay it all off.
You are bound to make some decent saving on some items, with some products—like perfume, aftershave and top-shelf spirits—coming in at around half price. Tobacco products can also present a savings opportunity, but make sure you take note of allowances on alcohol and tobacco on return to your home port.
Duty-free shopping is available on board cruise ships and in some cruise ports, but I recommend checking your itinerary and doing your research to make sure that you don’t miss out on your opportunity.
7. Take Advantage of Opportunities to Score Freebies.
There are a surprising number of ways to get freebies while on board, such as attending a sales pitch or volunteering at an auction. From free drinks to a unique art print, you never know what you might score. For more handy tips, check out my article about how to get free things on your next cruise.
I hope my tips allow you to take your dream cruise. Remember—there are great deals to be found if you start early and dig deep!
Do you have any cruise ship money-saving tips? Be sure to leave a comment below.
More Cruise Tips
- 30+ Useful Things to Pack for Your Cruise
Towel clips, Ziploc bags and a magnetic night light are just a few of the items you should never cruise without. Be sure to use this handy checklist to give you some ideas of what you might need on your next cruise.
- 5 Overrated Cruise Activities to Avoid
Cruise vacations, they are my holiday of choice every time. However, there are a few cruise activities that are a bit overrated when it comes to going on vacation and things that are a just a waste of money generally.
- Never Overpack for a Cruise Again
Packing for your holidays can be the worst part of the entire planning process. The only thing worse than getting on a ship and realising you have forgotten something is realising that you packed too much of something else instead of what you needed.
- How to Pick the Right Stateroom: Which Cabins to Avoid on Your Cruise
After a couple of cruises, you learn which rooms are best. To save you from making the same trial-and-error mistakes I have, here are my tips on how to pick the best cabin the first time around.
- A Beginner's Guide to Cruising With a Disability or Illness
Traveling with a disability can be a tiring and somewhat painful ordeal. Having a chronic illness myself, I'm always wondering if an accessible option is going to be available. Here are a few helpful tips to consider.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Paddy Michelson