10 Recession Proof Cruise Tips
Surefire strategies to get more cruise for less.
Even in the most difficult economic times, savvy travelers can always find ways to save hundreds of dollars off their cruise vacation. Here are 10 tried-and-true strategies to help you get more bang from your cruise vacation buck:
1. Become a savvy traveler. A bad economy makes for some very good deals: Super cruise deals, lowest prices in years. But don't book them directly with the cruise line. You can get "bonus" savings from many travel agents. Not only a better price, but some agents throw in shipboard credits, pre-paid gratuities and other incentives to get you to book. Shipboard credits, where available from the cruise line, are house credits that are placed on your stateroom's account for you to use during your cruise vacation. You can use the credit towards merchandise, lounges and in some, but not all cases, for Spa Treatments or Shore Excursions.
Contact your credit card company. They may offer additional savings, shipboard credits or frequent flyer miles when you pay for your cruise in full with that credit card.
Sign up for e-mail deal alerts that let you know where the great deals are. Some services will e-mail you when cruise fares drop for the cruise you want.
2. Pick a cruise departure port within driving distance. Save the cost of airfare and drive to where the ship departs. The high cost of air travel is a compelling reason to target cruise ships that sail within a day’s drive or less of your home. Cruising close to home has never been easier. There are over 20 departure ports in the United States that have cruises departing from them. It's one of the best ways to stretch your vacation dollar. Plus, you can choose from hundreds of voyages to destinations like the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Mexico. Departures will vary by cruise line and not all cruise lines sail from your closest city.
Here's our list to check out.
From the East Coast, you can sail from; Baltimore, Boston, Charleston, Ft. Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, New York City, Norfolk, Philadelphia,Port Canaveral, Tampa. From the West Coast; Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle From the Gulf Coast; Galveston, Houston, Mobile, New Orleans.
3. Haggle for your cabin. Cruise pricing is all about supply and demand. The cruise line Inventory managers get nervous when there aren’t enough "heads in the beds", so take advantage and use your leverage. “Don’t be shy about negotiating with your travel agent,” says Marty Trencher at Cruise Traveler Magazine. “Travel agents are more willing to bargain now that business is soft. Even if the price is the same, we’re seeing travel agents throwing in incentives, such as complimentary ground transfers, free parking at the pier, pre-paid tips or onboard credits that can be used toward dining, spa services, and other amenities. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
Seniors are most effected by the economy. Seniors should look to book with the cruise line that offer the best reduced rates for seniors. Senior discounts are offered by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line and others. One passenger in the cabin must be at least 55 years old to receive the discounts.
To broaden the geographic make-up of passengers, many cruise lines may offer special reduced prices for residents of your state. Ask about it
Inside or out? Why not save money and book an inside cabin. Inside cabins are windowless, but are priced huundred's of dollars less that outside or balcony cabins. As you only sleep in your cabin, why not?
Is the balcony really necessary?. If your budget allows, consider upgrading to a balcony also known as a veranda cabin. But first, think about how much time you will spend gazing at the stars or having breakfast in. On a transatlantic voyage, the scenery always the same, but on a coastal voyage around Alaska or the Mediterranean a balcony cabin may be worth it.
4. Book your own shore excursions. When budgeting for a cruise vacation, it’s easy to underestimate how much you’ll cruise will cost. Beyond the cost of the cruise fare and taxes, there's the fuel surcharges and other fees to consider. One area you can really save money is do your own sightseeing or shore excursion planning. Almost all the local vendors that the cruise line uses, can be found on the internet. Visit the port’s official tourism web site for up-to-date information on tour operators and pricing. Their direct to the consumer prices in most cases are cheaper than if you bought the tour from the cruise line. Shore excursion income is an important part of a cruise lines onboard revenue. So, they mark it up to maximize profits. Booking just one shore excursion, such as a helicopter ride to land on glacier, for a family of four in Alaska, can save you hundreds of dollars in your overall cruise vacation costs. And you can put that savings to better use.
Two online firms that specialize in sightseeing tours for cruise passengers include Port Promotions and Shore Trips. You can book online, and pocket the savings.
5. Choose a cruise where kids cruise free. Find cruise line promotions that let Kids 12 and under sail free when they share a cabin with mom and dad. MSC cruises is offering Children 17 and under to sail free in the Caribbean & Mediterranean when traveling as the third or fourth guest in a cabin with two full-fare paying guests. Check with MSC cruises for details. Take advantage of reduced rates for 3rd/4th passengers with Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Princess. You can also save money onboard. Purchase an unlimited "coke" card or other budget stretcher offer. A deal that offers unlimited sodas for $20, is a real money saver when you are traveling with kids. Tip: many of these 'budget stretcher" deals are not well publisized. Be sure to check out the cruise lines special offers web page, and ask your travel agent about family deals when you reserve your cruise.
6. Think about the future. Some cruise lines offer discounts on a future sailing if you book it while on a current cruise. Back home, you can work with your travel agent and try to lower the price even further.
7. Keep your onboard spending low. Limit your spending on photos, spa services, art auctions, shore excursions, jewelry, casino and drinks of the day.
Stay away from the Specialty restaurants. Many cruise lines have several alternative dining venues to the usual main dining room. These restaurants, offer special menu items with prices ranging from $10 to $45 per person. Sure, the fare may be better, but is it that much better than what you can savor in the ship’s dining room for free?
Almost every cruise ship offers Internet access, but they often charge a ridiculous per-minute access fee. Some cruise lines even offer package deals for 100- 200 minutes of Internet access. Forget about it! Instead, visit an Internet facility when you are in port. How to find one? Easy, ask a crew member where to find an Internet cafe on shore, or check out the local public library, where you can sometimes check your e-mail for free.
8. Discover free airfare. Air add-on rates are offered by many cruise lines in conjunction with their cruise only rates. Sometimes, special promotions are offered where the air is reduced. For example, a Caribbean cruise sailing out of Miami, may have an air rate of $389 from Chicago. But the cruise line may subsidize the rate and offer the plane ticket for $179 per person. In some cases, economy airfare is offered free from select cities.
Save on Airport transfers. The cost of cruise line provided round-trip airport transfers can run $20 per person or more. A better (and often faster) way to get to and from the ship is by local taxi. The fare can be $20-30, but the taxi can take up to four people.
9. Snag a better cabin at no extra cost. Look for free upgrades: Frequently offered by Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Princess and Norwegian Cruise Lines. Upgrades are usually from an inside to an inside cabin, or an oceanview to an oceanview cabin, excluding suites and sometimes oceanview cabins with balconies. Most of these upgrades are unadvertised and you need to do your homework to find them. For instance, if you head to cruise direct online you’ll find that it’s loaded with money-saving discounts on many cruises plus many bonus features, such as upgrades, shipboard credits and more.
10. Aim for the off season. For cruises that sail year-round to the same destinations, certain sailings sell out more slowly, or don't filll up at all. If you are considering a Caribbean cruise, then consider sailing between the end of August and the sailing before Christmas. Looking to sail to Alaska? may and September offer the best deals. Europe? September and October sailings are the cheapest. During the "off" season, you'll find the best senior citizen rates, regional promotions, past passenger, or last minute deals.