21 2 / 2013
How to Cruise on the Cheap
Today’s blog post is by Judi Cuervo. Judi Cuervo began her freelance cruise writing in 1998 with Porthole Cruise Magazine and since then her work has appeared in a number of regional, national, Canadian, U.K. and Australian publications. A New York City native who met her husband Michael aboard Holland America Line’s Statendam and was married aboard Celebrity’s Galaxy, Judi is Associate Director/Client Services at a major book publishing company.
This is what sometimes happens: You find the cruise of your dreams at a dazzling bargain price but return home to find a credit card bill that has placed you firmly in the poorhouse. What went wrong?
What went wrong, my little spendthrifts, were the little things. The many, many, many little things that, if you’re not careful, can add hundreds to your cruise bill. Enter into your next holiday at sea aware, not only of the cost of the cruise itself, but of all the on board incidentals that quickly mount up.
Before You Go:
- Cruise Quarters. You’ll find the best price for your sailing by checking the internet, cruise websites, a favorite travel agent and last-minute offers, if applicable. And remember, a flexible schedule gives you a greater chance of scooping up a discounted sailing than fixating on an exact date. See the best times to cruise here.
- A Room with a View… or Not? Must you have luxury digs with a balcony and butler, or would a cozy inside cabin suffice? Your selection of stateroom will largely dictate the cost of your passage so if you’re counting pennies, select the lower grade cabin. And if you really want to slash the price dramatically, team up with three friends and share an economy- priced quad!
- Air Fare. Is the cruise line really the most economical way to book your air? Sometimes it is, and sometimes it’s not. Check your options and you might discover that a discounted airline will save you hundreds over the cruise line’s offer. If you’re sailing from your home port city, consider mass transit or a taxi to and from the ship instead of parking for a week in a high-priced lot.
- Water, water everywhere.I drink water when I wake up, while I work out and all during the day. On one sailing, I discovered halfway through that I had developed a $20 per day water habit. Now, when I sail aboard a ship that’s not all-inclusive, I pack a sports bottle. Fill it from the spa’s water cooler, or even the bathroom sink, and sip away for free.
- Cheers. Drinkers beware: Your luggage is x-rayed before it is loaded on board so those fifths of Beefeater cushioned within a pile of your undies WILL be revealed and confiscated until the end of the cruise. If you do like to tipple, why not investigate some of the all-inclusive lines, which include alcohol in the fare? Certainly pricier than the traditional cruise, if your journey’s end typically includes a staggering bar bill, an all-inclusive might be right for you. Be sure to check out the alcohol policy for your cruise line to see what you can take onboard.
- All ashore. What’s more important to you: Convenience or cost savings? It’s true that booking a shore excursion directly with its provider can result in significant savings, but going it alone involves transportation costs often included in the ship’s excursion and, often, lunch. Also, be aware that the ship will be held for late-returning ship-tour guests, whereas a late return by independent travelers will mean missing the boat.
- Consider the alternative. Some alternative restaurants impose a hefty surcharge of as much as $25 per person, which translates into an extra $100 for a family of four. Since the food is likely just as delicious in the ship’s other dining venues, reserve such extravagances for a romantic or particularly festive occasion.
- The Extras. Must you indulge in specialty ice cream when Hagen Dasz is served at no cost in the dining room? Is it really necessary to dry clean that dress when you could steam the wrinkles in the bathroom shower? Do you need to spend hours uploading pictures to Facebook when you can do so at home? And, honestly, what are you actually going to do with that elaborate $5 souvenir glass once you get it home?
On your next cruise, think before you spend. Who knows? You just might save enough to spend a few hours in the casino.