Do You Want a Cheaper Cruise Holiday? Here’s Our In-Depth Guide

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We all want our holiday funds to go as far as possible every year – so securing that well-earned break from the hustle and bustle for a week or two shouldn’t break the bank. Cruise holidays may seem a little extravagant, especially for those trying to keep the purse strings relatively tight, but they needn’t cost an arm and a leg when you employ a few money-saving tips.

So to help you finance a once-in-a-lifetime trip, here is Cruise1st’s ultimate guide to saving money on a cruise holiday.

Booking Tips

With more cruise ships navigating an ever-growing roster of itineraries, there has never been greater choice when booking a cruise. If you’re a little overwhelmed with the massive choice in front of you, and are struggling to find the best-priced cruise which ticks all your boxes, these tips can make the whole process a little easier.

Make Researching Fun

Researching a cruise holiday doesn’t have to be a long, laborious task – it can actually be quite fun. Put together some tasty snacks and mix up a pitcher of your favourite holiday cocktail and research as a team. Check through websites and brochures for inspiration and the best deals – identifying the cruise for you. The fun aspect of the research will energise you to continue the search, and bag the best bargain.

Use the official websites of the cruise lines for the basic information, and compare these to the details on third party review and comparison sites – so you’re getting an impartial view.

Get Out the Calculator

If you fancy being wined and dined on holiday, with a host of all-inclusive packages – you may be better served totting up these costs across all lines. It may actually work out cheaper to holiday with one of the luxury lines who offer all-inclusivity as standard, rather than going for a line offering the lowest base rate and then adding on all the extras.

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Outline what you want from a trip and then figure out how to get it from each line – adding up all the costs for all the lines.

Book Early

There has long been a theory that the best holiday deals are those snapped up at the last minute, but many cruise lines are now trying to fill cabins far in advance by offering early bird deals. From reduced fares to special upgrades, cruise lines will offer a series of attractive bonuses for those booking and paying deposits far in advance.

Ignore the Brochure Price

The brochure price should be used as a basic guide, not a set-in-stone indication of what you’ll have to pay. There’s a huge range of different factors which influence the price of a specific cruise, from the time of year you sail to the cabin you book.

Don’t immediately disregard a cruise if the brochure price is out of your budget range – use this as a ballpark figure and try to find yourself a bargain.

Chat with the Sales Team

Chatting with the sales teams from cruise operators isn’t just about bartering your price down and down, it’s also about personalising a trip to your specific requirements. An experienced sales rep will be able to tailor a cruise to your specific needs, highlighting the ships which suit your tastes and introducing you to destinations which will ignite your wanderlust.

This will provide you with the chance to cut all the extras and services you don’t require and include everything you fancy – providing more bang for your buck.

To chat to the friendly sales team at Cruise1st, give us a call on 0808 159 2518 and we’ll help find a cruise deal which is perfect for you.

Sign up to Email Newsletters

Signing up to email newsletters is the easiest way to keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest and greatest cruise deals. If there are just a few cabins on a particular itinerary left to sell, these might be offered at an incredibly low price – but you’ll have to be speedy, attractive deals go quickly.

If your smartphone has email access, make sure notifications are turned on. As soon as you receive an email with an unmissable deal, you can spring into action and secure yourself an absolute bargain!

Pack Smart

The ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to packing may be a hard habit to drop, but over-packing the night before a cruise can lead to huge excess charges and fines. Really consider what you’ll need for every day of the cruise, including shore excursions and evening meals – and pack accordingly.

And remember, the majority of cruise ships boast comprehensive laundry services – so you could, in effect, half your packing and do a big wash one day during the trip.

Fotolia_suitcase_packing_holiday

All-Inclusive Offerings

Many of the larger cruise lines offer a selection of all-inclusive packages, covering extras such as speciality meals, drinks and internet usage. Some of these represent great value for money, whilst some others can only be justified if you’re passionate about the extras on offer. Here we run through the best all-inclusive packages available on the major lines, and help you identify which packages offer real value for money.

Dining Packages

Azamara Club Cruises invite you to dine at their two speciality restaurants, Aqualina and Prime C, with their 3 and 4 table tours. These prices include the cover charges and food gratuities for the meals, but not additional drinks charges and subsequent gratuities.

The 3 Table Tour @ $60.00pp

The 4 Table Tour @ $80.00pp

Royal Caribbean offer 3,4 and 5-night dining packages across their speciality restaurants, offering potential savings of up to 40%.

3-Night Dining Package @ $70.00pp

4-Night Dining Package @ $85.00pp

5-Night Dining Package @ $100.00pp

Please note: these deals cost an extra $10.00 when cruising aboard Oasis and Quantum Class ships.

jamie-oliver-royal-caribbean-platter

The dining packages offered by Norwegian Cruise Lines are even more comprehensive, offering deals with up to 14 meals.

3-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $69.00pp

4-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $84.00pp

5-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $99.00pp

6-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $114.00pp

7-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $129.00pp

8-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $139.00pp

9-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $149.00pp

10-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $159.00pp

11-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $169.00pp

12-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $179.00pp

13-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $189.00pp

14-Meal Speciality Dining Package @ $199.00pp

Drinks Packages

Princess Cruises offer three very distinct packages – each with their own benefits.

Unlimited Soda & More @ $8.05 per person per day – Includes: Unlimited fountain soft drinks, mocktails, juices and hot chocolates

Café Select @ $35.65 per card – Includes: Each card entitles the holder to 15 espresso-based speciality drinks

All-Inclusive @ $56.35 per person per day – Includes: Unlimited individual drinks up to $10.00 apiece

Similarly, Royal Caribbean’s drinks packages are split into three options – Select, Premium and Ultimate packages. However, these are more just staggered variations of each other.

Select @ $42.00 per person per day – Includes: Beer, Wine, Fountain Soda, 20% Bottled Wine Discount

Premium @ $57.00 per person per day – Includes: Beer, Wine, Fountain Soda, 20% Bottled Wine Discount, Cocktails, Bottled Water

Ultimate @ $67.00 per person per day – Includes: Beer, Wine, Fountain Soda, 40% Bottled Wine Discount, Fresh Juices, Premium Hot Drinks

Holland America Line’s Signature drinks package is one of the more straightforward offerings from cruise lines. For $44.95 per person, per day, you’re entitled to up to 15 drinks, as long as they come in under the $8.00 mark.

Cocktails - Marnie Joyce

Internet Packages

Royal Caribbean’s internet packages are split into two options – Voom Surf, and Voom Surf + Stream (basically two different connection speeds), and they are priced by the number of devices using the package.

Voom Surf Voom Surf + Stream
One Device $9.99/day $12.99/day
Two Devices $16.99/day $22.99/day
Three Devices $23.99/day $31.99/day
Four Devices $27.99/day $39.99/day
Five Devices $31.99/day $41.99/day

 

Alternatively, Carnival Cruises offers three different Wi-Fi packages aboard their ships providing different speeds and services.

Social @ $5.00 per day – Includes: Access to popular social media websites – Facebook Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp

Value @ $16 per day – Includes: Access to the above as well as e-mail services and websites.

Premium @ $25 per day – Includes: Access to all above as well as video conferencing apps. Offers speeds up to three times faster than the Value plan.

But beating all the big boys, Regent Seven Seas have implemented free Wi-Fi across their entire fleet. From the internet café to the Pool Deck, there are no restrictions where you can connect to the complimentary service with this smaller cruise line.

On-Board Budgeting

Exploring the liner for the first time on embarkation day is one of the most exciting parts of a cruise holiday, as you pick your way through all the wonderful activities you’re set to enjoy and peruse the tantalising menus of all the on-board restaurants. But this can also be the time you realise the temptation to spend money during your trip will be great (especially if you’re travelling with the kids), so it’s vital you budget effectively with the following tips.

Make the Most of Lunch

All the major cruise lines have invested heavily in their culinary offerings, providing a staggering selection of dining experiences. Many ships now boast a series of complimentary dining areas alongside a number of speciality restaurants which come at an additional cost.

If you fancy dining in these wonderful restaurants during your stay on the seas but don’t want to spend too much on food – it may be wise to visit during lunch. Many of these restaurants will offer a selection of the same dishes at lunch at a lower price, often included in a bargain set menu price. So indulge yourself at lunch, and then finish the day with a smaller complimentary meal in the evening.

Diversify your Dinner Order

When eating in one of the complimentary a la carte restaurants, you may have more freedom than you realise. Whilst you may automatically order a starter, main and dessert – many cruise ships offer limitless dining. This means you could order two mains (great for trying new things) or satisfy that sweet tooth with a bumper dessert order.

Whilst this won’t save you any money directly, it does mean you’ll get more for your cash.

Scour the Ship for Specials

The glut of restaurants and activity centres found aboard the major cruise lines regularly boast specials throughout an itinerary. Arm yourself with a notepad and pen, and take note of all the specials during your trip – then plan a week or so of bargain drinking and dining.

This can include discounts in the speciality restaurants on the opening evening of the cruise. The likes of Celebrity Cruises tend to offer these discounts to entice cruisers who are prone to venturing to the main dining hall on the first night.

Pamper Yourself in Port

Another extra which is seldom included in the price of a ticket is use of the salon and spa. Different treatments and packages are available aboard all the major cruise lines, often at an additional cost. These costs may be significantly lower when the ship is in port during a city visit – due to reduced demand. If there’s a port on your itinerary which does not particularly excite you, why not stay aboard the quieter ship and enjoy a little pampering.

Spa Source: Flickr@Visit Finger Lakes

Check the Gratuities

The awkward uncertainty at the end of the meal or upon receiving room service is not present on cruise ships – with the gratuities automatically taken care of. However, it is important to make sure you know exactly how much you’re paying in gratuities on your trip. Most cruise lines charge per person, per day and these amounts can be checked at the reception. Here is our guide to the amounts you’d expect to pay on each of the major cruise lines.

It is possible to alter the amount of gratuities you pay aboard most cruise lines, however these payments go to the hardworking crew so it’s important to remember their needs as well as your own budget.

Turn on Airplane Mode

Unless your phone contract covers overseas costs, there’s a chance you could be hit with hefty charges for every little bit of 4G used or text received on a cruise ship. Turn on Airplane Mode and restrict your phone use to Wi-Fi connectivity to reduce the risk of a bumper bill waiting for you upon your return.

Extend Your Trip On-Board

It may be possible to book a few extra nights to tag onto the end of your cruise in the on-board booking centre. If there is a free cabin (or cabins if you’re part of a big group), and the next cruise embarks on your day of disembarkation – then you might be able to extend your trip. Without the costs of transfers to the ship and the last-minute nature of you booking, it is likely you’d be able to bag a bargain few extra nights.

Just make sure you’ve got enough clean clothes to cover the extra days, unless the ship offers laundry services of course.

Or Book Your Next Trip

The on-board booking centre could also be a great source of bargains for your next cruise holiday. Although the cruises on offer will exclusively be aboard the cruise line you’re currently sailing (or sister lines), the on-board sales team may be able to provide exclusive prices with bumper savings.

girl lying on a deck chair by the pool and holding a tablet with

Shore Excursion Savings

Being transported in opulent luxury to an eclectic mix of port cities and beautiful beaches is perhaps the great joy of cruising. You shouldn’t be forced to miss out on any experiences during a cruise trip, so here’s the guide to affordably making the most of shore excursions.

Research Port Cities

Docking up in a new port in a foreign land can be a bit of a shock to the system for first time cruisers looking to make the most of their trip. Make sure you research each port before you visit so you know exactly what you want to see, eat and do.

Furthermore, a little research can help introduce you to prices you’d expect to pay in the respective port towns – so you don’t end up paying over the odds when a little bartering could earn you an absolute bargain.

Consult TripAdvisor

If you’re in a port city for just one day and want to experience the best authentic cuisine the locals have to offer, a look on TripAdvisor is a great place to start. The impartial reviews provide a true reflection of the quality of the fare, and also the price.

When searching on TripAdvisor, you can set your budget to match your planned holiday spends.

Go Your Own Way

There’s a great selection of ports which are located right in the heart of the destination, so it’s quite simple to navigate these cities and towns without the help of a paid-for guide. A quick bit of research about your destinations prior to leaving on the trip makes it possible to venture forth alone and explore at your own pace.

Fotolia_Cruise Lady

Pre-Book with Third Parties

As well as excursions booked through the cruise line, there are a number of third parties with whom port visits and experiences can be booked. Check out if any of these third parties can do you a great deal on the same excursion you’d book through the cruise line.

CruisingExcursions.com promise that their prices will beat those offered by cruise lines – saving you money every day, without compromising your holiday experience.

Stock Up on Bottled Water

If you’re leaving the ship for a day to soak up the culture or sun during a port call – we’d recommend packing a few of the freebies you can pick up on board. From the breakfast buffet croissants to bottles of mineral water, you can save yourself a pretty penny if you pack the rucksack with delicious sustenance from the ship.

Top Tip – Make yourself a ham and cheese sandwich for your on-shore travels using the continental breakfast items on the buffet. This could save a family of four hundreds of dollars over the course of a cruise.

Tips from the Experts

The Cruise1st sales team have picked up some wonderfully creative tips and tricks over the years to get the very best prices on cruise deals, here are the very best of these tricks.

“With MSC Cruises, if you book a spa treatment online before the cruise you get a pass to use the spa facilities for the whole of the cruise. Whereas if you book on board you will only get a spa pass for that day.”

“Check drinks menus carefully to see what is included in any drinks package. With MSC’s Allegrissimo drinks package, if you order a prosecco they will charge you for the drink as it’s not included in the package, but if you order sparkling wine they pour it out of the exact same (prosecco) bottle, and it’s included in the package so you don’t get charged!”

Champagne - Source Flickr@Didriks

Repeat Cruiser Benefits

Sadly, cruise lines don’t offer the same deals as your local coffee shop wherein your 10th cruise is free. However, repeat customers can take advantage of loyalty programmes to save money on the current trip, and any upcoming cruises. If you’ve previously sailed with a cruise line, you may be entitled to some of these loyalty perks without even realising it.

Royal Caribbean

Sign up to the Crown & Anchor programmes and you’ll start racking up points (one per night sailed with Royal Caribbean) working your way through the different membership levels.

Gold – 3 to 29 points
Platinum – 30 to 54 points
Emerald – 55 to 70 points
Diamond – 8 to 174 points
Diamond Plus – 175 to 699 points
Pinnacle – 700 points and up

Members are entitled to perks such as priority check-in and private departure lounge access. As you work your way up the levels, more and more perks become available. Platinum members are invited to top-tier events, and Emerald members receive welcome gifts when they board. The Diamond Lounge is reserved for members of the Diamond class and above, whilst Diamond Plus and Pinnacle members are invited to the Concierge Lounge with its free nightly happy hours.

Allure of the Seas meeting Oasis of the Seas Off Port Everglades late on November 13, 2010 Royal Caribbean International

Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Cruises’ Captain’s Club adopts a slightly more complex approach when awarding points – they are affected by your length of stay and the category of the stateroom. There are six different classes:

Preview – 0 points (must sign up prior to first cruise)
Classic – 2 to 149 points
Select – 150 to 299 points
Elite – 300 to 749 points
Elite Plus – 750 to 2,999 points
Zenith – 3,000 points and up

Dining reservations and upgrades are made available to all members, and you’ll also receive on-board discount booklets, a free scoop of gelato and internet connection discounts. Perks for members of the higher classes include priority embarkation, access to the Captain’s Club Lounge, and access to the Persian Garden.

And the very best benefit? When you reach Zenith class, you’ll receive a free seven-night Caribbean or Bermuda cruise in a balcony stateroom.

Azamara Club Cruises

Le Club Voyage is Azamara’s Gallic five-tiered programme which (similar to the Celebrity Cruises programme) rewards points based on length of stay and stateroom category.

Adventurer – 0 to 149 points
Explorer – 150 to 299 points
Discoverer – 300 to 749 points
Discoverer Plus – 750 to 2,999 points
Discoverer Platinum – 3,000 points and up

For members of the lower classes of the programme, perks include free internet connections and spa discounts. Moving through the classes, free nights at sea start to be awarded. When you reach Discoverer level, four free nights are awarded, six nights for Discoverer Plus, and 10 nights for Discoverer Platinum. These free nights can be redeemed on cruises of seven nights or longer.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Like Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line offers members of their Latitudes programme one point per night sailed. However, members can earn themselves bonus points when staying in suites or the Haven accommodations.

Bronze – One to 19 points
Silver – 20 to 47 points
Gold – 48 to 75 points
Platinum – 76 points and up

A great immediate bonus of joining up to the Latitudes programme is the receipt of $250 free on-board credit for every member on select sailings. On-board discounts and invitations to the members-only cocktail receptions are amongst the top perks enjoyed by members.

Cunard Cruise Line

The four-tiered Cunard World Club differs from the majority by rewarding members based upon the number of cruises undertaken as well as the nights at sea.

Silver – One cruise completed
Gold – Two cruises or minimum 20 nights sailed
Platinum – Seven cruises or minimum 70 nights
Diamond – 15 cruises or minimum 150 nights

Free internet use, invites to cocktail parties and preferred reservations are amongst the top perks enjoyed as members move through the tiers. Top tier members can enjoy free meals and wine tastings during their time at sea. Cunard is one of the easier lines to build up nights at sea, thanks to their regular round-the-world and 100+ day sailings.

 

Princess Cruises

Unlike most cruise line loyalty programmes, Princess Cruises’ Captain’s Circle scheme rewards solo travellers. Members cruising alone in a cabin, or families staying in suites are awarded extra credits on top of the standard one point per night at sea. Like Cunard, Princess Cruises elevate members through the different tiers based upon the number of cruises taken as well as the nights at sea.

Gold – After first cruise completed
Ruby – After fourth cruise, or 31 to 50 days
Platinum – After sixth cruise, or 51 to 150 days
Elite – After 16th cruise, or 151-plus days

Perks include free internet connection, with the length of connection determined by membership tier. Access to exclusive lounges and priority boarding as well as complimentary laundry, dry cleaning and shoe-shining are available for members. Free wine tasting events are available to members as they work through the tiers, and a complimentary minibar can be earned.

Princess

Holland America Line

The Mariner Society programme from Holland America Line rewards passengers for every night sailed, with double points for suite guests. And big spenders rejoice; a bonus point is awarded for every $300 spent on board. The five-tiered programme is organised as follows:

One Star – At least one cruise sailed
Two Star – 30-plus credits
Three Star – 75-plus credits
Four Star – 200-plus credits
Five Star – 500-plus credits

Every Mariner Society member is invited to an exclusive embarkation lunch and complimentary Champagne brunch during each cruise. Working through the tiers, members will earn benefits such as speciality dining discounts, reduced internet packages, free spa treatments and complimentary dinners at the Pinnacle Grill. Members looking to pick up some new skills may even earn passes to free wine tastings and cooking classes.

Carnival Cruises

Carnival Cruises operate their five-tier Very Important Fun Person (VIFP) club for all members, new and old. You can sign up before your first cruise and start to reap the rewards.

Blue – Never sailed through first sailing
Red – Up to 24 cruise days
Gold – 25 to 74 days
Platinum – 75 to 199 days
Diamond – 200 days and up

The first reward you’ll earn is a bottle of water, but these soon start to build up to priority check-in and preferential bookings in the speciality restaurants. Members in the higher tiers earn passes to VFIP parties, free laundry services, casino discounts and complimentary restaurant meals.

Members sailing on their 25th, 50th, 75th and 100th cruise with Carnival Cruises will receive 25%, 50%,75% and 100% discounts on cruises up to eight nights in length.

P&O Cruises

Unlike many other schemes, passengers are automatically enrolled in the P&O Cruises’ Peninsular Club upon earning 150 points. Passengers earn 10 points for every night sailing with P&O Cruises, so you’ll start earning rewards after your 15th night at sea. The programme is split into five tiers.

Pacific – 150 to 500 points
Atlantic – 501 to 1,000 points
Mediterranean – 1,001 to 2,000 points
Caribbean – 2,001 or more points
Baltic – 2,501 points and 80 to 200 nights spent on-board in the three years preceding the start of the next cruise
Ligurian – 2,501 points and more than 201 nights spent on-board in the three years preceding the start of the next cruise

The amazing perks really start to pick up pace when members reach the Caribbean level with access to on-board cocktail parties and priority boarding awarded. Members of the Baltic and Ligurian tiers can receive priority cabin access and 50% laundry discounts.

MSC Cruises

Less than a year ago, MSC Cruises revamped their MSC Voyager Club loyalty programme, adding a fifth tier and removing the age restriction. The points earned are dependent upon the type of cruise and the number of extras booked with 100 points earned for every $150 spent.

Welcome – 0 to 99 points
Classic – 1 to 2199 points
Silver – 2200 to 4299 points
Gold – 4300 to 9999 points
Black – 1,0000 points and up

Upon reaching the Classic level, guests will be invited to the exclusive welcome cocktail reception at the start of the cruise. A number of freebies are awarded to guests as they work their way through the various membership levels, including fruit baskets, bottles of champagne, dinner with the captain and a pass to the on-board thermal suite.

back view of young couple hugging at sunset on cruise ship

So there you have it, there’s ample opportunity to make great savings on unforgettable cruise experiences. So now you’re armed with all the industry know-how, it’s time to get yourself booked on a wonderful cruise trip aboard a luxury liner travelling to some of the most beautiful parts of the world.

At Cruise1st, we are dedicated to helping you find your perfect cruise for the very best price. For our full range of deals, visit our homepage or call our dedicated team on 0808 159 2518.

Images sourced via Royal Caribbean Press Center, Princess Cruises and Flickr Creative Commons. Credit: Marnie Joyce, Visit Finger Lakes, DidricksRoger W

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Do You Want a Cheaper Cruise Holiday? Here’s Our In-Depth Guide
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Do You Want a Cheaper Cruise Holiday? Here’s Our In-Depth Guide
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Cruise1st guide you through an amazing list of tips helping you save more money on your next cruise holiday.
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About Author

Belinda Goodman

Cruise 1st veteran Belinda has a passion for travel, especially cruising. She has worked in the travel industry for over 20 years, including a 3-year stint working on cruise ships as a croupier. Belinda regularly writes for the Cruise 1st blog, with a focus on company news and advice for first-time cruise travellers.

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