It's easy to overspend on a cruise; you can pay more than you need to on a room and empty your wallet with add-ons like food, drinks, and excursions. Experts have budget cruising down to a science, which makes saving money much easier for the rest of the travelers who get overwhelmed by the myriad of available choices. You needn't go top-of-the-line for every aspect of the trip, and in most cases, you'll hardly notice a difference.
How to Budget for a Cruise
The cost of a cruise depends on several factors, as described by EatSleepCruise.com. These ships travel worldwide: the most popular destination is the Caribbean, followed by Alaska, Northern Europe, and the Mediterranean. The least expensive are the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera. High-end cruise lines like Viking and Regent Seven Seas charge the most, while Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian are more affordable; each line also has various classes of ships with different amenities. Other things that affect your budget include the size and location of the cabin, as you'll pay more for larger ones with ocean views and balconies; suites cost the most.
To save money, opt for an inside stateroom; you only need to spend time sleeping in there, after all. Depending on the ship's route, the rates will be cheaper at certain times of the year. The best time to take a trip to the Caribbean for cruising on a budget is January and late August through the beginning of October; you can also shorten the trip to save money. If you're trying to set a budget for a cruise, Cruise Hive posted in 2021 that the average per person nightly rate was $214.25 a day ($152.12 base, plus $62.13 for the onboard spending).
Budget Cruising Research
If you need to save the most money, you should be sure to plan your cruise well in advance. See what the cruise lines have to offer and compare their prices to those offered by travel agents and discount cruise websites. Wander Wisdom suggests signing up for cruise ship mailing lists. You'll want to check your inbox often for special offers. They also recommend booking well ahead of time since last-minute deals can be elusive. With more time, you'll be able to compare different offers and have more cabin choices. You might get better airfare, too!
Take your time researching the different ships, too, because you don't want to spend money on many features that you won't be using. For example, if you aren't bringing young children with you, there's no need for a kids' club with all the bells and whistles. You'll also want to book your excursions early to take advantage of any deals; cruise lines often offer packages that combine several different ones. These trips can fill up fast, too, so you won't want to get shut out.
Tips for Cruising on a Budget
The Common Traveler has some good recommendations for saving money onboard, and you might be surprised to learn how some of them work. Take the food options, for example. Ticket prices usually include all of your meals, like a large dining room, buffet, and all-day snacks, so you don't have to buy food on the ship. Watch out for the fancy restaurants; sure, the food and service are more sophisticated but do you need that? You can also get rooked on drink prices if you pay as you go; if you plan to imbibe a lot, pre-purchase a beverage package that includes what you want (soda, juice drinks, alcoholic beverages).
Ticket prices don't include WiFi access, so you'll want to compare the packages that the cruise line offers (Royal Caribbean can charge $19.95 a day). There will most likely be phone coverage at the land destinations, so you can catch up on your emails and social media there. It's also wise to avoid making purchases at onboard gift shops; stay away from the photographers, spas, and casinos, too!
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