I was introduced to cruising at the very young age of four (see picture above 😂), but the excitement of boarding a floating city has never left. The salty air, incomparable sunsets, and on-board amenities offer passengers a chance to relax and let loose, but that’s just the beginning! Each morning, you will wake up to a different port where you can discover a new part of the world you’ve not seen before. Whether you want to take in the stunning views of Alaska, scuba dive in the Caribbean, or eat pizza in Naples, cruising can take you there in style!
I am such a fan of traveling by ship, that I wanted to tell how I have been able to afford going on them without breaking the bank. Below are all of the ways I save money on cruising!
1. Book 9-12 months in advanced or weeks before: Giving yourself a healthy amount of time to pay for your vacation will decrease the stress of spending money on a trip. This is how I normally book so that I can make payments instead of having to make one payment upfront. However, if you’re looking for something a little more spur of the moment, booking a few weeks before can save you big time! Like hotels, cruise ships want to book every room so they offer major discounts. The two issues with waiting until the last minute though are flight prices and you may have to really compromise on what type of room you stay in.
Side note: There are some who won’t cruise unless they get a balcony or suite and others who always choose the general stateroom. I’ve stayed in both and while balconies are great for private views, the staterooms are much less! They look small in pictures, but if you’re traveling alone or with one other person, they’re very comfortable. Plus, the point of traveling is to go and do! Other than sleeping and getting ready, you will rarely be in your room.
2. Research passenger liners: You are going to want to look into at least 3-4 different companies to see what amenities are offered on-board, pricing, itineraries and reviews. While comparing, keep in mind what factors are most important to you such as on-board amenities, demographics (Lots of kids vs. mostly adults), dining options, and ports. I’ve been on Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and Oceania Cruises. I enjoyed all of them, but I love Royal Caribbean because of the on-board amenities and outstanding service at reasonable pricing. Holland America and Norwegian Cruise Line has great food and service as well with what seemed like less children. Oceania Cruises is a luxury line that is known for its five star service and cuisine, but it is quite expensive. If you do have kiddos, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Disney Cruises are great options!
3. Compare itineraries: You will of course have to decide where you’re wanting to go and for how long. Most cruise lines offer 2-5, 5-10, and 10+ day options which is helpful to those who want to try out cruising and for those who are budget conscious like myself. Keep in mind that different cruise lines visit different ports than others in the same region (Ex: Celebrity Cruises goes to Ketchikan and Sitka on their Alaska itinerary while other pass these ports). When you have chosen the cruise line, continue researching the itineraries offered because there are weeks where prices will differentiate significantly (most of the time by a $100.00 or more).
4. Sign-up for newsletters: Whether you have never cruised or you take several a year, sign-up for newsletters from a couple of different cruise lines. It will help you stay updated on promotions and do a lot of the price comparison for you! By paying attention to these, I have received 50% off the second passenger and on-board ship credit that can be used toward excursions, dining/beverage packages, and spa packages.
5. Book excursions during Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend or don’t book at all: I received 30% off our excursion and specialty dining reservation because I booked during Cyber Monday. It was great! However, we chose to only book one excursion through the cruise line because it was a popular one and we didn’t want to miss out. Other than that reason, you can save a lot of money by choosing to book outside of the cruise line. When you disembark at your destination, there will be lots of booths and local tour guides waiting on the dock or nearest taxi area. They will offer you the same excursions for a lower rate! For example, we paid $80 total for a taxi ride and beach day at Playa Mia beach (this included snorkeling, kayaking, and the water trampoline/obstacle course) instead of the $79 per person price that the cruise line was offering!
Side note: If you do book an excursion with a local guide try to go with a group to save money on taxi rides and to be safe! The guides and taxi drivers that are there do this for a living and are usually quite friendly, but you should always be aware of your surroundings especially in an unfamiliar area!
6. Research food options: Always look into what dining options are included with the price of the cruise before going so you don’t miss out on all the good stuff. There are some options that you may think are extra, but are free like the pizza on the promenade or juice in the buffet area. As stated above, we chose to spend a little extra on the last cruise because of the discount we received booking during the holiday weekend. However, it is certainly not necessary to pay more to receive amazing food. The main dining room provides a well rounded menu each night (many items that are similar to those found in the speciality restaurants) and the buffets/cafes also serve yummy items.
7. Say “No” to internet: I know, I know. You want to upload your pictures and send emails, but I encourage you to wait so that you can not only truly un-plug and relax, but to also save you money! Weekly internet packages can range anywhere from $120-$200 per person. There are some cruise lines offer minutes for a set rate as well as “social plans” (Plans that give internet access only to social networking sites excluding email) for as low as $30 per person, but it is still time and money you’re taking taking away from really enjoying your vacation. The uploads can wait!
8. Research beverage packages: Choosing to buy or forgo a beverage package is completely up to the individual! We rarely drink anything other than water, so we opted not to pay for a package. Instead, we bought a couple drinks each and ended the cruise with a $40 tab. If you do plan on drinking soda and alcohol several times a day, I definitely recommend buying a beverage package! Pricing depends on what beverages you”ll be consuming (soda, coffee, alcohol, or all) but even some specialty drinks are not included. Generally, deluxe packages that include all beverages start at $50/day per person.
Side note: Pay attention to the daily itineraries because they will tell you what the daily drink specials are!
9. Keep an eye on your tips: Tipping for incredible service should be done without question, but make sure not to overtip. Most cruise ships include gratuities in the price that you pay before or after your voyage. However, you can leave additional tips to staff who have gone above and beyond for you such as your stateroom attendant and dining room servers.
Side note: Remember the tips for the luggage valets, taxi/shuttle drivers, and tour guides!
10. Skip the photo package: Photo packages on cruises are pretty pricey! On the last ship we were on, it was $100 for six printed or digital photos while individual photos were $20. Bring your selfie stick or ask someone else to take your pictures!
10. Take advantage of the amenities: Get the most out of your money and enjoy the ships attractions! Go to the nightly shows in the theater! Enjoy as many food courses as you want! Attend a free fitness seminar! Lounge by the pool or play mini golf!
11. Don’t forget to sign-up for member perks!: Even if you’ve only been on one cruise or multiple, it is so great for earning points and getting great rewards. I have gone on a few different passenger cruise lines, but have been on more Royal Caribbean ships than the others so I chose to sign up for their Anchor Society program. Their particular program has membership levels based on points (you earn 1 point per each travel day) and you only need 3 points to be a Gold member! Upon your first day of embarking, members get priority boarding and receive a list of on-board discounts for the week and big specials. For example, we received a buy one get one milkshake at Johnny Rocket’s, 10% off any speciality drink (soda/alcohol/coffee) and other great deals! Even after your trip has ended, members continue to receive discounted rates on room upgrades and packages. The higher the level, the better the discounts! The best part: there is no cost to being a member.
12. Think about getting a cruise lines credit card: I almost didn’t put this one on here, but decided to because I really have saved money because of it! I’m not going to promote which card/ cruise line is best because that is subjective, but the card I use earns me a point for every dollar spent and I receive double the points whenever I make a payment toward a cruise! The points can be used toward on-board credit or paying for a cruise, so by the time I’m on the ship, my excursions are paid for! I use it on groceries, monthly bills, and miscellaneous things just like I would with any other card, but I receive points (that are turned into credits) toward cruising. I like that I am at least getting something in return on money that would be spent regardless.
13. Book your next cruise on a cruise: In April 2017, we went on a 7 day Western Caribbean Cruise that cost about $1,400 total after taxes and excursion add-ons. We booked through the website 9 months prior and had gotten a great deal, but still had to pay a $500 upfront deposit. While we were on the ship, we learned that booking while cruising not only cut the deposit down to $50, but $50 of on-board credit would be given as well. The credit was awesome because it could be used on the current voyage or the future booking. On top of this, we also received a 30% off each traveler on one of the newest ships, Harmony of the Seas traveling to the Eastern Caribbean for 7 days! This brought the price down from $2198 to $1,831 and we have over a year to make payments on it!
Having gone on 12 cruises and counting, it is safe to say that cruising is by far my favorite way to vacation. I’ve been fortunate to travel and learn about different parts of our exciting world because of the unique experience that ships offer. I hope that my advice will persuade you to at least look into cruising as your next vacation!
Do you still have concerns? In my last post, 5 Cruising Myths Debunked, I answered the most common concerns and questions I receive from people when I mention cruising. If you haven’t read it, I recommend doing so if you’re still unsure about committing to trying one out!
Let me know if you have any other money saving tips! XO