As travel and public health safety restrictions are lifted, cruise ships are preparing to sail the high seas once again. As one of the most popular vacations and travel methods around the world returns, more and more cruise dates have taken their place on the calendar, which means promotions and discounted sailing rates are too. With so many travelers eager to make their return to the yacht life, a good refresher on how to save on cruises is practically a PSA. And seasoned cruise travelers would make the point that if you really want to get the most out of your cruise vacation, practicing these travel hacks are a must. Take it from the experts that you don’t need to pay an arm and a leg to finally take that dream cruise you’ve always had your eye on — and if the thought hasn’t raced through your mind before, these savings will certainly make you consider hitting the waters.
How To Save On Cruise Bookings
While cruises make for a very easy vacation experience thanks to all of the activities on-board and the all-inclusive packages catering to individual needs, the booking process can take a bit of work on the travelers behalf.
Book Your Cruise According To School Holidays
Avoiding peak seasons is a general rule of thumb for cheap travel. With cruises being a popular vacation for families, prices during school vacation periods like spring break, winter break and early summer months will tote a higher rate. This is true for cruise lines that cater to adults as well, so don’t assume you’re getting a good rate just because you’re not booking a Disney cruise. As is the case for other methods of travel, you’re more likely to find cheaper base rates and promotions during the off season months and shoulder seasons like September and October.
Be Patient & Monitor Prices
There’s a lot of myths around when is the best time to actually follow through with booking. The reality is that booking travel, in general, is a gamble. Many frequent cruise passengers wait until the last minute to book a cruise when it’s more likely that flash deals occurs to fill remaining empty cabins. This is definitely a method that could pay off for you if you’re okay with taking a more spontaneous approach. Moreover, if you live near a port city, this could be an easy way to start the first of many cruise vacations. However, if you don’t have the luxury of spontaneity or are planning for a specific timeline, you should monitor prices that correlate to your trip for a few reasons. First, you’ll get a good understanding of an average ticket price. Second, you’ll be able to monitor price drop trends. If a cruise is struggling to book cabins, it’s likely you’ll receive more promotions or sales for that specific cruise. Monitoring these prices can help guide you on whether or not you’re actually getting a good deal.
You can utilize free cruise price tracking tools to easily monitor and compare prices across cruise lines and destinations. Cruise price tracking tools like Cruiseline.com and app Ship Mate are both popular among travelers and will send customized notifications on price drops, increases and more to help you stay informed.
Use Third Party Booking Sites
Third party booking sites like Expedia are all valuable resources for smart travel planning. Not only will third party booking sites feature exclusive member rates, last minute deals and promotions to incentivize booking through them, but you can also earn rewards for bookings which can come in handy later on. Third party booking sites often have bundle deals as well, so if you’re planning on any excursions or need additional travel accommodations before or after your trip, you can bundle and save within one booking.
Book An Inside Cabin
While a view of the sea is certainly beautiful, it’s not always worth the higher cost. Booking a lower rate cabin does not necessarily mean you will have any lesser of an experience. Remember, you’ll be on a massive cruise ship with tons of activities, and when you arrive at a port, you’ll have even more to explore and discover. All this to say: it’s not likely you’ll be hanging out in your cabin very much. Sacrificing on expensive cabin features can significantly drop the price of your booking.
Consider Food And Drink Packages
Another popular myth among cruise vacationers is that drink packages are the way to go. This is certainly true for some travelers, but not all. A quick calculation of how much a drink package will cost you per day can determine if it’s worth it or not. If you only plan to have a drink or two at dinner, it might be best to skip all together. Additionally, check with your cruise line before your trip to see their policy on bringing your own bottle of wine. Many cruise lines allow you to bring a standard size bottle of wine or champagne with you, however, rules vary and it’s good to be certain instead of guessing.
Newer Ships Come With Higher Rates
Just as the latest resort will cost you a pretty penny, so will the snazzy new ship. This is not to say that you can’t luck out and find a great deal on a newer ship, but it’s kind of like buying a brand new car. A brand new car is great, and having the latest and greatest in upgrades is certainly cool, but it doesn’t mean the car is drastically better than a model a year or two older. Booking with a ship that is older will typically come with more affordable rates. A ship's amenities may not be as grandiose, but if savings are more important to you, it’s an easy sacrifice.
How To Save Once You're Aboard The Ship
The savings don’t have to stop once you’ve booked your cruise. With the right preparation and use of insider tricks while on board, you can continue to save every day of your trip.
Double & Triple Check Your Toiletries
It’s annoying any time you realize you’ve left something at home while on vacation. When it happens on a cruise, it’s even worse. Cruise lines are smart and know that you have no other option than what’s available to shop on the ship, thus prices reflect reality. It could save you peace of mind and money to double and triple check that you have all necessary toiletries for your trip. If you do realize you’ve left something behind and it’s possible to wait, pick up any toiletries once the ship is in port and you’re able to buy local.
Know The Exchange Rates
Exchanging currency is a very, very easy way to lose money through mere confusion or lack of preparation. Understanding the currency exchange rate for the port cities you’ll be traveling to can help you prepare a budget beforehand. Depending on the trip, it could be beneficial to exchange fare before you embark on your trip. Additionally, bringing enough cash and informing your bank or credit card of your travels is good practice to avoid unnecessary ATM fees and to ensure use of your credit card while in port.
Reconsider Internet Packages
Just as drink packages can either come in handy or be a waste of money, so can cruise ship internet packages. Cruise ships offer WiFi services at a premium. If you’re only looking to check your email one or two times while you’re away, save yourself money and wait until you arrive at a port destination, as most ports offer free WiFi. If you do have to use a significant amount of WiFi while on ship, consider splitting the cost of the internet package if you can. Only one device may use the internet package at a time, but it’s worth trading users for cost practicality.
Souvenirs Will Go On Sale
Who can resist a good tacky tourist momento? By all means, buy that miniature version of the cruise ship that you’re not totally sure what to do with but are compelled to buy nonetheless — you deserve it. But wait to do so, because souvenirs are marked down and put on sale often. The closer to the end of the trip, the more likely you will be able to find sales. If cruise ship gift shops aren’t your thing, skip them entirely and seek out a local shop while in port.