Before you say “anchors aweigh,” it does pay to learn a little about cruising. While an all-inclusive bundle sounds great, you could encounter fishy pricing structures within the cruise world that you need to understand.
To find out how to best enjoy smooth sailing and good value, check out our tips below.
While many cruise destinations are available year-round, the best rooms aren’t. The top rooms on the top ships are usually booked up to two years in advance. Booking early has other perks, too. If the price drops before you make the final payment, you’ll have the cabin at the lower price. When you have this mad rush of people looking to book that last-minute space, you end up with the better cabin and you save the money.
Before you book a cruise, make sure you’re signed up for the line’s rewards program. It’s usually free, and there’s no reason not to start racking up free benefits. It’s not like you have to be loyal to any one cruise line either. That’s just the fastest way to get perks like free gifts and food, priority reservations and service, and on-board discounts.
“All-inclusive” can often be a little misleading. The basics are covered, but if you want better dining, specialty services like massages, some forms of entertainment – including gambling, merchandise and alcohol – it pays to bring extra cash. On newer cruise ships you have specialty restaurants as well. The beauty is the sky’s the limit; there’s incredible options for you to customize your experience your way, which makes a whole lot of difference.
Guided exploration and tours in foreign countries can be a lot of fun, but they can also be pricey. Like airfares, you don’t have to book your adventures through the cruise, and it’s often cheaper not to.
At a lot of ports, you can do it yourself, see more, and have it be a lot less expensive. Eight people on a short excursion in Europe for $200 a person? That’s $1,600 you could use to plan a very personable, private VIP tour for significantly less money that’s going to be much more memorable for you and your friends.
Like everything else, you could get your insurance through the cruise. But, like everything else, it’s often cheaper to shop around and buy elsewhere. Especially if you’re touring through a port that’s risky for whatever reason – seasonal weather, political instability, violent crime, disease – you may want coverage for illness, cancellations or evacuations.
Cruising is a great way to see the world because you’re not packing and unpacking, not checking out of hotels, and not waiting in airports. Best of all, you’re not waking up in the same boring place every day!