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Cruising on a Budget

Cruising on a Budget

A cruise is a costly vacation option.

First, they entice you with a “cheap” room and onboard credit, but then they hit you over the head with expensive alcoholic beverages, optional dining venues, and Internet access that costs you a dollar per minute.

Some cruises can be at least $900 USD for a 7 day trip.

Costing that much for a week at sea is prohibitive. On that budget, you could travel around Southeast Asia for an entire month.

Luckily, there are methods to go on a cruise for a low cost (as little as $30 per day). It only requires some practice, self-control, and stealth.

Where to Find the Best Deals on Cruises

Flexible travel plans are the key to securing a low-cost cruise reservation. You can see how cruise pricing is comparable to tour pricing. A cruise’s price drops as the departure date approaches.


Since cruise lines lose money on each empty cabin, they reduce prices steadily up until the day before departure to fill the ship.

The majority of a cruise’s revenue comes from on-board spending, thus passengers’ presence is essential. Most of the crew members depend on gratuities for their income, so making them happy is important; furthermore, who would want to go on a cruise that was only halfway full?

Though early reservations have their advantages, I’ve had the most success making last-minute reservations. Also, since you are making your reservations so close to the departure date, you should be willing to change your destination or itinerary at the last minute, or even be okay with not booking the cruise itself even if you have already booked your flights.

Doug Parker, host of Cruise Radio, offers another helpful hint: “When the kids are at school, the rates are at their lowest.” The same is true for any kind of vacation, but notably cruises as they are perfect for the whole family. Don’t go somewhere while everyone else is! You can save money on your trip if you do that, or if you go in the off-season. Even Chris from Chris Cruises agrees with me: “Book far in advance or at the last minute for the greatest pricing.”

Learn the Tricks of the Trade for Finding Low-Cost Cruises at the Last Minute

Doug suggests going through a travel agency first because they have established relationships with the cruise lines and can therefore negotiate lower prices and last-minute discounts on your behalf. From my own personal experience, I must agree. Despite the prevalence of “do-it-yourself” options, it’s worth it to work with a travel agent who can negotiate a better rate or serve as a go-between with the cruise line in the event of a problem.

Avoid making premature reservations. To get the accommodation you desire, as Doug puts it, “booking early is the sole perk.” Be sure to reserve your desired cabin in advance. If not, put it off until the very end. As I mentioned at the outset, cruise lines prefer not to depart with empty cabins, therefore they offer steep discounts for passengers who book last minute.

Finally, if the price of the cruise you’ve booked drops after you’ve already paid for it, you should get in touch with the cruise line or your travel agent. The difference is usually credited to your account on board.

Cruise rates have never been lower than they are right now, according to Chris from Chris Cruises. A cruise vacation is highly recommended right now.

Here are three tips to keep in mind when looking for a low-cost cruise.

First, Smaller boats have fewer facilities and attractions, so they may be rented for less money.

Second, plan your cruise for the shoulder seasons, when prices are much more reasonable (the Caribbean during hurricane season, Alaska in September, etc.).

Third, to get ready for the new season, cruise lines often offer “repositioning cruises,” during which ships are sailed from one region of the world to another. These “cruises” may be obtained on any cruise booking website and are an inexpensive way to travel across an ocean or down a continent’s coast.

When is your flight leaving? Your airfare should be booked independently of the cruise.

Here Are Some Ways to Save Money on Your Next Cruise

As time goes on, cruises grow less and less likely to be all-inclusive. As Chris puts it, “the gravy is what people spend on board.” The cruise line’s profit margins are highest in the shops and shows offered on board. Cruises can be expensive, but if you plan ahead and are self-disciplined, you can keep your expenses to the cost of your stateroom. Here are some ways to cut costs while traveling by ship.

Ignore the soda; it cost money back in the day. It costs about $3 USD for a miniscule glass, or you can spend $45–$60 USD on a “soda card” that provides you with unlimited soda throughout the cruise. Soda consumption would have to be rather high for that to be worthwhile. Instead, take use of the ship’s complimentary water, iced tea, and juice. Both your bank account and your blood sugar level will appreciate it.

When it comes to family pictures, is cheesy “professional” or not really all that important? Not in my opinion. Take a digital camera with you and have them taken on the ship for a fraction of the price, or have them taken before you leave for a vacation.

Do not eat in the restaurants unless absolutely necessary; most modern cruise ships provide a la carte and a la carte speciality dining for an additional fee. Some services are available a la carte, while others have a flat rate. Do not eat at these specialized eateries. You can eat for less money and just as well at the many cafes, restaurants, and supermarkets. If you do decide to book, you may save up to 25% by doing it before you board. Doug recommends checking into meal deals since these might save you money as well.

Take it easy on the booze, since a six dollar beer and a ten dollar mixed drink may add up quickly. Have a good time without spending a fortune on alcohol and yet bask in the sun. After just a few days of wine with dinner and a few pina coladas while relaxing by the pool, my alcohol bill rapidly mounted up to a significant amount.

You may save money by bringing your own food and drinks on board. Most cruise lines will allow you to bring in one case of water, soda, and beer, as well as one bottle of wine.

Extra booze is always welcome; if you’re planning on imbibing hard liquor while on board, stock up on Rum Runners. These discrete containers are great for sneaking booze through airport security checkpoints. If you’re sly and savvy, you can bring your own booze onto the ship and save money on beverages.

You should organize your own shore trips because those offered by the cruise line are both expensive and crowded. Rather than paying middlemen, do your homework online and organize your own activities with local operators. You’ll be able to avoid the crowds, save money, and directly contribute to the local economy.

The boat will leave without you, so make sure to leave yourself plenty of time to return. Shore Excursions Group is the company that Doug Parker suggests because their tours are 30 percent less expensive and they promise to return you to the ship on time.

Do your own laundry since it will cost you an arm and a leg to get it done while you’re at sea. You don’t have to pay for a whole bag of laundry as you do at fancy hotels; instead, you pay per item. My socks aren’t even worth a dollar to me. Get some Woolite and do it yourself in the sink or bathtub.

Don’t bother with the cruise line’s airport transfers; taxis are readily available and much more cost-effective if you have a large group.

Don’t waste your money on anything unnecessary — I know this is obvious, but I like to be thorough. Things like a spa, stores, Wi-Fi, mobile phone reception, etc. All of them have a monetary price tag. Fail to perform! Get something cheaper on dry land instead.

Be smart on the cruise casinos. It’s easy to get off budget when you’re on a cruise. While the casino can still accept cash and chips as usual, you may also be able to withdraw chips using the same card you use for on-ship purchases. It’s a good idea to keep track of your wins, losses, and withdrawals as you go, as this can prevent the money from feeling “real,” which is already an issue with chips in general. Keeping your own tally is simple; you could, for example, use a note-taking app on your smartphone. Practice your casino skills and try your hand at online blackjack over at

If you use the advice above, you can book a cruise at a low price and still have a wonderful vacation.

Disclaimer: Content is for informational purposes only. Gambling may lead to addiction and financial loss. Play responsibly. Seek help if needed. Not an endorsement of gambling.

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