"" Writer's Wanderings: Are You Saving On Those Cruise Deals?

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Are You Saving On Those Cruise Deals?

Cruise lines like to sail with a full ship. That makes good business sense. They also know where their profits are made. It's not necessarily in the price of the cruise ticket. It's in all the extra spending the passengers do while on board the ship. Here are some areas you might want to rein in your spending if you truly want to save on your cruise:

  • Retail Therapy. Yup. I actually saw that sign posted near the area of the ship's boutiques. On sea days, the shoppers can be seen wandering in and out of the area most with at least a small bag of purchases in hand. Tip: watch the daily news sheet for the day's sales. There is almost always some kind of sale where they are trying to move last season's or the last cruise's inventory. Example, you'll find great buys on Alaska sweatshirts on the first couple of cruises after the ship leaves its Alaska itinerary.

  • The Spa. This is a real treat for many but can get expensive. Tip: cut down on the cost by making your appointment during port days if you can. Prices are usually 15 to 20% less on port day.

  • The Bar. This is a no brainer. You will pay for your soda, specialty coffees, wines, and cocktails separately plus add a 15% automatic gratuity to the bill. (Unless you are on some of the more expensive lines where some of these beverages are included. In which case you've paid upfront.) Tip: If you drink a lot of soda, most ships give you a break with a beverage card that is a little less. Some offer a wine package as well. Limit your bar drinks. You'll enjoy the cruise more through clearer eyes and heads that way as well as avoid sticker shock at the end of the cruise.

  • The Casino. Another no brainer. Tip: Establish your limit for each day. You may want to spend more on sea days-less on port days where you only visit the casino in the evening. But if you can't pull yourself away from all the excitement, avoid that area of the ship and find some nice piano lounge or learn to enjoy karaoke.

  • Excursions. If you are not a learned traveler to the area you are visiting, you may want to stick with the ship's excursions. Otherwise, it is usually less expensive to do a little research and book your own with private tour companies if possible. Some small ports may be a problem though if all the tour operators have been booked by the cruise line. Tip: Do your research. Go on Cruise Critic, Cruise Line Fans, TripAdvisor, or another travel forum you trust and ask questions, look at past posts and others' experiences. Often there will be links to the tour operators there. Otherwise, book the introductory tours the ship offers in the morning like a bus/walking tour that introduces you to the area. They are usually less in cost and don't take the whole day. You can often return and do more on your own in the afternoon.

The cruise deals are still a good bargain even if you do spend on board. Where else can you get a room, meals, entertainment and transportation between points of interest sometimes for less than $100/night?

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