13 Tips That Will Save You Some Serious Cash on Your Next Cruise

Use these tips to save money on your next cruise vacation.

Solo female traveler boarding a cruise
Photo: Getty Images

The word is out—cruise vacations are fun, relaxing, and increasing in popularity. The best way to visit several destinations without unpacking and repacking, airport transfers, hotel check-ins, and other inconveniences, cruises on oceans and rivers are seeing passenger growth each year. New ships are being built and added to accommodate the growing demand.

Cruising can be economical, and there are ways to ensure that you’re getting the most for your dollar. Research, planning, savvy spending, and comparing cruises will help get you the best value. It’s important to remember that it’s a vacation, and you want to enjoy your trip and be comfortable with your decisions. So, sometimes it may be worth spending a bit more to have what’s important to you. Save money on your next cruise by using these tips, so you can afford to splurge where it counts.

  • Educate yourself on what’s included, such as fees, taxes, excursions, gratuities, baggage charges, beverages, and other possible expenses. Compare cruise lines, specific cruises, cabins, and credits by using cruise line websites, brochures, e-mails, newsletters, and every source of information available.
  • Work with a travel advisor. These experts are familiar with incentives, cruise lines, prices, staterooms, and destinations. There is no additional charge for booking through them, and many specialize in cruises.
  • Book your cruise early—or late. Lower prices are often available when cruise itineraries are first published, as early as two years ahead. If you’re flexible on your schedule and cabin type, you might get a good deal around 90 days before a cruise, when passengers can cancel advance bookings without a penalty and spots become available.
  • Know your personal preferences when it comes to staterooms. Is a balcony important to you? Do you need more space to be comfortable, or do you have a preferred deck or location? Will you be satisfied with a lower-cost inside cabin knowing that you won’t be in there much of the time? Use these questions to guide your decision.
  • Create your own shore excursions and compare their price with the cruise line’s cost. Research what you want to see at each port. You may prefer to be on your own to explore a destination, just paying for a taxi or driver to take you into town. You might want to spend your day in port in one place rather than hopping on and off a bus to see a little of a lot of places. You can even use your phone's GPS as a guide.
  • On the subject of phones and technology, plan ahead. For international trips, know your cellular provider’s available plans to choose the best one. Onboard WiFi can be costly, so consider unplugging while cruising and catching up with emails and social media postings while in port.
  • Include the cost of getting to your port of embarkation when comparing costs. Will you be flying to Europe to meet up with your river cruise, or can you drive to a domestic port for your ocean cruise departure?
  • On cruises with optional beverage plans, consider your usual drinking habits. If you enjoy a cocktail or two before dinner, wine with dinner, and sipping a drink by the pool, a pre-paid alcoholic beverage plan might be an economical approach for you. If one a day is your usual, you’ll probably do better to pay as you go. Look into what’s included before you decide, and know that you can usually make that decision once you’re onboard.
  • Avoid having to purchase toiletries and incidentals on the ship. Plan ahead, make a list, and be sure you have what you need. The same goes for grooming, so get your manicures, pedicures, and haircuts before you go. For some, however, getting pampered in the ship’s salon is part of their cruising pleasure, so your personal preference will guide you on this.
  • Compare prices and consider cruising during the shoulder season or off-peak cruising times, keeping weather in mind.
  • Resist what may feel like pressure to purchase photos, extras, souvenirs, or another cruise. However, if you know you are ready to book your next cruise and you’ve done your research, you can secure a discount by taking advantage of the opportunity to book while onboard.
  • Check your medical insurance to ensure you’re covered at your destination, especially if you’ll be taking an international cruise. Look into travel health insurance if your plan doesn’t provide coverage. Be sure to have all your required prescription medications (in their labeled containers) with you, as well as non-prescription medications that you might need.
  • Traveling solo? Compare single supplements or seek out cruise lines that offer single cabins or lower-cost supplements.
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