12 Ways To Save Money On A Cruise
by, 01-16-2009 at 06:11 PM (8522 Views)
Iíve been researching prices for a cruise later this year and I am astounded to see how much prices have risen since we cruised last year. After speaking with some travel agents, Iíve learned that this is largely due to increases in the prices of fuel and food. The cruise lines have to pass on these costs to customers in order to make money. Itís understandable, but it still doesnít make a twenty percent increase in fares from one year to the next easy to swallow. Iíve always found ways to save on my cruises and it looks like this year my tips will be getting even more of a workout. So how do I save on cruises? Here are my top twelve strategies.
1. Book early. The advice for cruising used to be to wait until the last minute and then snap up empty cabins at bargain rates. After 9/11, most lines discontinued last minute bookings due to security concerns. Now that passenger lists are checked before sailing, you canít just show up a the port on departure day and expect to sail. Most lines now use a tiered price schedule with the best discounts going to those who book the earliest. As the ship fills, prices increase. Rarely will prices decrease using the system but if a ship fails to fill, prices may go down closer to sailing. However, you are still better off booking early because most lines will happily give you a price adjustment if your fare drops (you have to call as they wonít do it automatically).
2. Donít book the cruise lineís airfare. Most lines offer packages in which the airfare to the port is included in the package price. However, you can almost always get cheaper airfare if you book it yourself and take advantage of fare wars, frequent flier miles, or specials. Unless the cruise line is offering a real steal on airfare (and they probably wonít), arrange your air travel yourself or book a cruise on a line that departs from a port thatís within driving distance.
3. Sail in the off season. Off season for most lines sailing the Atlantic and the Caribbean is during August, September, and October, also known as hurricane season. Your risk of having your route or dates changed is greater, but if you can be flexible there are no better deals to be had. Late fall and winter can turn up some good deals on those lines still sailing in Alaska and Europe. Most lines only sail these routes during peak summer season, but those that remain offer some good deals. Play around with your dates and see which ones offer the best fares. Sometimes changing dates by as little as a week can save you hundreds of dollars.
4. Shop around for quotes. Donít just take the first offer you get from the cruise line. Call some travel agents, look up online cruise agents, and try membership clubs like AAA or Samís Club. There are often a variety of prices out there, even for the same dates and cabins. Some agents donít compete on the base price but do offer rebates or onboard credits which are just as good as getting money off the base fare. Get a handful of offers and pick the best one.
5. Donít pay for more cabin than you need. Do you need a verandah or a suite, or will an inside cabin do just as well? If you are going to be out exploring the ship and the ports, you may not need much more than a place to crash at night. If you need more than one cabin, do they have to be connecting or adjoining (which is often pricier), or can you book two cheaper cabins that are across the hall or further away from each other? Each line has different cabin tiers and prices, so research your needs before booking.
(See next post for the rest of this article and C@rol's thoughts.)