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7 Ways to Drink Cheap on your Cruise

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We’ve all been there before – when you get your final statement on the last night of the cruise and nearly fall over trying to understand how you drank that much alcohol. All those frozen drinks on the lido deck and late nights at the piano bar add up quickly. Fortunately, there are a few ways to slim down your bill without cutting out the booze.

1. Bottle service. Some cruise lines offer bottle service, meaning you can have bottles of liquor delivered to your room for much less than what it would cost to buy the same amount of alcohol at the bar. If you’re smart enough to bring your own 12-pack of soda with you at embarkation, you can mix your own drinks in your cabin and save some money from tipping a bartender too.

2. Beverage packages. Most cruise lines offer beverage packages for $50-80 per day that are all-inclusive, so you can order whatever you want and never worry about a bill. If fact, Carnival just expanded its beverage package to include all alcoholic drinks under $50; soda; specialty coffee, lattes, and cappuccinos; and other drinks such as juices, coconut water, gatorade, etc. Make sure to read the fine print, though, as each line differs in what its packages may offer. For example, on Carnival everyone in the same cabin must purchase the beverage package, whereas on Royal Caribbean and Norwegian it is sold individually.

3. Liquor tastings. Check your daily cruise itinerary for when the ship hosts a liquor tasting, and be sure not to miss it. The hosts are always more than generous with giving you all the shots – I mean, tastings – that you request, and they never seem to mind whether or not you even end up buying a bottle (but of course you always do – and why not? It’s duty free!).

4. Drink up in port. A lot of shore excursions and all-inclusive beach breaks offer an open bar. Drink up! If the drinks are unlimited, they’re usually not very strong, so take advantage of them. Frozen drinks tend to be even less strong, so stick to bottled beer and wells to really get your money’s worth. And even if you’re just hanging out in the port, it’s easy to find a local bar or restaurant port serving cheaper drinks than the ship.

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5. Mixology Class. If you’ve cruised on a Carnival ship with the beloved Alchemy Bar, you may have heard of the mixology class offered by Carnival’s “cocktail specialists.” The mixology class is just $20 and gets you four martinis and two shots in addition to valuable cocktail knowledge. What’s that saying? Give a man a drink, get him tipsy for a day; teach a man to mix the drink, keep him tipsy for a lifetime.

6. Bring Wine Onboard. Don’t forget that a lot of cruise lines let you bring one bottle per person aboard. It’ll be a lot cheaper going to Total Wine or your local supermarket rather than paying cruise line prices.

7. Gift Cards. If you know you’re cruising in advance and it’s a special occasion, have people buy you cruise line gift cards instead of presents. This way you can use the gift card as a bar card. But you don’t have to celebrate a special occasion for this to work, you can buy the gift cards yourself in advance and essentially have your onboard expenses paid for. Who doesn’t want their vacation paid for in full?

How do you drink cheap on a cruise?   

photo: Flickr/Madonovan

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17 Extra Costs of Cruising

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While your cruise fare includes your accommodations, food, entertainment, and travel to the ports of call, there are many extra costs of cruising that can surprise you (and your wallet) without proper planning.

1. Specialty Dining

Today’s cruise ships offer unparalleled quality and variety in dining that sometimes comes with an added charge. Be prepared to charge to your onboard account if your ship has some specialty restaurants that entice your taste buds.

2. Bar Bill

At the Carnival Freedom’s cocktail pharmacy-themed Alchemy Bar, mixologist Daniel Zanoaga prepares custom-designed cocktails using herbs, spices and other interesting ingredients. (Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Lines)

Unfortunately for many of us, alcohol is not included in the cruise fare. And while cruise lines all offer their own versions of an “all-inclusive” beverage package to ease the blow, it’s still an extra expense in addition to your cruise fare to budget for.

3. Other Drinks

Along with alcohol, other drinks like sodas, sports drinks, bottled water, specialty coffees, energy drinks, smoothies, and milkshakes are not included in your fare – only tap water, regular coffee and tea, and lemonade, apple juice, and orange juice typically found on the lido deck. You can either purchase these à la carte or look for the non-alcoholic beverage package offered by your cruise line.

4. Shore Excursions

What you do in the ports of call is on your tab. Luckily, there are plenty of third-party companies like CruisingExcursions.com that offer exciting activities for competitive prices.

5. Spa

Spa treatments, packages, and some fitness classes are not included in your cruise fare. If you plan on taking advantage of these, anticipate some onboard expenses.

6. Room Service

photo NCL

Whether or not there’s a fee for room service depends on which cruise line you’re sailing on, and sometimes on what time you order food, too.

7. Gratuities

photo credit: flickr/Pictures of Money

Gratuities can either be prepaid or added to your onboard expense account at the end of your cruise. Costs vary depending on cruise line, length of cruise, and type of stateroom. These go to your steward, dinner waiters, maître d, and other hardworking behind-the-scenes staff.

8. Casino

What fun would blackjack be if you weren’t playing for money?

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9. Internet

Want to stay connected at sea? Plan to pay for a wifi connection, whether the rate is per minute or per day.

10. Pictures

Photographers will be taking your photo during the cruise to sell these professional shots to you before you leave the ship. And who can resist a family portrait in front of a starry background or the classic sailaway photo?

11. Shopping

Whether you shop on the ship or ashore, don’t forget to factor souvenirs and travel knick-knacks into your travel budget.

12. Laundry

Cruise ships almost always have a self-service laundry room for guests, but you’ll need to bring some change to be safe, as only select newer ships support using your sailing card to pay. You can also pay more for valet laundry.

13. Travel Insurance

It may be an extra expense, but this one should not be skipped. A trip to the ship’s medical bay or an emergency trip cancellation can end up costing you thousands, so purchasing insurance could actually end up saving you big time.  

READ MORE: Why You Should Buy Cruise Travel Insurance

14. Transportation

Depending on how you’re getting to the port, your extra costs may include airfare, a taxi or Uber, parking expenses, shuttle transfers, buses, etc. Plan ahead and factor these costs into your budget.

15. Tipping

In addition to the gratuities for your room steward and dinner waiters, don’t forget to bring some cash to tip miscellaneous people throughout your cruise like your porter, shore excursion tour guide, taxi driver, etc.

16. Before/After Hotels

photo: Hilton

Of course, if you’re staying near the port for the night before or after your cruise, this will be yet another expense to add to your travel.

17. Texas Taxes

If you’re cruising out of Texas, you’ll be subject to a state tariff enacted against the Port of Galveston by the (rather unpopular) Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commision. If you bought any alcohol or cigarettes on the ship or at any duty-free store, expect to pay about $3.75 per liter of alcohol and $1.50 per pack of cigarettes thanks to this special state import tax.

Despite these extra expenses, cruising continues to be one of the most budget-friendly ways to travel!

What are some extras costs of cruising that you’ve experienced? 

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7 Tricks For Booking Cheap Flights

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Finding cheap flights can be intimidating, especially since airlines don’t offer price protection like cruise lines so that you can get your money back if the fare drops between when you book and when you fly. And with what it costs to fly, sometimes it feels like you could buy a car and drive to your destination for less money. That’s why we’ve come up with 7 tricks to booking cheap airfare.

Tricks for Booking Cheap Flights

cheap flights

1. Use a fare aggregator.

The fastest and easiest way to compare costs across multiple airlines at once is by using a airfare aggregator such as Skyscanner, KAYAK, or Google.com/flights. Just input your travel dates and from/to destinations to view flight prices, flight info, travel time, nonstop versus layovers, etc. – essentially all the travel information you need to know. (Note: Southwest Airlines is an exception; their flight info cannot be found on aggregator sites.) However, I personally only use airfare aggregator sites to get information on the best prices. To book my flights I always book directly through the airline’s website or through my travel agent; that way if there’s an issue I can work directly with the airline without having to go through a third party.

2. Book on a Tuesday.

Studies have shown that it’s best to book a flight early in the week. Typically, airlines hike their prices toward the end of the week in anticipation of a spike in weekend bookings. But by Monday the airlines are preparing for promotional sales, and waiting until Tuesday to book your flight gives competing airlines a day to match those sales or advertise their own.

3. Go incognito.

Airline websites use cookies to track your browsing history and keep tabs on what flights you’re searching on their site. This way, they can increase the price of the flight after each time you search it. To combat this, use the “private” or “incognito” mode in your browser so that the websites can’t track your history. Chances are by doing this you’ll have access to the cheap flights. 

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4. Scope out nearby airports.

Sometimes major airports carry a premium with their big business. Instead, look for nearby airports to use instead that may cost less: for example, Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami or Sanford instead of Orlando. This is especially important for cruisers who are fans of the budget airline Southwest, since the company currently only services Fort Lauderdale but not Miami. Since it’s roughly a $30 Uber ride from Fort Lauderdale to Miami, the money you’d spend on the Uber ride would still beat any premium you may pay on a higher-cost flight directly to Miami.

Read More: 11 Tips for Cheap Air 

5. Be flexible.

cheap flights

You have a much better chance of saving money if your schedule allows you to fly on a weekday, and especially if you’re willing to take those early morning flights that no one likes. However, be careful that you’re looking at trip duration while booking too. Sometimes a flight may be $50 cheaper but have a 5-hour layover versus a more expensive nonstop flight. In other words, look for the best deal without booking the worst travel option.

6. Try a consolidator.

Consolidators are “wholesalers” that buy tickets that likely won’t sell from airlines and then resell them at significantly reduced prices. Keep this tip in mind if you’re planning a cruise abroad, as you’ll be more likely to find these types of tickets for international flights. If you’re working with a travel agent, ask them to check air on their flight consolidator. Some consolidators offer an exclusive discount for flying to your cruise port.

7. Stay loyal to an airline.

Just like in the world of cruising, staying loyal to a line can save you money. Almost every airline offers its own version of “Frequent Flyer Miles” or a point system with which the more you fly, the more points you earn. Points can be redeemed for more flights and in many cases other travel-related expenses like hotels, rental cars, and more. If you open a credit card through the airline, these points add up even faster.

What tips do you have for booking cheap flights?

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Cruise Stateroom Categories Explained

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One of the biggest challenges to booking a cruise is making sure you wind up in the stateroom you want. Whether you’re taking your first cruise or your 100th, it’s easy to get confused… especially when looking at the seemingly random number/letter combinations indicating the various stateroom types. Because there’s no industry-wide standard, the designations are different for each fleet. Sometimes they vary from ship to ship within the same cruise line.

So what do you need to know about categories and what they mean? Let’s break it down.

The Basics

On nearly every cruise line, there are four basic stateroom categories. (This is not including exclusive areas, often referred to as ship-within-a-ship categories, such as Norwegian’s Haven or MSC’s Yacht Club.)

Those four categories are:

  • Inside
  • Oceanview
  • Balcony
  • Suite

Just to make things more confusing, these categories are almost always subdivided. For example, Norwegian offers studios, which are inside cabins designed for single passengers, and several Royal Caribbean ships feature inside staterooms with “virtual” balconies which, via LED screens, give occupants a simulated real-time view of the outside world.

What You Need To Know

Anthem balcony stateroom

Booking a cabin on a cruise ship is a lot like booking a hotel room. In both cases, the better the location, the more you’re going to pay. If a hotel is in the heart of the city and near all of its attractions, you’re going to pay more than one outside of town. Similarly, if a cabin is centrally located on the ship, the more you’ll pay. Midship balconies will usually cost more than those located forward or aft. Of course, as with everything, there are exceptions. Over the past few years, aft-facing balconies — generally larger and with amazing views of the ship’s wake — have become wildly popular and, as a result, among the pricier cabins in the category.

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For example, Carnival Cruise Line uses a number to indicate the type of cabin (inside, oceanview, or balcony) and the letter to indicate how desirable the associated location. Category 7A would be an obstructed balcony while category 7N would be an extended balcony. While the various lines each use their own designations, the basic idea is the same.

How To Find Your Perfect Cabin

Balcony stateroom on deck 6, midship.

You’re spending a pretty penny on the cruise, so you want to make sure you wind up in exactly the right cruise stateroom. For some, that will mean getting a cheaper, interior room — arguing that it’s just a place to sleep — in order to have more money to spend elsewhere. Others can’t imagine setting sail without a balcony on which to sit and enjoy the view. Once you’ve determined exactly what your priority is category wise, go to the section of your cruise line’s website showing deck plans. Keep the deck plans open in a separate window as you’re perusing and pricing the options. While doing so, keep the following in mind:

  • Once you’ve figured out the type of cabin you want, use the deck plans to narrow down your choice of actual room. See what’s above and below to avoid sleeping atop a nightclub or beneath a bowling alley, either of which could mean late-night disturbances.
  • Assume that the room you book is the one you’ll wind up in rather than hoping for an upgrade. They do happen, but if it doesn’t, you’ll be stuck in a room that you didn’t actually want in the first place.
  • Once you’ve put down a deposit, make sure to set an alert so that if the price drops, you can look into the possibility of rebooking the room at the new price or perhaps getting some on-board credit. For details on how to set a price-drop alert, click here.

Do you have tips for finding the perfect cruise stateroom? 

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