Want to save money on your next cruise?

I always want to go, whether on an RV trip, car trip, jet plane, or, my favorite, on a cruise. And who doesn’t want to save money on your next cruise? I know we certainly do, and I always look for ways to accomplish this magic.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

Cruising is possible for us, but we must plan for this expense. We are retired, fixed-income seniors, so cost is always our first consideration or hurdle when we decide to go on a cruise. Steve and I have, however, been able to experience several cruises before and since retirement.

We do not book through travel agents. Most of the fun of going on a trip is planning everything. Therefore, I am very unfamiliar with working with a travel professional. However, this may be a great way to book a cruise if you prefer to skip the planning part.

The actual cost of a cruise

Want to save money on your next cruise?

The stated cruise fare on the website is just the base cost, like buying a car without all the options. Gratuities (averaging $17/day) and optional insurance (we purchase our own separately), internet packages, drink packages, dining packages, and shore excursions are all additional charges. It adds up!

Credit cards and point or miles

For many years, we have handled all our expenses and bill payments by credit card. We use credit cards that provide the most airline, hotel, or reward points. Also, we always pay the total balance due on each card when it is due. Neither of us ever carries a balance, never.

We were young and not so wise once upon a time, but we realized the enormous cost of credit card debt a long time ago and decided that if we couldn’t pay for what we wanted to purchase at the time of purchase, we did not need to buy it, at least not just then.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

We pay our electric bills, gas bills, cell phone bills, grocery bills, tax payments, car payments, restaurant charges, Amazon Prime, and trip expenses with a credit card that provides the maximum amount of points possible. I have my credit cards, and Steve has his cards.

These points cover the costs of our hotels and airfare almost completely. Cruise lines have their credit cards and offers, but they do not have much value for us. These are the credit cards we have and use daily.

American Express – used for groceries
Southwest Airlines – airline points
United Airlines – airline points
IHG Rewards – hotel points

If we are not cruising from our home port of Galveston, Texas, we always fly (or drive) to our point of embarkation at least one day early. It is too stressful to worry about a missed flight or lost luggage.

Booking our hotel is usually the first thing we decide on a cruise. Hotel points come in handy here. We get to sightsee in a new location and have a great night’s sleep before our cruise.

Choose your ATM card wisely.

Our ATM card incurs no foreign transaction fees and no ATM fees anywhere at any time. We never have to consider picking up foreign currency before we leave home or worry about running out of cash or incurring ATM costs.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

Which cruise line?

We are Royal Caribbean cruisers mostly. Steve had I have cruised on Norwegian and taken several Carnival cruises over the years. Of these three cruise lines, we prefer Royal Caribbean. Our tastes may change as we experience more cruise lines.

Some Norwegian cruise lines, for example, offer all-inclusive packages, including gratuities, drink packages, dining packages, internet packages, and even shore excursion allowances. Although included in the cruise fare, each item will add a tax to the fare price.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

Since we do not use these special packages, we find all-inclusive cruises are not how we want to spend our money. If you plan to use these premium offers, it may be more cost-effective to cruise on with an all-inclusive package such as Holland America or Celebrity.

Cruise lines also offer kids-sail-free promotions from time to time. If you have a family, this is a terrific discount when booking a cruise. Be sure to look for this promotion before booking.

When should you book your cruise?

My experience is that the earlier you purchase your cruise fare, the more likely you will get a reasonable price and be able to choose from the best cabin selection. Cruise fares go down and up all the time, however.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

We sometimes book cruises as far out as two years. During those two years, we set aside funds each month for that cruise in a savings account and finally pay for the cruise just before the deadline.

A feature of Royal Caribbean is that we can check our cruise fare for a lower price and receive the lower price as long as we still have a balance owed. For this reason, we never pay the total fare until a few days before the final payment cutoff date.

There are, of course, fantastic last-minute cruises available. Cabin offerings will likely not be the greatest, but a less-than-perfect cabin on a cruise ship is not awful. It only requires a bit of online research to find great deals on almost all cruise lines.

Cruise lines offer good deals from December through March. Cruises will often come with additional incentives, such as free upgrades. If you want to save money, try to avoid booking cruises during dates when families cruise most – during spring break, mid-summer, as well as holidays.

Repositioning, transatlantic and transpacific cruises are my favorite choices. These cruises are typically longer. For us, the longer the cruise is, the better. I am especially fond of multiple days at sea with no land in sight.

Ask your cruise line for discounts.

Most all cruise lines offer military and senior discounts. Usually, discounts are offered based on the state you live in also. There can be all kinds of discounts, ask.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

It is often cheaper to pre-purchase drink packages, dining packages, internet, and even shore excursions from the online cruise planner. You can also pick up the phone and order these items directly from a cruise line representative.

Where is my perfect cabin?

I have a claustrophobia problem, and we always have a balcony cabin for that reason only. I know, I know. It’s all in my head – but it is what it is. Lower deck cabins, typically oceanview or inside cabins, are considerably lower in price.

You have to choose what works best for you. Oceanview cabins and inside cabins are the most economical way to cruise. Either cabin will be comfortably spacious and acceptable if you are not claustrophobic. Balconies are great for reading and watching sunrises and sunsets however.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

We are not fans of guaranteed cabins. A guaranteed cabin is lower in cost than a cabin you select and is often not assigned until the day you sail. Sometimes these cabins have obstructed views or are connected by a door to the adjacent room. I always want to choose our cabin.

Book your next cruise while still onboard

Yes, cruise lines have excellent discounts and cruise offers you can book while you are still onboard in the middle of a cruise! Onboard credit and discounted deposits are only two offers you can grab at the future cruise desk. Many promotional offers are often available here.

Play in the casino

We have earned several free (minus port fees, gratuities, and insurance) cruises from points accumulated while playing slot machines in the ships’ casinos. Table games also earn points, but neither Steve nor I play those.

Want to save money on your next cruise?

Want to save money on your next cruise?

To recap, here are great ways we have discovered to make our cruise travel affordable. The most important thing is to do a little research online to decide what is available and your expectations for your cruise.

  1. Use credit cards with points for all purchases possible.
  2. Obtain an ATM card with no foreign transactions or ATM fees.
  3. Research all cruise lines and determine the type of experience you wish to have based on your budget.
  4. Avoid booking a cruise during spring breaks, holidays, or summer. Choose, instead, to cruise during shoulder seasons. Consider transatlantic, transpacific, and repositioning cruises.
  5. Ask your cruise line if they offer military, senior, home state discounts, or any other discounts.
  6. Consider an inside, oceanview, or even a guaranteed cabin to get the lowest prices.
  7. Visit the future cruise desk onboard ship during a cruise to book a future cruise at discounted prices or special perks.
  8. Earn perks while playing in the casino onboard.

Retirement Extravaganza

Cruising in Alaska finally!

Cruise Interrupted

Cruising is different now, but still the same

Not exactly a perfect cruise

Covid on a cruise ship

A 23-day transpacific journey

Want to save money on your next cruise?

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