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There are about a ZILLION things to love about going on a cruising adventure.
In so many ways, cruising is the most hassle-free way to travel you’ll ever come across.
You get to visit multiple exciting ports of call without constantly having to pack and unpack your suitcases.
You also get lodging, entertainment, and food for one all-inclusive price.
You’ll load up on sunshine, stunningly beautiful ocean views, and a seemingly endless array of onboard options for fun while making memories that will last a lifetime.
You can eat 24/7 and stuff your face with delicious desserts morning, noon, and night.
Or, you can choose to take it easy and just kick back and relax poolside with a Mai Tai in your hand.
Not to mention, your room stewards make little towel animals for you every night.
But if you’re not careful, all this fun can come at a high price: an outrageous bill at the end of your glorious vacation.
That’s because although cruising is still one of the best vacation values around, it still costs money.
Sometimes, a lot of money.
When you’re out having fun on the high seas, the last thing you want to think about is your bank account.
But unless you’re vigilantly guarding against temptations that will obliterate your frugal principals, you can go hog wild.
If you avail yourself of everything you have to offer, you might find yourself blowing your vacation fund even before you leave port.
The good news is if you do it right, going on a cruise doesn’t have to break the bank.
But to not bust your budget, you need to know about all the little strategies that add up to HUGE savings.
Read this article to discover all the money-saving tips that will slash hundreds of dollars off of every cruise you take!
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a newbie, you’ll get the most cruising bang for your buck after you read what I have to tell you.
Never Pay the Brochure Price
Cruise companies love it when you pick up one of their glossy brochures.
All of those gorgeously shot photographs of people whooping it up on the ship really put you in the mood to immediately set sail for some exotic port of call.
Plunking down your hard-earned money might seem like a no-brainer at this point.
Then, they hit you with the prices.
But at this stage, you don’t care how much it costs.
You just want to go on a cruise!
However, the prices quoted in these brochures are grossly over-inflated.
Unless demand far outstrips supply, nobody ever pays these prices.
So, you shouldn’t either.
Use the strategies that follow to get a rock-bottom price.
Know When to Book Your Cruise
Sometimes, booking a cruise way in advance is best.
Other times, it pays to wait until the last possible moment to get an incredible price.
If you book a cruise more than a year in advance of the departure rate, you can often get an unbeatable deal.
Sometimes, cruise lines woo people who book a cruise months in advance with exclusive amenities such as low fares, beverage packages, free or reduced airfare, shore excursions, free specialty dining, and cabin upgrades.
If they offer you an incredible deal like this, jump right on it!
However, even if you do, it pays to keep your eyes on the price for any fluctuations.
That’s because unlike airfare, you can cancel most cruise bookings up until a month before you set sail.
Bookmark the cruise company site to keep monitoring the price or have your travel agent do it for you.
Some fares are nonrefundable, so check to see if this is the case when you’re booking the cruise.
But don’t only monitor the prices.
Look to see if the cruise line is offering more attractive promotions such as excellent beverage packages, prepaid gratuities, or free WIFI minutes.
Because cruise prices continuously fluctuate, the closer it gets to departure time, the higher the chance that the cruise line will drop the price.
And if they do, you’ll score a huge bargain.
When cruise lines can’t fill their cabins, they drastically reduce the rates to find passengers at the last minute.
If you’re comfortable gambling on getting a last-minute cruise deal, it might be worth waiting a month or two before departure to see what the sales are.
However, you’ll have to sacrifice getting top-notch accommodations in the best parts of the ship in exchange for a rock-bottom price.
This means that an outside cabin with a balcony is DEFINITELY out of the question.
Travel During Off-Peak Times
Book your cruise during off-peak times.
If the only time you can cruise is when the kids are out of school, be prepared to pay a lot.
But if you’re able to travel offseason, you can shave a couple of hundred dollars off your fare.
You can often find tremendous cruise bargains if you book an autumn departure when school’s in session.
No kids on board will mean the sailing will be SO much quieter.
And, there will still be warm weather in virtually any port you could possibly visit.
However, keep in mind that autumn is in the middle of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Another great time to book your sailing is between Thanksgiving and mid-December.
This is a time when ships have been repositioned to Florida, but not a whole lot of cruising going on.
So, a glut of ships and not many people sailing equals excellent deals for you!
The ship will be beautifully decorated for the season, which should help put you in the holiday spirit.
And there will be all kinds of holiday-themed activities.
January, February, and early May are other times you’ll get great deals.
Sometimes, you can find excellent bargains in March and April during weeks when there’s no spring break.
Do Your Research
If you put in some time doing research, you’ll be more confident what average fares look like for the kind of cruises you’re looking for.
So, when there’s a sale, you’ll know it’s a fantabulous deal, and you can act fast to snag it.
Get intimately acquainted with all the places all the good Internet deals hang out and you’ll be ready to score some.
Book A Smaller or Older Ship
If you cruise on an older or smaller ship, you’ll save a little cash on your cruise.
Ships keep getting bigger, and with the size increase, more attractions are added.
If you can live without all that pizzazz, you’ll get a great deal.
Take Advantage of Homeport Cruising
Another way to save a little cash is to take advantage of homeport cruising.
This means that instead of embarking from some distant foreign port, you can cruise from a port city right here in the United States.
This way, you can drive to your departure point and you won’t have to pay for an expensive overseas plane ticket.
Book a Repositioning Cruise
Another way to save tons of money is by booking a repositioning cruise.
These cruises can be incredibly cheap because the purpose of their sailing isn’t really to cruise.
It’s to send their ship to a new homeport.
The cruise company figures if they’re doing this, they might as well make some money on the side.
Keep in mind that if you go on one of these things, you’ll be disembarking from a different port than the one you started out from.
Book a Guaranteed Stateroom
If you book a “guaranteed stateroom,” you’re guaranteed a cabin within that stateroom’s range (inside, outside, balcony, suite) or higher.
These guaranteed cabins have the absolute lowest prices.
When you book a guaranteed stateroom, you’re taking a bit of risk of being placed underneath a noisy nightclub or a busy galley.
However, this risk is minimal, and most people are pleased with the room they end up with.
Book an Inside Cabin
By booking an inside cabin instead of a balcony or a stateroom with a window, you’ll save.
You’re not going on the cruise to stay cooped up in your room; you’re going to all the ports and enjoying the beautiful ocean views.
But you can see these views from other parts of the ship.
Plus, without any natural light waking you up, you get to sleep in every morning.
Book During Wave Season
The cruise industry offers its best deals during wave season, which is from January 1st to March 31st.
This is when the industry goes nuts and books a crazy number of cruises.
If you book during this time, you might find a bargain so irresistible it would be criminal to pass it up.
Sail with a Group
Sign up a group of at least 16 people for a cruise, and the cruise company will make it worth your while.
That’s because many cruise lines handsomely reward those who take the initiative to put together a cruise for their buddies or relatives with fantastic perks such as free fare and exclusive shore excursions.
But this isn’t exactly smooth sailing for would-be cruise planners, because they’ll have to work hard to earn those perks.
It takes tremendous effort putting together a package that will please everyone!
Book Your Next Cruise on Your Current One
If you book your next cruise while you’re on your current one, you might be able to get a fantastic fare discount on your next open seas adventure.
You’ll get some other money-saving perks as well, like onboard credit for your future cruise.
Even if you must put a deposit down, you’ll probably be able to get it back should you change your mind.
You don’t even have to choose the exact date.
Simply put a deposit down, get your savings, and choose the date later.
Book the Shore Excursions Yourself
While the convenience of booking your shore excursions through the cruise line cannot be denied, you’ll save money and have a much better experience if you arrange them yourself.
Booking them ahead of time through third parties or waiting until you get to shore to find a local to conduct your very own tour is so much cheaper!
This way, you can customize the tour and go to the less-crowded beaches—something that the tours organized by the cruise lines don’t allow you to do.
There’s always a group of locals just waiting around to show you the place they call home.
What’s more, they’ll do it for dirt cheap.
You can also book tours through websites like Viator for a fraction of what the cruise companies are charging you.
However, booking with the cruise line does guarantee that your ship won’t leave without you.
To prevent this nightmarish scenario, just make sure you’re back at the dock at least two hours before your ship is due to depart.
Understand What’s Included
With your fare, some things are included and others that aren’t.
Make sure you understand what those things are.
You might be able to save money by paying a little more to have a more inclusive experience.
What You Should Bring from Home
Anything you can bring from home is something you won’t have to buy later.
This is great because you’ll be paying super inflated prices for anything you have to buy on the boat.
For example, if you love snorkeling, bring your own gear from home to save you from having to rent it.
Another thing to bring from home is sunscreen.
If you’re going to be a sun-drenched part of our planet, you’re going to need it.
Lots of it.
So, you best stock up.
And like everything else, it’s going to be twice the price you pay back home.
Stock up on many medications you’ll need too, including over the counter medications.
Also, bring batteries if you have a camera that requires them.
Use Cash to Replenish Your Onboard Account
Use cash to replenish your onboard account instead of a credit card.
This helps to keep your spending under control.
To add more cash to your account, you’ll have to stand in the often-long lines for guest services.
This can make you think twice before adding more money to your card.
Avoid Expensive ATM Fees by Bringing Cash
Bring cash with you to avoid expensive ATM fees.
Ideally, you’ll be able to estimate the total amount of cash you’ll need for your trip and get it from your bank before you leave without paying anything.
For most of your purchases, you can use a good travel card.
But sometimes, you’ll want to use cash.
Never Pay for an Exercise Class
Never pay for an overpriced, onboard exercise class if you really want to be frugal.
Use the free gym instead, or get to the pool before anyone else is there and do laps.
You can also walk instead of hailing an Uber on shore excursions.
Also, skip the elevator while on the ship and use the stairs.
Skip the Specialty Restaurants
Skip the specialty restaurants and eat in the buffets and dining rooms you’ve already paid for.
Why waste your money?
Don’t Over Tip
A gratuity is often included in your bill.
So, check to see if it before you tip.
Skip the Beverage Packages
A lot of people don’t realize that all-inclusive doesn’t mean alcoholic beverages are included.
You can buy a beverage package if you want to drink without having to plunk money down every time you have one.
But unless you drink like a fish, you should skip these pricey packages.
That’s because to make most beverage packages cost-effective, you’ll have to drink eight to ten drinks per day.
Can you really drink that much?
One way to cut down on the cost of alcoholic beverages is to bring your own.
Most cruise companies let you bring one bottle of wine per person.
But make sure you pack a corkscrew because there’s a $25 corkage fee to have the dining room open your bottle.
If you’re dead set on buying a beverage package, wait until the ship is out to sea.
That’s because when it’s in international waters, you won’t have to pay tax.
If your cruise company doesn’t offer an unlimited drink package and you just got to have an alcoholic beverage, splurge for the soda package.
Then, buy a bottle of rum from room service.
This way, you can mix your own drinks and save a bundle.
You can also buy your drinks during happy hour to take advantage of “buy one get the second for two bucks” specials.
Check the daily events flyer to see when they’ve scheduled this most momentous of occasions.
Usually, it’s about an hour after the ship has disembarked from port.
You better hurry, though, because the bar fills up fast!
You can also wait to buy your drinks from the shore bars.
One little known cruising fact is that the further you get away from port, the cheaper the drinks get.
This will give you a chance to taste a cocktail that’s locally crafted.
It will probably be so much yummier and a whole lot cheaper too.
Some shops offer free beer, hoping it will disinhibit you, and you’ll then buy their wares.
Take advantage of their no-cost libations while trying not to fall for their transparent gimmick.
If the strongest thing you drink is Coca-Cola, keep in mind that most cruise lines allow one 12-pack of soda per person to be brought on board.
Make sure to do this because a can of soda will cost you roughly two bucks plus a tip.
A soda card costs about seven dollars a day, adding up to about 50 bucks for a seven-day cruise when you factor in gratuities.
To save the most amount of money, just drink water.
It’s better for you, and if you fill up a bottle from the drinking fountains, it’s free.
Empty Out the Mini-Fridge
Ask the room steward to empty out the mini-fridge in your cabin.
This way, you won’t be tempted to sample one of their overpriced beverages.
And, you’ll have more fridge space for other stuff.
Do Your Own Laundry
If you’re embarking on a lengthy cruise, you’ll need more clothing than it’s prudent to pack.
Although your ship will have a full-service dry cleaning and laundry service on board, it’s very expensive.
Wash your clothes in your cabin bathroom.
Then, dry them on the shower stall.
You can also use one of the ship’s token-operated laundromats.
In any case, bring your favorite detergent in a Ziploc bag along with a few dryer sheets.
By doing your own laundry, you won’t have to pay the outrageous amount the cruise companies charge to do your laundry for you.
Bring some wrinkle release spray too, because most cruise lines have banned bringing travel irons on board for safety reasons.
Skip the Internet Package
Bring your cell phone, because you may need it at the airport.
But don’t use it on the ship, because international rates for calls, texting, and data usage can be ridiculously expensive.
Cruise lines are starting to roll out cheaper and faster internet packages.
However, not every cruise company offers these options yet.
Many internet packages start out at 75 cents a minute, and there might be a connection charge of $3.95 or more.
Making a cellular call while at sea will set you back three to six dollars a minute, and a single text message will take fifteen dollars out of your wallet.
All these charges are hardly worth it because the super-slow speeds are almost as bad as the old AOL dial-up days.
Instead, try to enjoy the exhilarating freedom of being unplugged.
If you’re going through cyber withdrawal on your cruise, visit an internet café while in port.
Not only will the connection speeds be what you’re used to, but you can also usually get around sixty minutes of online time for five bucks.
If you must make cell phone calls to check on things back in the States, get an international calling card.
For one-tenth of what you would otherwise pay, you can stay in contact with home base.
Use Your Onboard Credit Wisely
Make sure you don’t fritter away any onboard credit you’ve accrued.
It’s not free money, because you received it in exchange for something else (like upgrading your room).
So, don’t waste it!
Join A Loyalty Program
If you’re thinking you might want to cruise regularly, sign up for your preferred cruise line’s loyalty rewards program.
These programs reward you with perks like buy one get one free drinks, discounts at onboard shops, and exclusive invitations to parties with the captain.
Use Discount Gift Card Sites
Use discounted gift card sites to pay for your cruise.
Put down a deposit, and then go to Raise.com and other sites to see if you can get a discounted gift card for the cruise line you use the most.
Wait to Buy Your Souvenirs
Purchase your souvenirs during a shore excursion instead of on the ship, and you’ll save a bundle.
If you want to buy them from the cruise company, wait until towards the end of the cruise to buy your souvenirs.
They’ll be massively discounted then.
It’s so much fun to go on a cruise.
It’s even more fun knowing you saved a bundle on it.
With all the strategies in this article, you’ll save ridiculous amounts of cash on your next ocean adventure!
You’ll save so much, cruising won’t have to be just a once-in-a-lifetime experience anymore.
Even if you’re a frugal warrior like myself, you might be able to do it two, three, even four times a year by implementing these powerful money-saving tips.
So, get out there on the beautiful azure waters of some tropical bay and revel in the delicious freedom of being far out at sea!