A cruise is an incredible vacation experience, but it can also be very expensive. Luckily, there are several ways to find affordable cruise vacations.
Look for deals online and on social media. Many cruise lines offer promotions that include discounted cabins, free perks like drink packages and other perks. Also, consider choosing a cruise that departs from a port that is within driving distance of your home.
1. Look for deals online
Cruising can be a boatload of fun and a great value for your money. With cruise fares including three meals a day, snacks and basic beverages, you’ll only need to pay for cruise extras such as excursions or alcoholic drinks.
Chris Daley, who cruises two to three times a year, uses several different websites to check rates and waits for deals. He checks the websites of individual cruise lines as well as Expedia, which doesn’t charge booking fees but does not offer price guarantees.
Another option is CruiseDirect, which specializes in cruises and allows travelers to search by destination, cruise line or departure port. It also offers bonus details next to each sailing date.
2. Plan your trip months in advance
If you’re thinking about taking a cruise, you should begin planning well in advance. A year is a good median time to start researching and finding deals.
Having a clear budget is key to sticking with your cruise vacation plan and not overspending. Excessive onboard spending can be a problem, especially if you’re tempted by merchandise or activities.
To avoid this, you can always book a cruise during off-peak seasons. These include the shoulder season of spring or fall, where prices are cheaper. You can also book repositioning cruises, which offer longer trips from major departure ports to exotic destinations for less. You can save even more if you’re willing to fly to your destination instead of driving.
3. Book a cabin with an interest-free credit card
A lot of people think cruises are inexpensive, but when you factor in all the extra charges such as spa treatments, alcohol, ship shopping and specialty restaurant fees, a trip to a tropical paradise can cost more than expected. That’s why it’s helpful to join email newsletters for travel agencies and cruise lines you’re interested in to get daily and weekly deals.
And if you’re not picky about cabin type or location, it’s worth waiting until about 6 to 12 weeks before your departure date to book. That’s when prices are likely to drop as balance payments come due and passengers cancel. You can often save big on repositioning cruises as well, which occur when a ship that typically sails one route moves to another.
4. Book a cabin close to your home
When it comes to cruise vacations, one of the biggest out-of-pocket expenses can be flights and hotels near the departing and arrival ports. By booking a cabin on a ship that sails out of a port close to your home, you can save hundreds straight away.
Cruise line cabins come in a range of sizes and price points, with inside cabins without windows the cheapest and balcony rooms costing more. If you’re willing to sacrifice a view for savings, consider booking a “guarantee cabin.”
Travel agents are often able to find deals on these staterooms by using their connections with the cruise lines. They may also be able to negotiate onboard credits, free cruise gratuities and room upgrades.
5. Avoid the peak season
In general, cruises that sail during the peak season are more expensive. These are the times when ships fill up with families and honeymooners, resulting in higher fares.
If you can, try to avoid traveling during the summer months when fares are at their highest. Instead, look for cruises that sail during the off peak season.
For instance, a seven-night cruise to the Galapagos Islands in March will cost significantly less than one during peak season. You can also save money by booking a cruise that departs from ports close to home. This will cut down on airfare, car rental costs and hotel fees.
6. Avoid paying for extras
It may seem counterintuitive, but paying for extras on your cruise can really add up. This includes everything from soda to internet access. By following these tips, you can save money and enjoy a stress-free vacation!
Tip 1: Book an interior cabin. Newer ships with their one-of-a-kind attractions can command top prices, but older cruise ships are well maintained and still offer great value. Opt for an interior cabin and use your savings on other cruise perks like onboard credit, free specialty dinners or cash-back.
Other travel expenses, including transit and lodging, can also add up quickly. But booking these expenses with a rewards credit card can help you save.