Cruising can become addictive. As soon as you step back onto land, you want to take another. If you do not have too many responsibilities tying you to home, you might decide you want to cruise as much as possible. For most of us, cost is a consideration. Here are ways you can save money on each cruise, allowing you to take more cruises!
Cruises will cost you in these areas: Booking the trip, getting to the ship, shore excursions and spending onboard. Here are ways you can stretch your money so you can take more cruises:
Booking the cruise:
- Be strategic in how you buy. There are many ways you can book your cruise. You can book your next cruise while on your current cruise. You can book through the cruise line’s website. You can book through your favorite warehouse store. You can work with your travel agent. There are other ways too, such as CruiseCompete. an affiliate of All Things Cruise that provides cruise quotes through member travel agents who bid for your business. You go online, enter the criteria for the specific trip you want, and several offers come back to you. *(Ed. Note: See below)
- Booking your cabin. Times have changed. There are no bad cabins. Your travel agent may be able to help you in booking without a cabin assignment, then getting one assigned just before your cruise. The advantage is you will be booked in the category you paid for or something better.
- Medical insurance. Most USA based medical plan coverage stops at the USA border. You need to consider “what if” situations. Look into medical insurance, especially if you are older. American Express is one of many providers.
Getting to the Ship:
- The homeport advantage. It is handy when the ship sails from your backyard. You might find a great cruise fare for a Mediterranean cruise, but you need to get there! This sometimes involves flying into one city and back from a different port. If you are near a home port and book trips departing from your own city, airfare and pre-cruise hotel expenses disappear.
- Reducing parking costs. If you fly to your ship or drive to your ship, you still need to figure out what to do with your car. Parking can get expensive. Can a friend drive you there and back? What about a car service or taxi?
- Shore excursions. Some people like to explore ports on their own. Others like to stay onboard. Many people want to “see what there is to see” and have someone else do the work. You might assume shore excursions are unique to specific cruise lines. This might be true in some cases, but shore excursions are often outsourced. Sites like CruiseCompete may be able to offer you discounted pricing on the same or similar shore excursions. **(Ed. Note: See below)
- OBC. This is the acronym for On Board Credit or money you can spend during your cruise. You can use it for drinks, shore excursions, alternative dining venues and more. When agents compete for your business (see point #1) they might not be able to offer a dramatic difference in rate, but your savings might come in OBC.
- Drinks onboard. Cruise ships are floating resorts. I have often thought of splits (quarter bottles of champagne) as the “shower size bottles.” When you are on a cruise, they want you to have a good time while both moderating and profiting from your alcohol consumption. Moderating means they don’t want you bringing your own booze onboard and drinking in your cabin. Profiting means they prefer to sell it to you. This ties into moderating because they can refuse to serve inebriated passengers, same rules as on land. Determine your drinking habits beforehand. Look at their beverage packages. This may be a cost-effective way to have a good time. You also have a way to spend your OBC.
- Tipping. This is often an automatic add on to your shipboard account. When cruise lines might not reduce fares, including gratuities is another way they can add value. Don’t opt out of tipping. It is part of the crew’s compensation. These folks work hard and are often far from home.
- Laundry onboard. You will either travel with lots of clothing or plan on washing what you bring mid voyage. Although you can send laundry “out,” most ships have free laundromats located around the ship. The washers, dryers and soap are free. They have irons too. Take advantage.
- Internet access. This can cost a bundle onboard. I have never heard anyone say they had a good experience. There are no cell towers at sea. Can you live without internet access? If so, plan on visiting places known for free WIFI like McDonalds and Starbucks while in port.
- (Ed. Note: See helpful chart of what’s included by cruise line here All Inclusive – All Things Cruise
There are more expenses to cruising than the basic cruise fare. Knowing about these costs is the first step to keeping them under control.
Ed. Notes: CruiseCompete and its member travel advisors provide many curated cruise and land deals, offers and amenities on over 50 cruise lines with over 500 cruise ships sailing all around the world.
Cover photo: Trio Carnival ships Cozumel ©Dennis Cox/WorldViews