One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is on how to save cost on taking a cruise. Before we start on saving on cost, it’s probably good to know what major expenses you would need to budget for when going on a cruise.
You will have five major expenses:
1. Cruise Trip
The first one is booking the cruise. You need to book the cruise first so that the date is already set for you to book on other stuff – whether you want to go for seven day, twelve, or fifteen. Booking the cruise is also the most expensive item on your itinerary.
Some retirees go on back-to-back cruises. This means that when the cruise ends, instead of going off the ship, they stay on the ship and cruise some more. During my last cruise that ended at Barcelona, the cruise ship wasn’t going to repeat the same 12-days cruise anymore. Instead, the ship was going to sail Trans-Atlantic that ended at Miami (USA) port. So about 30% of the passengers are going to stay on the cruise to get home.
These are mostly Americans that instead of buying an air ticket back home, they would just cruise for another fifteen days, to get back to America. Sometimes there are cruises in the U.S. that go from East Coast to West Coast. You can also book cruises at different dates and actually go all around South America which would probably take you about 45 days to 50 days. Going on a cruise ship is something you might consider doing if you can take one or two months vacations.
2. Air Ticket
Second after booking the cruise is booking the air ticket. Your air ticket will also be one your biggest expense especially if you are staying in Malaysia and you will need to fly to Europe or U.S. to take your cruise.
3. Transfer between Airport and Harbor
Third would be booking the transfer from the airport to your cruise ship. Normally, you can book a transfer service with your cruise which will save you a lot of hassle, but it will be a little bit more expensive. If you book with the cruise, by the time that you arrive at the gate and out of the airport, there would be people sent by the cruise operator that would greet you and bring you to your bus that will take you to the port hassle-free. Normally I would book this as it is very convenient, but around 30 to 40% more expensive.
It is also advisable for you to stay at the departing/arriving port for a few days. Like when we had our cruise: we got to the airport, we went straight to the cruise, stopped at Barcelona and stayed at Barcelona for a few days. So your fourth expense will be booking a hotel for a few days. This will depend on your destination.
Another expense you’ll have to consider is the excursion. Excursion means that when your ship is docked at a certain point or harbor, you’ll most likely want to go down and do some sight-seeing or some other adventures. Please bear in mind that you will not be able to do or see everything. So just find one activity that is within your budget or possible for you.
These are the five items you will need to pay for when going on a cruise. Let’s see how to actually save on the cost.
1. Plan Ahead …. way ahead
In order to save cost, of course, you will have to plan ahead. And I mean really, really ahead. When you book six months ahead, most cruise operators would give you the lowest price guaranteed. That means that when you book a cruise that would normally cost $2,000 per person six months ahead (Let’s say now is December and you book a cruise for July) you might just need to pay their lowest price of, let’s say, $1,800.
2. Search extensively and compare
You might also want to search sites that display cruise prices. One site that I can recommend is called VacationsToGo.com. I am not affiliated with them, but you can go there and check the prices. I am not asking you to book with them, but if you want to, it’s okay. There’s a lot of stuff there, so just take the time to go through the site: VacationsToGo.com. You can check the price and check for the available date that you want to go.
3. Last minute offer
America has a lot of ports, Miami, L.A., New York, and San Francisco to name a few. They have a lot of ports that offer cruise vacations. Sometimes when a ship is not 100% full, cruise organizers give last minute offers just to fill up the cabins. This means that they will be slashing their prices just to get the ship full. These offers are not applicable though to us Malaysians because we are not near to the ports. You can check out the Star Cruise to see if they have last minute offers as well.
4. Check with Specialized Cruise Travel Agents
There are two different ways to book for a cruise. What I did was I booked with a travel agent in the U.S. that specialized in cruise vacations. This travel agent only book cruise vacations like the Carnival, the Norwegian, or the Caribbean cruise for customers. They are experts. If you ask them through email or through phone, they will give you advice on what cruises are worth going to and which ship is good.
Another way is to book on your own. Even if you book on your own, you’ll be paying the same price as booking through a travel agent who specializes in cruise vacations. In Malayisa, it might be different. Travel agents here are not the sole operators so their prices are very different than booking from the agent from U.S.
Some travel agents also give extras like on board credit that you can spend on buying souvenirs and stuff or eating at some of the high-end restaurants on the ship. Onboard credits can only be spent on the ship. Travel agents are often updated on cruise offers. If you give them the date you want, they can give you the possible trips that is good for you.
5. Season matters!
Another thing you might consider is the season. In Malaysia we’re not normally sensitive about the seasons because all year long it’s the same – raining or not raining. But in the Northern Hemisphere, it is different. There are four seasons.
Summer is around July and August. You might want to avoid booking at those months because aside from being the hottest time of the year, they also have the summer holiday. A lot of people would go on a cruise vacations, etc. During this period, prices will be higher because the demand is higher than the supply. Also, when you go there during summer, it might be 38 to 40 degrees there, which is too hot. You won’t enjoy your vacation.
The best time to go then is, in fact, April, May, September, or October. This is called the Shoulder Season. Shoulder Seasons are the transition periods like summer turning into winter, then turning to spring. That is the best season to go on a cruise on the Northern Hemisphere and also the cheapest.
6. Should you book the excursion offered by Cruise Operators?
Another way to save cost is not to book the excursion with the cruise operator. This is what I found out after two cruises. Cruise operators also get a cut or a commission for selling the excursion to you although the excursion is operated by the local people at the port. You’re paying maybe 50-100% more than if you were going on your own.
If you want your excursion to be hassle-free, then you can just book with the cruise operator. But, if you are more adventurous, you can just follow a guide book and go on your own, take a taxi cab, or just go on train in Europe. Trains are very popular in Europe and also very cheap. In the U.S. you can rent a car. In Mexico, they have a lot of independent excursion operators at the port.
7. Get a Guide Book
Of course, what you can do will always depends on the port destination as every destination has different kind of situation. So before you go on your cruise vacation, buy a guidebook. Refer to your guidebooks to show you what you can do over there, what to avoid, how much the taxi cab fee will be, etc.
8. Cabin Types
Another area you can save on is on the room type. Whether you want a balcony, lower deck or higher deck. Different level have different prices. If there’s a window or a balcony, the price will be higher than the inside cabin. It’s called the inside cabin because there is no window. It is so dark you’ll have to switch on the lights all the time.
Also the lower the deck, the cheaper it is. Of course, there are pros and cons. At the lower deck you will be closer to the engine, so it might be a bit noisy. Even the higher floor is not always the best because it might be near the top of the ship which might be noisy as well. It depends on your lifestyle and what you want to do.
I recommend that, if you can afford it, go for balcony. If you want to save money go for the inside room because you can still go to the highest deck and you enjoy the scenery without paying extra. For a room with balcony you have the option of just staying in your room because you have privacy and you still have a lot to do in the room.
9. Book your Next Cruise ONBOARD
Another tip I want to give you for when you go on your first cruise is to watch out for onboard booking sessions. They have a 1 hour session where they will introduce to you future cruises. You’ll get to see latest ship. They will give you tips on how to book, and what type of room is the best. When you take advantage of the onboard booking, normally, they will give you onboard credit. They might give you a hundred dollars to spend, or they will give you the lowest price guarantee and they will give you some discount on special cruises as well. So, if you are certain about your next cruise date, confirm that date before you go onboard. Then book it onboard so you can save on your next cruise.
For Premium Webinar Members, you can watch the full online sharing session on planning your cruise vacation here: