Tips to Save Money on a Cruise
Posted on Monday, September 5th, 2011 at 8:12 am
Cruises can make for a great budget-friendly vacation. However, be aware of the many impulse buys offered on board – poolside cocktails, wine and beer, shore excursions, shopping, gambling, pictures, spa services … you can see how quickly your bill could get out of control on board a cruise ship. But don’t fret, there are ways to keep you bill under control and still enjoy your cruise vacation.
How to Save on Booking Your Cruise
There are several ways you can save money when booking a cruise:
- Book and pay early. The earlier you book, the better discount you can get. I’d recommend booking your cruise 4-6 months in advance. You’ll also get a better choice of rooms. Some cruise lines also offer discounts for paying in full 6 months in advance.
- Or, book last-minute. You can also get some good deals by booking last-minute, but you won’t get your choice of rooms. The ship would rather not leave port with empty cabins, so now is the time to put your negotiating skills to good use!
- Compare cruise lines.
- Ask about cabin upgrades. If a ship has available cabins, they may upgrade you if you are a repeat customer or are cruising for a special occasion.
- Look for promotions.
- Share a cabin. Usually, third and forth passengers sharing a room get a substantial discount.
- Consider an inside cabin. If saving money is more important to you than a window view, you might consider booking a cheaper inside cabin.
- Cruise line loyalty. If you find a cruise line you like, stick with them and you can potentially earn points towards discounts and bonuses on future cruises if you sign up for their loyalty program.
How to Save on Drinks
From the moment you step foot on board there will be waiters roaming about with trays of beautiful cocktails and drinks. Of course, these drinks aren’t free. If you plan to drink a lot of soda or cocktails, you might want to consider a drink pass. Drink passes can be purchased when you book your cruise or on board. Most cruise ships do offer some complimentary beverages such as water, lemonade, tea, and coffee. You can also attend the cocktail receptions, such as the Captain’s welcome or art receptions, for free drinks. Personally, I stick to the complimentary beverages to save money. That’s not to say you can’t treat yourself to one or two poolside margaritas, you are on vacation after all!
How to Save on Excursions
Before you book your on shore excursions through the cruise line, be sure to shop around for the best price. I’ve found that it is less expensive to book excursions independently. Check these sites for deals on excursions: viator.com, porttrips.com, and portpromotions.com. Or, book your excursions directly with the excursion company. When booking excursions, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to make it back to the ship in time or it will leave without you. I always just book my excursions early to allow enough time to get back on board.
Shopping, Gambling, and Everything Else
My advice on shopping, gambling, pictures, and spa services is to just pass them up entirely if you’re looking to save money on your cruise. However, you might find that some items in the gift shops are less expensive than on shore (and duty-free). If you actually need something from the gift shops, go ahead and buy it. In regards to gambling, your odds of winning on a cruise ship are far less than on shore. Play a dollar slot machine once, if you must, then walk away. You’ll also notice cruise staff walking around with cameras throughout the ship, but these pictures cost money. Instead, ask the staff to take pictures for you on your own camera. The spa services on board are also marked up, and I’ve found they just aren’t worth it. If you want to spend some time in the spa, look for on board raffles where you can win spa services.
Cruise Critic is great resource for planning your cruise. You can read reviews, share advice with other cruisers, and find deals. You can even meet people going on your cruise – perhaps you can organize group excursions to help each other save!