There are many cruise companies, and so many ships it seems like a perfect time to take a cruise. Taking a vacation on a cruise ship is exciting, but can be very expensive. Cruise companies may offer cheap rooms, but then surprise you with on-board expenses. Non-included restaurants, high priced drinks and outrageous internet prices will all add up. But don’t despair, there are ways to cruise affordably, it just takes discipline, and a bit of skill for you to pull it off. So how do you book a cheap cruise and then enjoy it?
Booking a cheap cruise is quite easy, you just need flexibility. If you are flexible on where you are willing to go, and aren’t set on having a particular room. it will be easier for you to find an inexpensive cruise. Cruise pricing is similar to tour pricing, the closer you get to the departure date the lower the price becomes. Cruise companies don’t want to sail with half empty ships, less passengers mean less on-board spending. On-board spending is where the cruise companies make the majority of their money, so as the departure date approaches the prices become lower. You can also book far in advance for good pricing, but last minute prices are usually better. The only real benefit to booking early is to secure the room you want. Don’t travel when everyone else is traveling, when the kids are in school the rates are the best. This is especially true for family activities such as a cruise.
To book your cruise you have two options, you can use a travel agent, or you can book it yourself. There are many do it yourself options, but it’s best to start with a travel agent as they often get better rates and last minute deals. They will also act as a liaison with the cruise company if something goes wrong. If you choose to book the cruise yourself there are really only three sources you will need:
These websites scour the web for the best cruise deals. Cruise Sheet is a website that crawls the web for information and then displays cheap fares. This site makes finding a cheap cruise easy, and seems to find all the best deals. Vacations To Go is more of a travel agent/operator so often has better deals. They can negotiate directly with cruise companies, but they do add fees. Cruise Deals has a weekly newsletter that is worth subscribing to. When booking your cruise think small. Smaller ships tend to be less expensive since they offer less attractions and fewer amenities. Always choose to travel off season, you will get much cheaper fares. Consider taking a repositioning cruise, this is when a cruise company moves a ship from one part of the world to another in anticipation of the upcoming season. These cruises are a great way to sail down the coast of a continent or cross an ocean on the cheap. Don’t book your flight with the cruise, booking it separately is a sure way to save money. If you have booked your cruise and the price drops, contact the cruise company or your travel agent, you may be able to get the difference as an on-board credit.
Now that you have booked your cruise how can you enjoy it without going broke? A cruise in the past was most always all-inclusive, but that is becoming increasingly less so. Cruise companies want you to spend money on-board since this is where they make their biggest profits. But if you are smart and disciplined you can enjoy your cruise for little more than the price of the cabin itself.
Avoiding the casino, the shopping and the spa are obvious ways to save money, there are many more ways to save. Watch what you drink. Sodas used to be free, but are now usually high priced, and buying alcohol on-board can really add up. Stick to the free drinks offered; water, iced tea and juices. If you want soda or beer on the cruise, Cruise companies will let you bring one case of your own water, soda or beer as well as a bottle of wine onto the ship. Avoid the non-included restaurants on board, the food in the dining areas and buffets are just as good. Avoid the cheesy professional photos. Using your digital camera or your phone camera, you can take your own photos and have them printed when you return home at a fraction of the price. Plan your own shore excursions. The cruise run shore excursions are overpriced and usually crowded. Do a little research on-line before your trip and you can plan your own activities. You will not only save money but you will support the local economy more directly. Don’t have your laundry done on the ship. Bring enough clothes for all occasions to make doing laundry unnecessary, or bring Woolite with you and wash your clothes in the sink. Don’t take advantage of the airport transfer the cruise company offers. You can find a cab for a much cheaper rate.
On a cruise you can get away from it all, have a chance to relax and recharge. Put away the wallet, head to the gym or the all day buffet and have the time of your life without breaking the bank.