How to Save money on a Cruise!
Twenty-five years ago Tom and I sailed on our first cruise to the southern Caribbean. It was expensive. It was high-end and it was wonderful! The food was very tasty! The ship was clean! The amenities, like movies in your room, ice cream at midnight, dance lessons, aerobics, and great music were to die for!
We sailed for a week and I did not want to leave the ship. They had fed us, cleaned our room, made our bed, provided entertainment, taken us to new places, and allowed us to rest. I thought I was in heaven.
A quarter of a century later, cruises have changed. They cost less. They don’t serve high-end food unless you pay extra, and the experience is more cafeteria than elegant. They charge for most things we received FREE! But…if you have never cruised, I, in spite of the changes, highly recommend people to step into the waters.
Cruises do not have to cost an arm and a leg. Here are a few tips on buying a cruise and cruising.
Booking a Cruise
Try booking the cruise through the cruise line and not with an agent. Sometimes agents have lower prices so you can make the decision. Don’t be tricked into booking through a website that looks like it is the cruise line. Keep your eyes scanning the prices!
Book Early. Cruises are posted at least a year before they happen. Plan at least a year and a half ahead. We just booked a river cruise that was a two-for with air that cost only $300 to Budapest. It will happen in November of 2017. Many times all you have to do is give the cruise line a small deposit. When you book early, they usually add incentives like photo-ops or money to spend on board the ship. Scan the cruise lines. I used to advise people to wait until a few weeks before the sailing, but ships are selling out and the price keeps going up. If you keep your ears to the ground you can book a 7 day cruise for about $500-600 a person for an inside cabin.
Book an Inside Cabin.
You spent most of your time outside of your cabin, why do you need to spend extra money for extra space when you have the space of two football fields to wander? Many times if you book early, the cruiseline will upgrade you before you depart because they have sold too many inside cabins. We have booked balconies and all sorts of cabins but they did not make the experience any better than an inside cabin. Also, if you have the courage, you can book a room that holds four people and generally the third and fourth person are heavily discounted. On some ships, you see children sleeping up on the top floor because they feel they need the space away from their family. Today, many ships have outdoor movies and people fall asleep while watching a late night movie, and just stay there until morning.
Air is Tricky. Sometimes you can land air cheaper through the cruise line because they have taken options on many of the seats that fly to their destination. One of the interesting things about booking air through the cruise line is that, in most cases, if there is something wrong with your flight, they guarantee that they will get you to the ship. One cruise line hired a limo to drive us from one airport to another, and when we missed the sailing of a ship off the coast of Mexico, they paid for all of our expenses to catch up with the ship. Try charters to your port. Air is usually cheaper before May and especially in January and February, many airlines have sales to distant places.
Drive to the Port. If air is very expensive, as it is during the holidays and at Spring Break, try booking a cruise from a port in Texas or Florida or wherever. If you have a big family and friends going on the trip with you, pile into a van. There are always places where you can park your car near the terminal. You can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars, by using this strategy.
Skip the Excursions. One of the things that totally shocked us on our first cruise was that the ship brought us to a destination, but did not really inform us about the destination. (You know, islands, cities, stuff like that!) Boy were we green! We had not planned the trip very well. We did not know that some cruise ships dock miles away from towns and in areas that you really don’t want to walk. (This does not happen in Alaska, but does in the Caribbean. It did happen in the Mediterranean but not in northern Europe.) So, we had a choice. We could pay for pricey excursions that cost $100 or more a person or we would have to wing it. You guessed it! We flew.
We hired local cars on some islands. (We did this in Cambodia and Vietnam too!) (You can always take a cab.) We hoofed it into town when we could see buildings. Often, the locals offer their own tours at about half or less than the price on the ship. As I was telling someone today, one of the excursions in Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier costs about $80 for a 15 minute ride to and from the ship. Tom and I will find a bus schedule and ride for a dollar or two. Or there are local buses owned by businesses that charge around $7.
In Ketchikan we take local buses to the two most beautiful outdoor Totem Museums in the world for only a dollar. You can’t travel like this unless you have studied each place you are visiting. You need maps … and everything you need is right on the net these days. You don’t have to buy guidebooks like we have done in the past. We are heading to Alaska soon and we will rent cars and tour ourselves in both Seward and Skagway.
You can do this on most islands and places in the world.
Skip Lunch. Tom and I always take a water bottle that we fill with water from the ship when we visit a destination. Water out of the ship’s tap is as good as water anywhere. We usually make a sandwich at breakfast and take it with us so we don’t have to come back to the ship for lunch or spend money on site. Pack plastic bags. On the ship, you will see a lot of people doing this. In the old days, they packed lunches for you, but most ships no longer do this for passengers.
Don’t Buy a Gown or Rent a Tux. Most ships have evenings when everyone goes wild. They get their hair done and spend all day in front of the mirror getting themselves ready for dinner. After 25 years that got old for us. But this might be something that you want to do. The ship will have photographers stationed everywhere to capture your beauty. To save money just bring black slacks and a black top/shirt. Guys don’t have to wear jackets. They won’t kick you out of the dining room. Many people do not like these dress-up nights and you will find them skipping the dining room for the buffet on the top floor.
Sailing on a cruise ship can foster rare moments in your life that you will never forget, like the steely grand mountains in Alaska.
We will catch up with you soon!
As always, this post is copyrighted by Marla J. Selvidge