Updated: Apr 23
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—that’s $68 a night including all food, drinks, and onboard entertainment (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 obviously, that is a very cheap one.
Many people take cruises to relax and enjoy beaches, but I use cruises as a way to see many different places for a very low cost and to experience new cultures. Here are my tips for making the most of a cruise as an adventure!
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 below—don’t worry!). These 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 around $480, but you see 6 islands that would cost more than that in airfare alone! This is just one of many tips for taking a cruise.
holding a starfish in St. Thomas after snorkeling with sea turtles
Pick a cruise that meets your needs.
I’ve been on two cruises 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 on land).
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 location to the vacation for little cost!
This doesn’t cost more than other cruises, but it adds value to your cruise.
waterfall in Dominica (one of the best spots for diving in the Caribbean) after a hike in the rainforest
Find something unique to do on every island.
Each island offers unique activities.
Every culture is different and new.
ziplining in St. Lucia through the rainforest
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 in a luxurious location 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 stops.
Eat your 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 all-inclusive—no extra costs.
Local food is amazing! We had our best meal on a catamaran in Barbados. It was made by the captain’s aunt—all homemade and all delicious! There are must-try foods on every island. Check out these top traditional foods in Aruba.
Every island has something they are known for, so give them a try! Add adventure to your cruise by sharing the one dish each island is known for or ordering something small. You won’t spend as much as a whole meal, but you’ll 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 islands as you do on the boat, but for a better price.
Support the local economy and buy souvenirs and activities on the islands. We found very cool things for just a few dollars each. Don’t forget that you can barter on the price! Try starting off at half of what they have asked for.
On the boat, you carry around a card or bracelet with your credit card number saved in it, and they don’t tell you how much you’ve spent. Keep track and don’t overspend by using an Excel sheet, Google Doc, or journal—whatever works for you!
onboard shows happen nightly
Do take advantage of the free events.
Shows and events on the boat are catered to you.
There are giveaways and funny things that happen (we saw couples get very embarrassed, and I ended up doing karaoke).
You are paying for the entertainment on the cruise—it’s there for you to experience.
planes flying over us at Maho Beach in St. Martin
Don’t double the cost of the cruise by buying excursions (unless it’s in your budget!).
Set a preset amount that you are willing to spend a day—ours was $75. On some islands we spent less, freeing us up to spend more at other places. Example: ziplining was $112, but we only spent $35 in St. Martin.
Local activities can get pricey, too.
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!
kayaking in St. Thomas
Make memories on each island.
Next time you travel, you can pick your favorite one 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 that you’ll want to keep!
Follow cruise sites for deals.
This is 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 the best deal will be. The great thing is that cruises happen year-round (warm winter getaway anyone?!), and you can gradually pay for them in many cases. You put money down to reserve a place 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 in sought-after destinations, which are usually additional costs for a trip. Cruise for cheap! You won’t regret it.
Have you taken a cruise? How did you save money? I would love to learn your tips, too!