How to Save Money On a Cruise

August 5, 2011

Saving money on a cruise may be easier than you think.  In the middle of a hot summer, nothing sounds better than keeping cool on a cruise but the big price tags can obviously be daunting to lots of families looking to save money on vacations.  The nice thing about a cruise is that it wraps your food, lodging, and entertainment all into one bill – so if you can find the right price then you get a lot for your money. Today we’ll look at ways you can find the best cruise deals for your money.

How To Squeeze Value Out Of a Cruise

Relaxation at sea can come at a hefty price if you let it. Finding the right cruise can be challenging. You have to consider cost, cruise length, number of stops or destinations, and what level of room you want.

Identify Important Trip Aspects

Identify what is most important – room with a view, or will smaller do Before you can look for the best cruise deal, you need to know what you are really targeting. There are so many options available: a week in Alaska, 3 days in the Caribbean, or 2 weeks in the Mediterranean. But the options don’t stop there. Consider these items first:

Cruise length: Do you want to be gone for more than a week? Or are you looking for a short trip for some quick rest and relaxation?

Cruise cost: How much are you willing to spend?

Destinations or stops: Do you just want to sit on the deck sipping a beverage and soaking up the rays, or are you looking for adventure at multiple destinations?

What type of room: Are you willing to be in the belly of the ship to save money? Or are you wanting an ocean view? You can take a longer trip if you take a lesser room, if you’re comfortable with it.

Finding the Best Cruise Deal

The web gives you lots of options for landing great travel deals. Although there isn’t really a “one stop shop” that can find the absolute best deal on everything you should stop by the best travel websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak.

The major deal websites are a great place to set your baseline of what deals to expect. All four have dedicated cruise sections to their websites (although Kayak’s is hidden under “More” on the left). Be sure to check with a travel agency or with your credit card’s rewards or travel program after you have a baseline of what to expect from the major websites. You might get lucky and find a deal that fits your desired itinerary.

To really dig in and do your research it helps to find a group of cruising enthusiasts in an online forum. One of the largest is a place called Cruise Critic ( The forum has nearly 1.3 million topics and over 27 million individual posts inside those topics. Surrounding yourself with experts with a strong passion for what you need advice on is a great place to be. You might also consider Cruise Addicts (, with over 166,000 threads and almost 1.5 million posts about cruises.

Watch for Extra Charges

The price you see when you first look at a cruise itinerary isn’t the price you pay at the end of the day. Be sure to calculate the following costs into your calculations:

  • Port fees and taxes: Be sure to read the fine print, as you can’t avoid these charges.
  • Travel to and from where the cruise starts: If you live in the city where the cruise kicks off from, you can disregard this. For most, travel to the ship can be a huge addition to the total cost. Check out ways to save money on airline tickets.
  • Excursions: All the fun everyone is having at that new destination? That parasailing or jungle tour? All cost additional money.
  • Fuel surcharge: With high oil prices come fuel surcharges for almost every type of travel. Airlines do it, cruises do, too.
  • Exclusive dining options: Be sure to read the fine print on your dining options. Your cruise price may come with only the baseline food options. Exclusive dining rooms with nicer menus will come at a cost.
  • Popular drinks: Basics like water will be free, but if you want a soda or alcoholic beverage you will pay for it.
  • Spa treatments: Want to get a couples massage looking out over the water? Prepare to pay for it.
  • Tips: Gratuities are included in most cruises, but you should still have the option of lessening the tip if you have a bad experience.

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Kevin Mulligan is a debt reduction champion with a passion for teaching people how to budget and stay out of debt. He's building a personal finance freelance writing career and has written for, Discover Bank, ING Direct, and many others.

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