Cruises are good value for money. Transport, accommodation, food and entertainment all rolled into one tidy sum. But a designer coffee here, a cocktail there, a dinner in a specialty restaurant, and before you know it the cost of your holiday spirals way beyond your budget.
Here are my top ‘sneaky tips’ to stretch your cruise dollars to the max.
Do your research
Knowledge is king. Be in control of your spending by knowing exactly what’s included in your cruise and what’s considered an ‘extra’. For example, the gym is free but taking a spin or yoga class may incur a cost. Speciality restaurants are an obvious extra cost, but sometimes something as simple as an ice-cream can rack up an expense.
Pay the final balance as close as possible to the departure date
Sure, you need to pay a deposit, but find out when you can pay the final balance. This way, if the price drops closer to the sail date, you can ask for the lower cost or even re-book at the new price. This nifty trick gives you assurance you’ve paid the best price for your cruise and you also get keep your money in the bank for longer.
Find a reason to celebrate
Birthdays (be careful they have your passport details), wedding anniversaries, babymoons, honeymoons, graduations, family reunions, recovery from an illness, achieving a career goal or anything else you are celebrating is worth mentioning. Cruise ships are always in party mode and a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine never goes astray.
Get your head around the drinks package
Speaking of wine, this is where you really need to be savvy. Some cruise lines include alcoholic drinks (when you choose your cruise remember this is already factored into the price); however, most have some form of the ‘dreaded’ drinks package. Study carefully the different types of packages and ask yourself (preferably without a drink in your hand), how much you intend to drink. Wine packages tend to come in number of bottles – the more you order up front, the less you pay per bottle. Many cruise lines offer all-inclusive drinks packages usually calculated on a daily rate. The bottom line here is to read the fine print as they vary considerably between companies. A common condition is that if one person in your cabin takes a drinks package, then any other adult sharing the cabin has to as well.
Some cruise companies allow you to take on one bottle of alcohol as part of embarkation. Break the rules and you’ll donate your bottle to the ship’s cellar.
Make friends with the upgrade fairy
To be ‘rewarded’ for something you haven’t officially paid for can feel like winning the lottery. But how can you be one of the lucky ones chosen for an upgrade? For starters, you need to think about the timing of your cruise – off season cruises are obviously harder to fill.
You can also politely mention that you’d like your name to be added to the list should any upgrades become available.
Organise your own shore excursions
Shore excursions organised through the cruise line are an integral part of the experience, but they’re also expensive. Going it alone and organising your own tour will save you money and also enable you to do exactly what you want. However, be warned, if anything goes wrong and you miss the curfew, the ship won’t wait for you.
Alternatively, instead of leaving with the masses to explore on shore, stay on board for a day and have the ship to yourself. You can pretend you’re on your own luxury yacht.
Enter competitions and win stuff
Let’s face it – you are part of a captive audience. Someone has to win so it may as well be you. Bingo may not be your number one choice of entertainment, but since all the money is pooled, you could be the one who walks away with a handsome sum of cash. Additionally, look for competitions that may give away a free drink, hat or even a discount on your next cruise. You might even score a free makeover if you go to a treatment demonstration in the spa. Models are often required for presentations.
Do you have any more tips to share?