Cruises can be a great way to relax and see different parts of the world, and are especially good options for those on a tighter budget. After all, with the all-inclusive pricing that cruising offers, you can get your transportation, lodging, food, and entertainment with one upfront cost. Sometimes, traveling to these same destinations on your own can end up costing a lot more. If you aren’t careful, however, cruising can be just as expensive—if not more so. The following are some ways you can cut down on your cruise costs:
Book with a travel agent
The next time you’re planning a cruise, save right away by ensuring you get the best price possible. You may be able to get a lower price—or other perks, such as on-board credits, excursion credit, or cabin upgrades—by booking through a travel agent. Tell your travel agent what cruise you’re planning on and see what he or she comes back with. Before making any final booking arrangements, be sure to compare prices with other websites, and also check the cruise line’s official website to see if they have any better promotions. Oftentimes, your travel agent may be able to price match (or even beat) a better offer that you find elsewhere.
Pick a nearby port
You don’t have to live in Florida or California to be close to a cruise port; you’d be surprised at how many different, fun-filled cruises depart from all over the country. Even if you don’t live that close to the coast, driving a couple hours to your closest cruise port can save you a bundle. This allows you to avoid airfare, which can easily add a couple hundred dollars (at least) per person for your cruise trip. If you’re talking a large family, cruising close to home can definitely reduce your overall cost drastically.
During the booking process, carefully consider the type of cabin you’re booking. Unless you’re a bigger family that needs the extra space, you’ll usually be better off just booking the cheapest cabin option available, especially if you’re on a tight budget. Springing for extras, such as rooms with windows or balconies, can easily double (or even triple) the cost of your entire trip from the get-go. Because you probably won’t spend much time in your cabin anyway, this could be one of the easiest ways to spend more on your trip than you really need to. And if there are any better cabins available upon check-in, it’s not unusual to be upgraded for free, so you might still get that better cabin for a lower price.
Consider the destinations
Before you book your cruise, carefully think about the different ports of call and take the cost of each destination into consideration if saving money is your primary goal. Some destinations will cost a lot more than others, and some ports will make it easy to have a fun-filled day without spending a dime. For example, visiting various European cities can be a much costlier trip than cruising to the Caribbean, if you just plan on visiting public beaches on your in-port days.
Sign up for the cruise line’s loyalty program
If you think you might plan to cruise again, sign up for the cruise line’s loyalty program, which won’t cost you anything. These loyalty programs work similarly to airline mileage programs, and can eventually mean big savings on future cruises. Try to book all of your future cruises with the same cruise line and you can begin racking up points and rewards, which can come with a lot of perks: think on-board credit, free excursions, automatic upgrades, and discounted cruising rates.
Food is usually included in the price of your cruise, so be sure to take advantage of this during your trip. It can be easy to overspend on food while your ship is docked, so be sure to eat a big breakfast before disembarking, and try to make it back to the ship for lunch, if possible. You could also order room service before you disembark for the day, and bring food with you into the port and have a nice picnic somewhere. If your ship has a late departure or is docked overnight, avoid eating dinner at the port destination as well, which can easily add a lot of extra money to the cost of your trip. Instead, go back to the ship to take advantage of the free dinner that is offered.
Washing your clothes onboard can cost a lot of money, but if you’re going on a long cruise, this can be a difficult cost to avoid. Try bringing enough clothing with you so that you can avoid doing laundry, or give yourself a good excuse to pick up some of those fun t-shirts you saw at the souvenir shop while you were docked. If you absolutely must clean some of your clothes while on your cruise, try hand washing your garments when possible. If you have something that needs a little more attention, try getting your laundry done while you’re in-port. It may not seem like a practical idea, but there could be facilities located very close to the dock, which can provide laundering services for a fraction of the cost and can be done before your ship departs from the port. To save time, do research before your trip to find out what ports would be easier to do this at, so you know ahead of time.
Avoid the casino
One of the quickest ways to spend way more money than you ever planned is by visiting the ship’s casino. A lot of cruise ships will have casinos and allow gambling, unless you’ll be sailing through waters that prohibit it. With all of the other free entrainment that is offered on board, you can find something else that can keep you occupied, and avoid possibly losing a significant amount of money.