Your cruise fare includes your accommodations, on board activities and entertainment, most meals, plus transportation from port to port. You’ll know what your vacation will cost you before you go, and with advanced planning you can make payments leading up to your vacation so that your budget is happy and healthy. Typically, your only extra expenses will be transportation to your port, drinks while on-board, specialty restaurants, as well as optional shore excursions along the way. While the list of “add-ons” is relatively short, without careful planning your budget can take an unexpected hit. Generally speaking the best value you will find is when you plan your cruise 9 – 12 months out since this is when you will find the best bonuses, most on-boards credits and premium selection of cabins. Last minute fares can also be an especially budget friendly options. Also the age of your ship affects the price you will pay for a cruise – -the newer ships also command premium prices.
If you do need to fly to your port, your best bet is not purchasing your air when you book your cruise unless you are getting a credit or you are flying in on the day the cruise departs. With air, often watch and wait pays off with significant savings, but don’t wait beyond the six to eight week window as fares tend to go up. As with all travel advice, there are always exceptions so don’t be afraid to ask a professional about the current pricing trends industry wide.
Most shipboard accommodations are designed for, and unfortunately priced for couples; however single women traveling in groups can take advantage of their group status by sharing a cabin, and often times booking a larger suite and adding a 3rd or 4th passengers that might only be charged a nominal fee. This is a great way to travel first class and actually pay less money! Huge savings can also be garnered in transportation to the port when you drive, instead of flying. And let’s face it girls – there is no baggage restriction when you drive and the cruise ships still delivery awesome customer service, including handling your bags without a service charge, although tips are appreciated!
You can save money by booking a smaller inside cabin, but this is not the best place to save money – splurge, get the spacious balcony cabin with a view.You wouldn’t be sorry you did.
Do be aware that many fares quoted DO NOT INCLUDE PORT CHARGES AND TAXES; these fees can be significant so make sure any quote you see includes these amounts.
Additional money saving tips:
Some cruise lines allow you to bring bottled water and soda, and even the ones that don’t will allow you to bring reusable water bottles. Take advantage of this by bringing some Crystal Light or other flavoring to add to your water. This can be an easy, big money saver.
If you wish to partake in alcohol, limit your purchase of single drinks, instead opt for a bottle of wine, special bucket of beer, or perhaps even a festive pub crawl. (My mind drifts back to a group of like-minded people traipsing through every drinking venue on the ship to sample libations. Passing by those more restrained passengers, and answering our Cruise Director’s query, Who Loves Alcohol? I LOVE ALCOHOL! Chanting. Singing. Games. That was a fun night indeed, but I digress.)
Do make sure you get a free on-board credit – -usually $50 – 300 depending on line, sailing and cabin selection. A good travel professional can almost always match you to the right cruise, and secure a little extra cash that will take the sting out of your balance due bill. Want more cash? Purchase stock. With as little as 100 shares of Carnival or Royal Caribbean stock, you’ll get between $50 and $200 of free cabin credit on every cruise you take with that line.
Find others that want to travel the same time you do – -anytime the number of people in your party exceeds 10 additional savings are often yours for the asking. You simply get more and pay less with any group booking and a group booking is surprisingly easy to qualify for. Don’t have a group of your own? Ask your travel agent to book you into another group’s space!
Consider options for shore excursions that are not sponsored by the cruise lines. Most cruise lines do a very good job, but you can almost always can find a similar or better shore excursion for a little less money. Yes, it is true that the cruise ship will leave you if you do not get back by the witching hour if you are on an excursion that they are not sponsoring; however folks whose livelihood depends on cruise ships do not take chances when it comes to getting tourists back to the ship on time. Shore Excursions one of my favorite companies to book clients with has never, I repeat never had a customer miss the boat, so relax and enjoy your time ashore.
Book your cruise yourself at some website with the word cheap in it. Wait. Stop. No. THAT IS WRONG! The cruise fare you pay is generally the same no matter where you book – On the cruise lines website, at a “cheap” website or even “mega” website, the difference is the knowledge, extra FREE bonuses that you receive with your booking. An upgraded cabin, complimentary bottle of wine, free cocktail party, even free excursions can come with booking a cruise. By having a travel agent watch for a special to your dream destination or on your dream ship you can get the best vacation value and have best vacation experience ever, and not break the bank.
Arrive at your destination a day early, and have a spa day on land. You can have pretty red toes and sultry legs on the beach without being in the red. Ships have some amazing spas, and I do wholeheartedly recommend finding some blissful relaxation time, but beware of the prices.