You really can find a cruise for cheap. How cheap you ask? Elizabeth and I took a cruise almost two years ago and paid $480 for 7 nights, thats $68 a night including all food, drinks, and entertainment on board (that's after fees and tips you are required to pay)! I have a free cruise stay coming up as well - I will have to share how in a later post and that is obviously a cheap one. I think that there are lots of ways that cruises can be cheap, besides looking out for a deal (I include sites to use in this post though - don't worry!), here are my tips for saving money on your next cruise. I also want to point out that a cruise can really help you stretch your money. You spend $480, but you see 6 islands that would cost more than that in airfare alone to see! This is the biggest upside to cruises in my opinion!
Many people take cruises to relax and sit on beaches, but I use cruises as a way to see many different places for a very low cost and to experience different cultures. Here are my tips for making the most of a cruise as an adventure!
Pick a cruise that meets your needs
- I've been on two through Carnival and Norweigan which both have their pros and cons; however, both suited my needs at the time.
- Look into ports – do they have activities you want to do?
- I don’t like being on the boat. I choose cruises that don't have many days at sea (that’s days on the boat without a stop)
Find a cruise with a starting point that is a fun place to visit too
- You just added another stop on your vacation. Both cruises I've been on started in cool cities (San Juan and Miami). We planned ahead and spent extra time in both adding another stop to the vacation for little cost!
- Doesn't cost more than other cruises, but adds value to your cruise
Find something unique to do on every island
- Each island offers unique activities
- Every culture is different and new
Don’t spend a lot of time on the ship
- Yes you paid for the ship, but you are also paying for the destination. The destinations themselves are usually expensive to get to - take advantage of being on a luxurious island for a day!
- Cruises are relaxing, but the ports are where adventure happens
- Every island offers wonderful things to do - we got to snorkel, zipline, kayak, hike, jump in waterfalls, swim right under planes, snorkel with sea turtles, feed iguanas, and visit historic sites
- You may not get to visit again because it really is expensive to get to small islands, so take advantage of where the boat is
Eat the meals on the cruise (they are included after all), but don’t miss the local food either
- The food on the cruises I have been on have been pretty good and they give you as much as you want plus it is included - no extra costs
- Local food is amazing. We had our best meal on our catamaran in Barbados. It was made by the captains aunt - all homemade and delicious!
- Every island has something they are known for - give it a try and add adventure to your cruise by getting the one dish the island is known for or something small. You won't spend as much as a whole meal, but still get a taste of the islands
Don’t double the cost of the cruise by buying things on the boat
- Activities on the cruise can get expensive. We paid $30 for three rounds of bingo - NOT WORTH IT, but we were bored during our day at sea.
- Things on the islands are much cheaper. You can find the same things on the boat as you do on the islands, but for a better price.
- Support the local economy and buy souvenirs and activities there. We found very cool things for just a few dollars each. Don't forget to barter on the price! Try starting off at half of what they have asked.
- You carry around a card or bracelet with your card number saved in it and they don’t tell you how much you’ve spent. Keep track and don’t over spend by using an excel sheet, google doc, or journal, whatever works for you.
Do take advantage of the free events
- Shows and events are catered to you
- Giveaways and funny things happen (we saw couples get very embarassed, I ended up doing karaoke)
- You are paying for the entertainment on the cruise – it’s there for you to experience
Don’t double the cost of the cruise buying excursions (unless it’s in your budget)
- Set a preset amount you are willing to spend a day – on ours it was $75, on some islands we spent less, freeing us up to spend more other places. Example: ziplining was more $112, but we only spent $35 for St. Martin.
- Local activities can get pricey
- Even after you’ve found a company you like, look on their website, Trip Advisor, and Viator (those are my go to sites) to make sure you get the best deal.
Remember each island
- Next time you go, you can pick your favorite and just vacation there. We loved San Juan and St. Martin so we want to plan trips to go back to these places.
- Take unique photos that will help you remember
- Each place will have different memories
Follow cruise sites for deals
The one everyone is wondering about! I'm currently subscribed to CheapCaribbean, TravelZoo, ShermanTravel, Carnival Cruise Lines, and Norwegian Cruise Line. I use these sites, compare, and decide based on what I find what the best deal would be. The great thing is cruises are happening year round and you can gradually pay for them in many cases. You put money down to reserve, and then can pay until the date. This makes them more affordable and able to fit into a budget. All of these sites or cruise lines email out great deals I would say at least weekly. Don't book full price - there are tons of discounts out there unless it comes with a lot of perks. Booking an inside cabin also will save you a lot. If you are like me, you won't spend much time in the room - it saves a lot! I've booked through Carnival and got a cruise for $68 a day. When I booked through Cheap Caribbean, I got a cruise on Norwegian that included all drinks, restaurants, and excursions while in destinations which are usually big costs of a trip! Cruise for cheap! You won't regret it.
Have you taken a cruise? How did you save money? Would love to learn more tips too!