10 Money-Saving Cruise Hacks

Cruises have become increasingly expensive over the last couple of years. But, believe it or not, there are still ways to save money on your next cruise vacation.

The following is a list of ways to save money when preparing for your next cruise. I have utilized these to save thousands of dollars on my recent cruises.

#1. Stateroom Upgrade

Book the cheapest stateroom and upgrade later if prices change. Watch for any stateroom price changes and contact the cruise line or your travel agent to claim lower fares. Note that you are more likely to see price drops on your cruise the earlier you book, so try to book your cruises months and even years in advance. Also, most cruise lines have upgrade programs that allow bidding on stateroom upgrades before your cruise. For example, Celebrity Cruises offers MoveUp and Royal Caribbean features the Royal Up Program. I have utilized these programs to go from a balcony stateroom to a suite for only a fraction of the price it would have cost me to have originally booked the suite.

#2. Watch for Price Drops to Save

Check for price drops on your cruise, especially when you book far in advance. Contact the cruise line or your travel agent (speaking of travel agents, I would love to refer you to mine) to claim the lower fare if prices drop. I’ve personally saved hundreds of dollars watching for price drops in advance of my travel. You can easily monitor the price by doing a mock booking on the cruise line’s website. A mock booking is one where you go through all the steps to book your exact stateroom again without hitting that “BOOK NOW” button. Once you see the new final price of the cruise you will be able to compare that to what you originally paid to see if you have a price drop.

Drink Package
Photo credit Adelaido Bautista

#3. Do you really need the Drink Package?

Consider if the drink package is worth the cost. If you can, compare the cost of the drink package against the cost of buying drinks individually. You can often locate menus with drink prices online for most all major cruise lines. This will give you a general idea of what you might pay if you opt to go without a drink package. Also, when thinking about the value of the drink package, consider whether you will be off the ship in port for a significant portion of the day. Drink packages are rated daily, so if you are spending multiple days off the ship in port, you may not be getting the best value opting for a drink package.

#4.  Consider the WiFi Package You are Buying

Consider which Wi-Fi package is most appropriate for you based on your needs. Basic internet packages, which are the cheapest, are sufficient for sending emails and text messages. Streaming internet packages are more expensive and only necessary for streaming videos. TIP: Certain streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu (depending on your plan), allow downloading of select content for offline viewing on your mobile devices, like your cell phone or tablet.

#5. Book Extras Ahead of Time

Purchase extras like drink packages, Wi-Fi packages, or specialty dining before the cruise to get the lowest price. Cruise lines will charge more for these items once you step onboard the ship. Keep checking the price of items you have already purchased on the cruise planner via the cruise line website – and rebook at a lower price if available. Most cruise lines allow cancellation and rebooking of pre-purchased items at a lower price. Just keep in mind that for specialty dining you might lose your reservation time if you do opt to rebook for a lower price.

Air Travel
Photo credit: Carlos Pernalete Tua

#6. Book Airfare with the Cruise Line to Save Money

Check with the cruise line for airfare as cruise lines often get special negotiated prices and discounts. Many cruise lines buy airfare in bulk, and therefore can sometimes offer lower pricing when compared to booking direct with the airline. Cruise lines also typically offer special protections when you book airfare directly with them. This might include assistance in case of flight delays or help in reaching the next port in the event of a delayed or missed flight that then causes you to miss the cruise ship.

#7. Ground Transportation On Your Own

When flying to your cruise, compare prices for ground transportation offered by the cruise line between the airport and the ship with ride-sharing, taxis, trains, or other options. Cruise lines often charge a premium for ground transportation, so double-check prices to save money. You can use the Uber or Lyft apps to do a mock booking for a trip. Simply input your origin and destination locations to get an estimated price.

Vacation Photos

#8. Skip the Photo Package

Consider skipping the professional photos onboard the ship as they are often sold at a premium price. Take your own photos using the picturesque locations around the ship or in a beautiful destination. You can even ask someone to take photos for you on a cell phone or your own digital camera. If you do take that perfect shot, you can consider printing your digital vacation photos at home or via local services at CVS or Walgreens.

#9. Book Independent Shore Excursions

Cruise lines often overcharge for shore excursions just to provide the most crowded and rushed experiences. Independent shore excursions are usually cheaper and offer more flexibility and time to explore the destination, in addition to a smaller amount of people sharing your tour. Shore Excursions Group is a great resource for booking independent shore excursions. They even guarantee that you will return to the ship on time, despite what the cruise lines like to tell you.

#10. Always Purchase Travel Insurance

Cruise lines may not be understanding and will likely NOT refund your money in the event of emergencies or personal reasons leading to cancellation. Travel insurance covers medical emergencies, trip delays, and trip cancellations, among many other things. By purchasing travel insurance at a fraction of the total price of your cruise, you can enjoy peace of mind in knowing you will be compensated for any losses incurred due to unforeseen circumstances.

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