If you’ve ever longed to enjoy a superb cruise holiday but have been deterred by the thought that cruises are just too expensive it’s time to think again. The holiday market is an incredibly competitive now and even prestigious operators such as Royal Caribbean Cruises are offering deals and seasonal sales that are making cruises more affordable for everyone.
Booking in advance and taking advantage of current cruise offers are great ways of saving money when choosing a cruise holiday, but there are plenty of other nifty ways to be thrifty that allow to enjoy the full cruise experience without emptying your bank account.
Here are 10 great tips for cutting the cost of cruise holidays:
- Purchasing onboard photos and souvenirs is purely optional
Cruise operators love to photograph their guests at every opportunity in order to compile an album of pictures which serves as a reminder of the great time you had whilst cruising with them. Smile for the ship’s photographers by all means but don’t feel pressured into buying an album when you can just as easily take your own cruise snaps at a fraction of the cost.
- Don’t let onboard tipping get out of hand
It’s an unwritten rule of cruising, but tipping the ship’s staff is virtually obligatory and most operators provide guidelines regarding acceptable levels of gratuity. Tipping every crew member every time they help you in some way is quickly going to become expensive but this can be avoided by opting for a cruise holiday where all gratuities are already included in the overall fare.
- Treat casinos with care… or avoid them altogether
Gripped by that carefree holiday feeling it may be tempting to try your luck in the ship’s casino, but whilst throwing a few pounds into a slot machine or indulging in a game or two of blackjack might be fun for a while it’s still gambling and the golden rule is always not to bet anything that you can’t afford to lose. Besides which, modern cruise ships are packed with entertainments that are inexpensive or free; save money and skip the casino for an activity that you’ll enjoy even more.
- Do-it-yourself versus the ship’s laundry
All modern cruise liners offer passenger laundry facilities. The most expensive service will involve the collection, cleaning, pressing and return of your laundry to your cabin, although you may also find a less expensive self-service laundry onboard. The super-thrifty cruiser may save cash by washing and drying their smalls and other items in the cabin or, if practicable, seeking out cheaper laundry services in port by doing a little research beforehand.
- Unless vital, don’t use the phone or internet on board
Taking advantage of onboard internet access or ship-to-shore international phone calls whilst at sea can quickly become more expensive than anticipated. Find an internet café when in port and use Skype or other internet-based phone services to make far less expensive calls home. If taking a mobile phone with you on your cruise holiday, make sure to find out exactly how much it will cost to use it for data, text messages and phone calls whilst you’re cruising in order to avoid nasty surprises when you return home.
- Manage the cost of booze on your cruise
Most cruise operators impose a strict limit upon the quantity of alcohol passengers may bring on board for their own consumption, and may additionally charge a ‘corkage fee’ for wine that has been brought onboard and consumed in a public area of the ship. If you enjoy a glass of wine with your evening meal, buying by the bottle once you set sail can be expensive but some operators offer a drinks package, bookable in advance, that represents a significant saving over onboard prices. Royal Caribbean Cruises’ pre-bookable wine packages, for example, offer a discount of up to 25% on their regular wine list prices.
- Plan your own on-shore excursions
Cruise operators generally offer a range of popular excursions for passengers to enjoy when in port. It’s worth noting that the most popular trips sell out very quickly. It’s also worth noting that with a guide book, local map and a bit of common sense it may be possible to arrange your own tours and excursions of a new destination at a lower cost than you’ll be charged on board. Exploring on foot is free, but for those must-see visitor attractions its worth investigating local taxi fares and public transport to see in cash can be saved.
- Little extravagances soon add up
If you forget to pack, or run out of smaller items such as sun tan lotion, batteries, toiletries, painkillers and so on you’re almost certainly going to be able to replace them more cheaply by visiting a supermarket in port than by buying them on board. For little onboard treats, check first whether there is a free option before you pay; for example you might have access to free coffee but will have to pay for a cappuccino – do you really need that froth? And most cruise liners will offer free ice-cream as well as premium branded ice-cream that you’ll have to pay for.
- Be aware of onboard currency exchange rates and ATM charges
First the good news; using an onboard Bureau de Change on your cruise holiday does not automatically mean you’re going to be fleeced, but it may not always mean that you’re getting today’s exchange rate either. Cash machines (ATMs) will not be free to use onboard and will either charge a set fee per transaction or a percentage of the sum withdrawn therefore it is best to minimise or avoid altogether using ATMs when onboard ship.
- If in doubt… ask the cost
As mentioned earlier, the great thing about a cruise holiday is that the modern liner hosts a huge range of activities and facilities to amuse and entertain passengers. Many of these, but not all, are offered free of charge so if you’re in any doubt whatsoever as to whether that relaxing onboard massage, cocktail-mixing workshop or manicure is free be sure to ask before you indulge.