When I am strapped for cash but in need of a vacation, I always turn to cruises. Finding a cheap cruise online is not rocket science, but did you get the best deal on that itinerary? Could it have been booked for a better price? Are there ways to save more money on a cruise vacation, even after booking? Fear not, as I will answer all of your burning frugal cruising questions. With a bit of savvy planning and the following insider tips, you can set sail on an unforgettable cruise adventure without breaking the bank!

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Book Your Next Cruise While Cruising

To encourage you to book another cruise, many cruise lines offer discounts for booking while cruising. For example, on my last cruise, Royal Caribbean was offering $400 off cruises booked during that trip. There is often a “Future Cruises” office located onboard where you can book one-on-one with an agent. If you know you will be cruising again, this is a great way to save money on that booking. 

Is an Excursion Necessary?

Before booking an excursion, it is important to ask yourself whether an excursion is necessary. It is possible to enjoy many ports without an excursion, though others will have you wishing you booked one. For example, in Cococay, Bahamas, I booked an excursion for swimming with the pigs; while I loved this excursion, it was not a necessary expense, as the whole island was covered in free beaches with free transport to each. On the other hand, I wish I had booked an excursion in Ocho Rios, Jamaica; I walked to a public beach from the port but felt very unsafe both on the street and the beach. Look up what other travelers say about your ports of call before making a decision.

Save money on a cruise by opting against excursions in certain ports, like Cococay, The Bahamas.

Book During a Special Promotion

Cruise lines often offer special promotions to encourage bookings on select sailings, such as half off the second guest, reduced airfare, onboard credit, and free drink packages. I have personally signed up for email notifications from all of the cruise lines that I frequently sail with so I can be notified every time there is a deal. I booked my upcoming cruise during a special promotion and received $75 of onboard credit!

Choose an Interior Cabin

It can be tempting to book a cabin with a window or balcony. However, keep in mind that these amenities are often much more expensive. More often than not, I book an interior cabin. I do not spend much time in the room, so it is not worth it to me to spend hundreds of dollars more for a view. If you are like me, do yourself a favor and save that money for something else on your cruise. 

Even if you are traveling with more than two people, you do not necessarily need a suite. Some interior cabins can accommodate up to four people. 

Save money on a cruise by booking an interior cabin.

Book Early or Late

Sometimes, it matters when you book your cruise. Cruise lines often offer discounts and special packages (such as free drinks and WIFI) for those who book early on select sailings. Booking late, however, can also have its benefits. If a cruise is departing soon, the unfilled cabins may be sold at a reduced fare. While I do not necessarily recommend waiting until the last minute if you have your heart set on a particular cruise, this method may be worth it if you find yourself bored with a little extra time off.

Avoid Paid Onboard Activities

The entertainment options on cruise ships have gotten even more exciting over the years, with some boats even having roller coasters. However, many of these new, intriguing activities come with a price tag. Think twice before signing up for activities such as Bingo, spa treatment, fitness classes, and escape rooms. They may make the end-of-cruise bill a little bit scary! There are several free alternative entertainment options; I promise, you will never be bored!

Book an Excursion Through Other Tour Services

While the cruise itself may be cheap, cruise lines are notorious for up-charging on experiences to enhance your cruise such as excursions. I must admit, I have fallen and continue to fall into this trap, as some excursions offered by the cruise line themselves are very appealing. However, if you browse a reputable tour search engine, such as Viator, you can find similar experiences at a much cheaper price. 

For example, I am cruising to the Bahamas, Mexico, and Honduras with MSC Cruises in a few months, and I am currently in the process of booking excursions. On their website, an excursion from Costa Maya, Mexico, to the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins is offered for $109 per person; however, on Viator, I found a similar experience for the same day at just $52 per person (more than 50% less!). 

Overall, I do recommend booking excursions through Viator and similar companies rather than the cruise line. However, it is important to keep the departure location, departure time, and return time in mind. The cruise will not wait for you, especially if you are stuck on a tour that is not affiliated with their company. Leave yourself ample time to get back to the ship in time for departure. If you are concerned, reach out to the tour director.

MSC Cruises price for Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour
Viator price for Chacchoben Mayan Ruins tour

Pay Attention to Your Tipping

The pay of many cruise crew members relies on gratuities, so tipping is expected. However, tips may be automatically applied, especially for services like the spa. If it is not made clear, make sure you ask before accidentally leaving an additional tip. 

Bring Your Own Drinks (When You Can)

If you are not a big drinker, you may be allowed to bring your alcoholic beverages onboard with you. In doing so, you would save tons of money, as individual drinks and drink packages are notoriously overpriced on cruises. 

Here is the catch: each cruise line has different rules regarding whether/how much of your own alcoholic beverages you may bring on the ship. For example, at the start of the cruise and at every port of call, Disney Cruise Line allows adults to bring up to two bottles of unopened wine or Champagne or six beers. Royal Caribbean, on the other hand, allows one bottle of wine or champagne per cabin at boarding only; guests may also bring up to a dozen standard cans, bottles, or cartons of nonalcoholic beverages. These policies are subject to change. Make sure you confirm with your cruise line before attempting to bring any of your own drinks. 

Exchange Money Before Cruising

If you are cruising to other countries, do not wait until you are on the ship to exchange your currency. While this service is generally offered onboard, it will usually come at a higher exchange rate and with additional fees. Looking into exchange options prior to departure or at your ports of call may save you a bit of money on your cruise vacation. 

Want more money-saving tips for your next cruise vacation? Bookmark or pin this page to stay tuned for the release of my Money-Saving Cruise Planning Guide!

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Have any of your own ways you save money on a cruise vacation? Contact me or let me know in the comments below!

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