Saving on Cruises

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How to Cruise on a Budget

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Saving on Cruises

My husband and I are very interested in taking a cruise for our one-year anniversary. I have looked at cruises on websites owned by the cruise lines, but these are obviously not going to be the best deals. Or are they? I have also looked at auction sites (, but there are so many hidden charges that I can't tell if I'm saving or not. I am not really interested in having to sit through a timeshare lecture or dealing with the uncertainty of

I was hoping some readers have found a middle road between the expensive and the risky. I'm also wary of the high potential to be scammed in a situation like this. Can anyone help? Sarah in PA

Call the Cruise Guy

One website that I have seen and heard great things about is This site changes weekly with their top five weekly cruise deals, but they do have a phone number you can call that you might be able to get other cruise deals. Enjoy your trip! Christi

Go to This Great Vacation Site

I have been looking for last minute cruise deals and found this great website called It is full of information on cruise lines, different ships, their amenities, food, and dress codes. You can sort by date, port, cruise class, cruise line, etc. After you have selected your cruise, you call the 1-800 number and speak with the travel agent that will help you book the cruise. Even if you don't book with them, the information on the website is great. There are some really great deals that I will be taking advantage of this winter. Danielle

Don't Be Penny-Wise and Pound-Foolish

We have found several ways to make sure our cruise experiences have been successful:

  • Go to a reputable travel agent, such as American Express, Thomas Cook or the local AAA (auto club). Also check with a reputable online agent. We booked our last cruise through, which also has a 800 number and human agents for questions and follow up. Make sure your personal agent is a cruise specialist. Individual agents cannot claim the title unless they meet certain criteria.
  • Book early.
  • Be flexible with your dates. Sometimes a lower fare can be had by travelling a week later.
  • Be flexible with your destinations. Depending on your personal interests, one itinerary may deliver better entertainment value than another.
  • Be flexible with your cruise line. However, stick to the big names for your first cruise, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, and Disney. Each line has a personality and you need to match it up with yours or you will be miserable. Our 15-year-old son would be bored on a Holland America or Celebrity cruise, so we stick to Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Disney simply doesn't work for teens too well. Princess would be a borderline choice for us. A good travel agent can point you in the right direction.
  • Try to book a category, rather than a specific cabin. For our last cruise, we booked the lowest category we were willing to occupy, which was a deck three veranda. When we sailed, we were informed that we were assigned a deck seven veranda, which is a five-category upgrade. Do not make the mistake of booking a lower category than one in which you would be happy. The cruise line may not upgrade you.
  • Compare the cost and benefits of booking the cruise and the airfare jointly or separately. Only you can decide if the benefits of booking them together outweigh the slightly higher cost. Again, talk with your cruise specialist at the travel agency.

Our baseline rule with booking any vacation, including a cruise, has been don't be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Look at the value as well as the price. Louieyan

Travel the Travelocity Way

I have booked several cruises over the past two years for my husband and myself through Travelocity and I have been very pleased. Because the itinerary did not concern us that much and we didn't know one ship from another, I looked for the cheapest price. Our first cruise was out of Fort Lauderdale on Norwegian Cruise Lines and our second was out of Galveston on Carnival. We drove both times to our departure points. Rather than park in the cruise lots, we discovered we could stay a night in a nearby budget hotel and get to leave our car in their lot while we cruised for less. We dropped off our luggage at the cruise terminal, drove back to our motel, and then walked to the ship. On our return, one of us stayed with the luggage and the other walked to the motel to get the car. When we are ready to cruise again, I will go straight to Travelocity. Their red hot deals are unbeatable.

Here's another tip. They have started automatically putting tips on your credit card. We did not choose to tip in this manner, and as soon as the cruise got under way, we went to the Pursar and requested the charges be removed. They were. We got the little envelopes instead and tipped the amount that we chose. Elaine

Cruise Tips from the Inside

I used to work for one of the major cruise lines, and you can get some very good rates from the companies. Usually the best route to go is not through the Internet or travel agent. Call the company's reservation line. All cruise lines have excellent rates if you are willing to go on "last minute" cruises. You also need to be flexible about your cruise destination. A few weeks to a month before a cruise, they will give really good prices because they want to fill up the ships. It is going to cost the company the same amount to sail full as it will to sail half full. They want to try to fill every cabin. Their revenue is going to come from the spending in the bars, casinos, gift shops and so on.

Before I started working on ships, I had discovered another way to get inexpensive or free cruises. I did this and received a free cruise for myself, my husband and two children. This method required going through a travel agent and involved sharing your cruise with friends, family, co-workers, etc. They will arrange with the cruise line to set aside a block of cabins for you to "sell." Then you convince others that they need to cruise at the same time you do and send them to the travel agent to make their arrangements. Being a nurse, I came up with a brochure about the signs and symptoms of needing the prescription of a cruise, including the description of the cruise, and the travel agent printed it for me to pass out. It was a lot of fun to take a bunch of people. Nancy

Don't Forget Warehouse Stores

Our local warehouse store (BJ's) has cruises for a lot cheaper than I have ever seen them. Look online and find out all the details. hbe

Be Sure to Comparison Shop

In my experience the best cruise prices come from high-volume travel agents, not cruise line websites. I've had good experience with and with my local American Express travel agent. Don't forget that you can call multiple places and compare. Here are a few other suggestions.

  1. Know generally what you want before you go (destination, duration, and budget)
  2. In addition to the quoted price plus tax, don't forget to factor in the cost of bar drinks, souvenirs, shore excursions, and tips (for your waiter, cabin steward, etc.)
  3. If you don't have your heart set on one particular shore excursion and aren't overly skittish, you can dramatically minimize these costs by not buying them from the cruise line. Instead, find a tour guide on shore. There are tons of guides at every port.
  4. The Caribbean is generally the most competitive market, and therefore, it has the best prices.
  5. Newer ships are almost always better than older ships, and they are not necessarily more expensive.
  6. Cruise when school is still in session for better prices and fewer kids.

Overall, cruise vacations are outstanding value for money. Have a wonderful time! Patricia

Updated October 2013

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