To get the best deals and stretch your funds before and during your first cruise, consider the following insider money-saving tips:
Make plans in advance
There’s fierce competition among cruise lines to book you early. This is very good news for your budget! It can get you expensive upgrades (free move from an inside to a balcony cabin), added value items (free shore excursions), add-ons (free drink packages), or a combination of these. In the alternative, last-minute booking can also save you a considerable amount of folding money. The cruise lines want to fill those cabins, and will offer deep discounts for travelers who can take off on short notice. (Keep in mind that late booking on airlines is rarely discounted. So do the math and make sure it’s still a money-saver.)
Book during ‘wave season’
From January to March (‘wave season’) is generally considered the time when cruise lines heavily promote their best cruise prices. Here’s the trick: You don’t have to travel during those three months; you only have to book during that time! You can schedule your trip anytime during the year. With some cruise lines, you can enjoy up to 75% off and score major freebies by booking during ‘wave season.’
Inside cabins vs. balcony rooms
Regardless of which line you book for your first cruise vacation, inside cabins will be cheaper than balcony rooms. Consider your budget, follow number one above, and decide if your personal preferences will be met with an inside cabin. For example, would you like to have a quiet cup of coffee in the fresh air to start the day? Or does running to the dining room for a quick breakfast before hitting the water slide sound like you? Decide how much time you’ll be spending in the room, and choose accordingly.
Read the details
In all the excitement to book a cruise, you might see ‘all-inclusive’ and assume everything’s paid. Read, and read again to see what’s included. For example, are gratuities pre-paid or will there be a mandatory tip added for each trip to the bar? This can add up, and kill that budget. So be informed, and don’t tip twice for services unless you feel they are exceptional.
Grab a cab
If you’re flying in to your cruise departure city, grab a taxi to the port. As you would expect, cruise lines offer this service – for a fee. Their cost (times the number of people in your party) will likely be much higher than a flat rate from a cab company.
Where to park
For the convenience of grabbing your bags and heading right over to the cruise terminal, you will pay a premium for parking at the port. If you’re staying at a hotel before or after your first cruise, ask about parking there and grabbing a cab to port. Many smaller ports offer free parking at the hotels. In the alternative, check online for public parking outside the official port area, and you’ll save significantly on the charge to leave your vehicle.
Main dining room food is delicious
You’ve read the details (from number 4 above!) and know that all your meals in the main dining room are included in your cruise price. Eat there. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and it’s all simply delicious. Also, if you had something particularly tasty the night before and want to eat it again, all you have to do is order it even if it’s not technically on the menu. Remember that food and drinks (including water) can carry premium prices on board the ship. So save additional money by grabbing some snacks during your shore excursions.
These are just a few tips and tricks to save a bit of money on your first cruise vacation.