How to Take a Cruise for Cheap

by Vincent King · 6 comments

Your boss is nagging you — again — wanting to know where the reports are. They were due yesterday. The kids are bored, driving your wife nuts at home all summer. It’ll be months before you get any more time off. But you need it now. Not later.

As the news loops in the background, you start drifting to dreamland… smiling in your mind as you feel the breeze blowing in your face, like you were standing portside on the Carnival Dream.

BUZZZZ! Your alarm yanks you from your fantasy, kicking and screaming.

But, it’s too late; it’s in your mind. You’re going to find a cruise that you and your family can afford to take — if it’s the last thing you do.

There Are Affordable Cruises

No worries. Your dream is about to come true.

Thanks to the accessibility of people booking their own cruise vacations, off-season travel and last minute deals, you’ll be leaning on those boat side rails in no time, without the financial guilt to make your stomach feel like it went overboard.

Cruises that were once only for the rich and famous are priced more affordably than ever, especially if you know what you’re looking for and where to find it.

Tips for Snagging a Cruise for Cheap

1. Book late

The later you book, the harder the cruise liners are pushing to make sure they sell out the available rooms. In most cases, within 60-90 days of departure is when you’ll find the best deals, because that’s the time the current passengers have to finalize their bookings (pony up or lose out). If you want to take a chance (and can), buying tickets the day the vessel leaves port can save you around 80% of the normal ticket price!

2. Be flexible

If you’re fixed to a particular time and departure city, you won’t have as many options. But, if you can let savings dictate departure time, you have the potential to save a lot of money.

3. Look close to home

Go local and save on airfare. You can grab deals like Carnival’s $179 Caribbean cruises. Wow. If you live in or nearby Miami or other ports-of-call, you can snag obscenely amazing savings on four-day cruises to gorgeous destinations. In fact, if you live in any coastal state, you’ll be able to get to a departure port fairly easily. Check Carnival.com for their list of departure ports and find a cruise near you.

4. Be willing to settle for off-peak and repositioning trips

When the seasons change, cruise liners often change homeports. This is called repositioning. If you’re willing to travel during this time, you’ll not only have the benefit of unique ports-of-call, but great savings, as well. Off-peak travel is a bit different than repositioning cruises and may come with the hazard of less appealing weather. But if your goal is to cruise no matter what, off-peak might be perfect.

5. Travel in a group

If you have a special occasion approaching, or some celebration you want your family and friends to join, try a group cruise. When booking as a group, you’ll be able to negotiate lower rates.

6. Bid on it

As with airlines, there are websites like skyauction.com or allcruiseauction.com, where you can bid on your cruise of choice. Again, you’ll have to be flexible with departure times, and possibly, location. Make sure to read the fine print; you don’t want any surprises when it comes to fees associated with your purchase.

7. Sacrifice height or width

If you’re willing to go with lower room height, you’ll save more than those paying for upper deck rooms. The higher you go, the more expensive the rooms get. Also, smaller cabins or cabins without balconies always cost less. Consider where on the ship you need to be before paying for cabin size or locations you don’t need.

Flexibility is your key to an affordable cruise; it will help you take that exotic vacation you’ve always dreamed of.

Do you have any tips for cruising on the cheap?

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle July 8, 2013 at 5:23 am

Great tips! We’ve never been on a cruise but would really like to go on one soon.

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John S @ Frugal Rules July 8, 2013 at 5:57 am

These are some great tips. We have been on 3 cruises and used several of these tricks. I am too much of a planner to do anything short notice though. ;) The beauty of that though is that you have more of a choice when it comes to cabin selection.

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The Cruise Lady July 9, 2013 at 9:29 am

Showing up at the port on the day of sailing? I don’t think so! Since 9/11, cruise lines have had to turn in a copy of their manifest to the government 48 hours before departure.

Booking 60-90 days out can often get you good deals.

I won’t book an inside cabin. Too dark, too claustrophobic. I’ll take fewer cruises, but with a balcony. I spend a lot of time in my cabin, and I want the natural light. I go on cruises to relax, not join a frenzy of pool-side games.

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KM July 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Cruises sound interesting, but I am afraid of being seasick and not knowing until I am on the ship and paid for everything. I remember getting seasick when I was little, but although I wasn’t seasick on ferries a few years ago, I have no way of knowing if I will be on longer voyages.

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Property Marbella July 10, 2013 at 2:05 am

Cruise is a pleasure that you should not try to save. Of course, you should try to find that cheap trip as possible, and many of the tips are good. I can no more frivolous things that I can not write about. (have worked aboard cruise ships)

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zimmy@moneyandpotatoes.com July 11, 2013 at 12:36 am

I have never actually been on a cruise before but I would love to go on one in the future. It would be very relaxing to have an outside room with a balcony looking over the ocean. Ah, I can almost smell the ocean as I type this.

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