How to Save Money on Cruises

by Guest Contributor · 16 comments

Cruising has become an immensely popular way to get away and see a little bit of somewhere new. Cruises provide food, lodging and entertainment all in one place while taking you out into the ocean; a perfect vacation if it weren’t for the price. Luckily, there are some easy ways to cut your costs if you plan ahead and know what to look for.

Book Early

If you book before the season really begins, you will get better prices. The cruise lines want to make sure that their boats are at least partially filled, and will offer discounts to those who book early. Although you can get discounted rates once the cruising season has begun, they are usually not as good as those offered early.

Avoid Airfare Packages

The worst package you can get is one that combines airfare and the cruise itsel because rarely do you get anything close to a good flight fare. It is common to get multiple connections on your flight, and the times are rarely convenient. Since your cruise won’t wait for you no matter when you arrive, pick your own flights, arrive in plenty of time, and save the premium.

Take Advantage of the Shoulder Season

Shoulder season refers to the weeks immediately before or after the high season in cruising circles. You are still going to experience wonderful weather and sights, but you avoid the huge crowds that accumulate at favored destinations and you get some killer discounts.

Room to Breathe

Unless there is something seriously wrong with you, the amount of time you spend in your room is minimal. Basically, the room is the place you leave your clothes and retire to at the end of a day of swimming, playing and socializing. There is simply no reason to spend extra money for a larger room. Get an inside room, since there is a premium for a view, and pick the smallest room you consider reasonable, then get out on deck and enjoy yourself.

Bust the Bus

Tour companies at your destinations work out deals with the cruise company to provide day trips to various locations. Not only do these options usually cost more, they are quite likely to take you right to their selected gift shop to purchase mass produced junk while they get a kick back. Walk a couple of blocks away from the dock and find local transportation instead.

Many locations now have set fares posted by taxi stands. If you go anywhere else, negotiate up front for a price and don’t pay until you arrive at your destination. Just remember, the ship won’t wait for you and it can be very expensive to try and catch the boat, either on the water or at the next stop, so plan to be back with plenty of time to spare.

Additional Advice

Drinks are rarely included in your price and they can add up quickly. If your cruise line offers a “soda sticker” and you drink soda often, take advantage of the deal. In fact, bring along your own cup, because it is bound to be larger then anything they offer. If you prefer wine and liquor, consider bringing some of your own along. A corking fee is still cheaper than purchasing from the ship and the wine will be better. Budget yourself, and use cash if you must to stay within your limits.

Cruising can be lots of fun and with a little caution your cruise won’t result in months of debt. Remember, cruises are fun but not everything on board is included. Stay alert and don’t spend a bundle because of ignorance.

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  • Ian says:

    Re-positioning cruises determine the shoulder season in most locales. For example, the Alaska cruise season begins with ships repositioning to San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver in late April and early May. They re-position to warmer climates during September and October. With regards to alcohol or soda, if you need them, there are “drinking packages” available from cruise lines offered on a daily basis. Cruise lines do not use cash, except as a final payment on the cruise. Everything is charged to your room.

    Booking in far in advance may have some advantages; however, there is also a “short market” for unsold staterooms that occurs when potential passengers have to make their final payment for the cruise. Sometimes, prices drop, because an “unsold” stateroom is never sold once the ship has sailed. The goal is full occupancy.

    Stateroom preferences are an individual consideration, and it is important to realize that you are renting real estate for the duration of your cruise. Some basic rules come into play like, “location, location, location”. To be near the waterline, next to the infirmary at the bow of the ship, is not as desirable as to be mid ship (bow to stern, keel to topside). Being at the waterline means you are going to need elevators all the time, and you may experience long waits. There may be an increase in noise. If you are on an upper deck toward the bow or stern, you may experience more ocean movement. Close to a service door or elevator, you have the potential to hear noise at all hours. These are some of the considerations. Spending a little extra, and getting the location that you want can enhance your experience.

    Size and types of staterooms go together. Insides are the smallest, and suites are the largest. Depending on the type of experience you want cabin type comes into play. If a leisurely room service breakfast on the balcony is an important morning ritual, then you will want a balcony cabin. If you are a person who dashes out of their cabin in the morning, and only returns periodically, perhaps an inside will do the trick. No matter what size you get, most cabins are smaller than motel/hotel rooms.

    Finally, if you elect to purchase a balcony/ or outside cabin think about what you are going to be looking at. Taking a coastal cruise, and witnessing only the waves of the distant Pacific Ocean may be alright; however, those experiencing coastal views of the mainland; watching pilot boats come to the ship; and actually seeing the cities they are docked in have a richer experience.

    Bon Voyage.

  • Moneymonk says:

    Just what I needed I plan to sail in Jan.2010. These tips are much appreciated

  • Niche Marketing Man says:

    Very informative, I couldn’t agree more.

  • CD Phi says:

    Cruises are the way to go. Lots of eating and entertainment. At night, they’ll offer shows of all sorts like comedy acts. There’s plenty of time to swim and gamble on the ship. All in all, a good ttrip.

  • Marlene says:

    I agree about bringing wine on board. If you’re headed to Ft. Lauderdale for a cruise, we flew in the night before and stopped by the We were able to sample lots of different wines (they have these wine dispensing machines, so you can try all kinds of varieties), and then they boxed up the wine bottles we decided to bring on board. We also packed our own wine openers, and there were wine glasses already waiting for us in our cabin. We saved a ton of money compared to what we would have been charged by the cruise line. And when the cruise ended, we packed the remaining bottles in our luggage to fly home. I have found that I really prefer staying the night in the city where my cruise is departing because I wake up in the morning refreshed, relaxed, and no worries about missing my cruise, so do yourself a favor and stay over the night before you cruise.

  • Craig says:

    Cruises are all about what you spend on gambling and alcohol. The food for the most part is all free just the drinks you have to pay for. those drinks add up. If you can sneak a bottle or two on the boat you will be better off.

  • Steve says:

    Good and useful tips for cruising. Thanks for the tips and the seasonal discount offers also will help to cut the costs.

  • kenyantykoon says:

    while it is nice to save money any way that you can, you must not forget that it is a cruise and thus a time to let go a little. You dont have to go out of your way to save every single coin. I mean lets be real here, isn’t it why you worked so hard and saved so much, so that you can have enough to take nice holidays without having to think too much about money? But there are limits- do not overdo it.
    PS; i have never been on a cruise but i hear great things from the luckier deeper pocketed ones. 😉

  • Free Arcade Games says:

    Similar to any type of fare, booking early always helps you with the high costs 🙂


  • Financial Samurai says:

    Sounds good. Yes, June-Aug is definitely not low time… but just wonder what the exact cheapest months are, since it’s always easy to cruise anytime, as it’s also warm somewhere in the world.

  • Amy says:

    I just went on a cruise in September. They did not allow me to bring my own alcohol, nor did they allow me to pay cash for it on the ship. So, I don’t believe that advice is correct.

    • MoneyNing says:

      You are right. I don’t believe most cruises allow passengers to pay with cash. However, some cruise lines let people bring on alcohol, while others only allow wine but not others.

      If you’d like to bring alcoholic beverages on board next time you travel on a ship, I would look into the official policy of your cruise line as some, while allowing you to bring them on board, have strict procedures you need to follow.

    • fwisp says:

      Or you can just bring it in mouthwash bottles 🙂

  • fwisp says:

    This is really funny I was just thinking about looking up cruises this morning. Planning on sailing somewhere hot in January 🙂

  • Financial Samurai says:

    Sorry, but can you clarify when exactly the “shoulder season” is? Is that May or Oct, Nov?

    I love cruises. Thnx.

    • MoneyNing says:

      I checked online and every destination actually have a different peak season, so the shoulder season is consequently different as well. Except Canada, most places have their peak season during June to August though so that’s definitely NOT the time to book if prices are of any concern.

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