Some tips from me, but most from the experts – a great list of resources. And while they all aren’t big money tips, if you add them all together, you can save in a big way. Part of it is being smart about the vacation – a trip that is filled with hidden charges and impulse purchase temptations. And it’s not just this post – be sure to follow the links for more information on how to save big on cruises!
I think cruising is the way to go when it comes to vacations. I love the idea of lazy days at sea, multiple port destinations, endless food and staff who take care of you from the moment you step on board to the moment you leave. And now that Carnival is sailing from Norfolk, VA again, it’s likely we’ll take a cruise vacation as soon as we can. In anticipation, I’m collecting some of the best cruise tips from some of the top online resources (and some that you might not be familiar with, but that are super cruise savvy!)
Shop The Deals
This goes without saying, but shopping deals online can really save you some money. Book early or book late to save, book your own air fare and shop off-peak times… (this link has one of the best lists of money saving tips for finding the best cruise deal)
The Necessary Extra Charges
Research and budget for extra charges like tipping and transfer charges. You can’t get out of tipping (and you shouldn’t – it’s expected and the staff works hard) but you may be able to save on the trip from the airport by taking a cab instead of paying for the shuttle. Do your research.
Bring Your Own Wine:
“Many cruise lines will now allow you to bring one or two bottles of wine or champagne on embarkation day only. There will be a $10-$20 corkage fee if you bring the bottle into the dining room, but you can enjoy the wine in your room without any charge.” – Sherry Laskin of Cruise Maven (www.cruisemaven.com)
Cruise Close to Home
“Cruise lines have embraced homeport cruising, with ships departing from cities all along the U.S. coastline. You can cruise from New York, Boston, Baltimore, Seattle, San Francisco, New Orleans and Galveston, among others, on a seasonal or year-round basis.” This is our plan – to wait until Carnival cruises out of Norfolk again – a two hour drive. Don’t forget that you’ll need pay to park your car in port garages.
Note – AAA may offer a shuttle to some ports, so check with them before you book.
Save On Excursions
Cruise lines mark up shore excursions by 30%-40%, so look into purchasing directly from tour operators or third-party consolidators like Viator.com. Remember that you’ll need to be back on the ship in time, so allow for that. If it’s a tight timeline (or if you are out to sea) you might want to book through the cruise line.
Your Wardrobe Is Fine!
Mix and match the clothes that are already in your closet. It’s a vacation! Don’t stress over the outfits. And anytime you can wear parts of an outfit for day and evening, smart thinking. Pack as light as you can and save room for those souvenirs (so you don’t pay any additional luggage fees going home.)
Access the Internet During Port Calls
I love this tip – it’s one that would definitely save me money.
“Onboard Internet access is frustratingly slow and extremely expensive. To save money, pre-write your emails and send them when the ship is in port. To send them, find an Internet café or bring along an air card or mobile hot spot. If your wireless plan does not include international access, call your provider and have an international plan added for the duration of your trip. You will save money and avoid the frustration of using the onboard Internet service.”
Budget Onboard Purchases
It makes sense to budget and STICK TO IT when it comes to vacation spending. It’s even more important on a cruise (or other all inclusive resorts) because you aren’t always pulling the wallet out for food and beverages. You are more likely to think “oh another $20 in the casino is no big deal”. Set a budget and stick to it. Splurge only after you’ve come in under budget for the previous days.
Photos, Art Shows and Exhibits OH MY!
You’ll have your photo taken every time you turn around. You’ll be invited to fashion shows and art exhibits and it’s all for sale. At crazy prices. Avoid the impulse purchases. Spend that money on a nice camera before you go to take your own photos.