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The 12 Days of Cruising: 8 Ways to Save Big

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If you’re like most travelers, finances are going to play a major role in how to choose a cruise that is perfect for you and your family.  For day 8 in our 12 days of cruising (Christmas!), we are giving you eight ways to save big on your cruise vacation.

1. Sail During Off-Season

Cruise fares are a lot like airline prices or hotel stays.  They ebb and flow depending on demand and especially the time of year.  A big example of this is hurricane season in the Bahamas and Caribbean.  During the months where summer turns to fall, hurricanes are the most likely.  Because of the problems that can arise when a cruise is scheduled to sail those waters during that time, prices tend to be lower.  Another factor is that this is when kids are going back to school, so families are settling back into the regular routine.  One piece of advice if you’re sailing during this time, is buy travel insurance.  Though cruise lines are very good about compensating for altered plans due to weather, it’s still better to be safe rather than sorry!

2. Book a Guaranteed Stateroom

Booking a guaranteed room basically means that you pay for a particular stateroom category, but don’t get to choose your room or know where it is until shortly before sail date.  This is because you aren’t necessarily going to end up in that category – there’s a good chance you could be upgraded. (The guaranteed part means that you are guaranteed at least that category, or above.  Never below).  Because of the fact that you’re basically taking what is left over after other cruisers choose, the price will be a little bit better.

3. BYOW (Bring Your Own Wine)

Most cruise lines will allow guests to bring at least a bottle or two of wine aboard with them at the beginning of a cruise.  If you want to drink it in your room, it’s free and your steward will be happy to bring a bucket of ice for you to chill it in.  If you want to drink it at dinner, you’ll usually be charged a corkage fee, but it’s still much more inexpensive than buying a bottle that the ship is offering.

4. Ask About Discounts

Probably the most popular discount that many lines offer is the military discount. Some lines insist on either active-duty status or evidence of a long military career, but not all.  You’ll need proof in paperwork either way, but it never hurts to ask about it when booking with your agent or through the cruise line’s website.

5. Hit the Spa While in Port

Sea days are inevitably the most popular days to get a treatment at the onboard spa because they are more carefree days than port days and people have lots of time to relax.  If you’re heading to a port that you’ve already been to, or a port where you don’t think you’ll need to spend the whole day ashore, consider taking advantage of the spa that day.  Since guests are ashore, the spa is slow and therefore there are deals to be had.  Not every treatment will be at a reduced rate, but many will.  Inquire about this near the beginning of your voyage if you’re interested.

6. Buy Your Next Cruise While Onboard

Many guests probably know this, but it doesn’t hurt to include it here in case others don’t.  If you put down a deposit on a future cruise while onboard a current one, you’ll often get a lower base price, onboard credits, and other potential perks.  A nice feature of using this service is that you don’t usually have to choose a specific voyage.  You are just “declaring” that you intent to take a cruise with the line again in the future, put down a deposit, and can then figure out which ship and itinerary you want once you’re at home with more time to research.

7. Cut Out the Airfare

If you live even somewhat near a cruise port, it would probably be worth considering to drive to that one instead of flying to one that’s far away.  Of course, this will depend on whether you have your heart set on a specific ship or itinerary, as it’s quite limiting to only ever sail from one port.  But if it works with what you want, it’s worth doing that sometimes to save on airfare.  It’s different for everyone, but for me I’d probably drive up to 6 to 8 hours before I’d fly.  Also, you don’t always have to park at the port.  There are often off-site lots and park-and-cruise hotel packages as options.

8. Steer Clear of the Onboard Photos

Unless you’re celebrating a wedding onboard or some other major event, there probably isn’t much need to purchase any photos that the ship’s photographers take throughout the duration of your voyage.  They are extremely expensive, galleries are a mess to wade through and navigate when the photos come out and everyone flocks to them, and honestly, (will I get in trouble for saying this?) most photos from the ship’s photographers aren’t anything that special anyway.  Bring a camera and take those photos yourself!  On the deck, doing an activity, even on formal night there are lots of ways to take photos yourself, without the ship’s middleman.

Read our previous entires in the 12 Days of Cruising series:

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