Ready to cruise on a budget? Whether you're heading on a Caribbean cruise or a family vacation, here are 7 tips for planning a cruise on a budget.
There's so much to love about cruising - you get to stay on an amenity-packed ship with endless food options, and pop into a bunch of port cities for daytime exploration. But cruises can get expensive - fast. Fortunately, there are a bunch of great travel hacks to cruise on a budget, whether you're booking a honeymoon or planning a family vacation.
There's so much to do on the boat - and at port! - that you won't be spending much time in your room. So, choose an interior cabin and a lower deck location for maximum savings. You won't have a balcony or a view, but you'll save a bundle of money and have more room in your budget for fun activities.
Travel agents can score you exclusive discounts - something you won't find if you book by yourself. (They can also give you great advice on which cruise is right for you!) Travel agencies often offer incentives for booking with them, whether it's a discounted excursion or cabin credit, as well as smaller deposits... so you don't have to pay as much upfront.
The condition of the cruise ship can also help you save money. You'll find that older ships, with less space and fewer amenities, are often less expensive than the newest models. On the other hand, when a cruise line adds a new ship to their fleet, they'll often offer a special promotion for its maiden voyage - a great option if you like the latest and greatest. Additionally, larger ships are often more budget-friendly since there are so many cabins to go around.
This varies by cruise line, but most ships allow passengers to bring their own wine on board. Check ahead of time for rules and limitations, but plan on bringing a bottle or two of your favorite vino so you don't have to pay for wine onboard. Don't forget to bring a corkscrew or bottle opener so you can avoid the corkage fee! Some other great ways to save on booze on board are checking out your ship's happy hour or attending free events, like auctions - you'll often score a complimentary glass of bubbly while you peruse the artwork.
Internet access on cruise ships is often wildly expensive. So, put your phone on airplane mode and cut down on screen time until you reach the port. If you're cruising in the US, you'll connect as soon as you're docked, and if you're cruising internationally, venture into the port to find a cafe or restaurant with free WiFi.
Bring enough cash to last your whole trip so you can skip the onboard ATM, which will probably have fees of $6+ (in addition to whatever your bank charges you). Plus, you'll appreciate having cash handy for small port purchases and gratuities.
If you're flexible with your travel dates, consider booking a cruise during an off-peak season. You'll find cheaper cruises to the Caribbean in July (when it's the hottest time of the year), and more affordable cruises in Europe in November (when it starts getting cold). You'll be spending most of your time enjoying the ship's amenities, anyway, so the local weather isn't as critical.
Check your weekly Save mailer for deals on the products you use every day - so you have more room in your budget for your next vacation.