Many people don't look into cruising, because it seems too expensive and luxurious, but there are many ways to save on a cruise. Sometimes, a travel agent that specializes in cruising can save you big bucks and also get you a better cabin and a refund if the price goes down. If you don't want to go through an agent, then there are plenty of things you can do to get a decent deal.
First, why don't you take a moment to join Shereen Travels Cheap on Facebook? We're very close to giving away some lovely Travelon Bags to two lucky fans. Aside from that, you can get more travel deals, budget tips and website/product suggestions. And if you have a comment or a question, you can get a quick answer from me by posting on the group wall.
Perhaps Twitter is more your speed, because you like your information short and sweet? You can follow @shereentrvlschp and get the same tips, deals and suggestions as on Facebook. We don't currently have a giveaway going on Twitter right now.
Okay, so let's look at some of the ways to save on a cruise and what your cruise costs entail...
When you find a great deal on a cruise, don't forget that the price you see is not the price you pay. You still need to pay taxes and port fees. Depending on where you are going, how long your cruise is and how many ports you dock at, your final price could be up to double the cost you see. Each port has it's own fee and the government of the country sets the fee, so they aren't the same each time you dock. These fees are charged per traveler, not per cabin, so this is something to look into before you see a good price and purchase it.
- Most food. Almost all your food is included in your cruise rate. All buffet and main dining room food is included in this. If you dine at one of the other restaurants that you have to make reservations for, you will use your "sign and sale card" and the cost of that meal will be added to your account to be paid at the end of the cruise. The same counts for the coffee shops where you can purchase pastries.
- Some beverages. Unless otherwise specified, alcoholic beverages, sodas and some other specialty beverages are not included, while water, coffee and tea are. You can buy a soda card, which will give you unlimited soda, but it is extra from your cruise rate and you must buy it at the beginning of your cruise. You will usually also be charged at any of the coffee shops.
- Entertainment. Almost all entertainment is free once on board. Unless you want to do something where you will win money, like bingo. All shows, trivia, lectures and movies are generally included in your price.
- Gym. The exercise facilities are free of charge for everyone, as are the locker/shower rooms. Many exercise classes are also free, but some are not. If you have to sign up for a class, make sure you look to see if it requires payment.
- Pools and hot tubs.
- Alcoholic beverages and soda. This is how the cruise ship gets you. By charging you up to $4 for a soda and $10 or more on booze, your account can quickly add up to hundreds of dollars on just drinks alone. Not only do they charge you an arm and a leg on drinks, but they even add an average 18% "gratuity fee" to each drink you buy.
- Some entertainment. Things like bingo, rock wall climbing and miniature golf can be extra charges to your account.
- Spa use. The spa sounds awesome and relaxing, but prices can be much more than those on land, unless you reserve a time on port day, where they discount services.
- Some exercise classes. Some exercise classes are free, while others incur a fee. These are generally what they consider the most popular classes, like pilates or spinning.
- Shopping. Anything you purchase on the boat will be charged to your account.
- Internet. Internet fees can be horrendously high, but if you want to be connected, buy a package deal, as it'll be much cheaper than paying a la cart.
- Land Excursions. The crew on your ship will do everything they can to get you to buy an excursion package once on board. Book through an independent company before you leave home and save up to 65% (and in some cases, even more).
So, what can you do to minimize costs on your cruise?
- Cruise in the off-season. Different cruise destinations have different peak seasons. Choose a destination that has an off-season that coincides with your vacation time.
- You are allowed a case of soda or bottled water (on most cruises) per passenger. Bring your own and store them in your cabin fridge.
- As I said above, book your shore excursions before you leave home, through a reputable independent company and save a mint on them. More money for souvenirs and other sightseeing at your port city.
- Avoid buying art and/or jewelry onboard, unless it's deeply discounted on one of the last days. Chances are, you can find the same thing on land for much cheaper. I'm talking about real jewelry, like gold and diamonds.
- Find an internet cafe on land and pay a fraction of the cost as you will on the ship.
- Get an inside cabin. If you're active, like we are, you will be so busy NOT being in your stateroom that you'll barely have time to enjoy the room anyway. Don't spend up to twice as much on a room with a view if you won't be in it longer than to change clothes and sleep.
- Spend time going to free activities, instead of hanging out by the pool all day. Honestly, you are paying to have the crew entertain you, so go to karaoke, towel-folding classes, trivia and all those other fun sounding activities. Each day you'll get a schedule for the next day. Plan out what you want to do and maximize your time on the ship.
- Shop at "non-approved" stores in port. For the most part, these shops get a commission for each cruise passenger that buys from them. If you go just a few blocks away and shop "off the map", you can get much better deals. Of course, if you plan to shop for jewelry or other pricey items, make sure you get a certificate of authenticity and that your jewelry is stamped.
Feel like if you sign up for my Facebook or Twitter feeds you'll probably miss a lot of posts? I understand. I have a lot going on on my own Facebook news feed and Twitter roll. Well, now you can catch up on hours of posts right from your email. Sign up for Nutshell Mail and you can choose your favorite posters (I hope I'm included!) and customize a newsletter for your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You can choose who you see posts from, how many of each and how often you receive your newsletter. You can get it once a day, three times a day, once a month or anything in between. You choose. It's totally personalized by you!
Don't know how to pick a cabin or a ship or want to know more about the activities or read reviews? Check out Cruise Critic. I found that they have more information and are easier to navigate than the cruise websites.
I hope you found these tips useful. Of course there are many more things you can do to save money on a cruise, which I hope you will be able to read soon in my book. Once I find an agent or a publisher (or decide to self-publish), you will all be the first to know! In the meantime, why not check out some of these other budget travel articles I've written for the following websites. And please also take a look around once you get there and finish reading, because they are truly helpful and pretty awesome. I hope there will be more added to the list soon, too.