Stretching your Cruising Dollar

money_stretchMany people are attracted to cruising by the fairly reasonable price offered. Then they get on the ship, start having fun, and before they know it they’re facing a bill of several hundreds of dollars before they leave the ship to head home.  It is very easy to overspend, so I have compiled a list of tips to help with stretching your cruising dollar.

Understand what is included in your cruise, and what costs extra.  Your cruise only covers your room, the majority of your food, some beverages, most entertainment, and most activities.  Some on-board eateries have a cover charge, and alcoholic drinks are always an extra cost.  Some activities, like spinning classes in the gym, also have a fee attached to them.  Shipboard internet has a per-minute cost as well, though you can buy packages of minutes to use.  If you just have to have your morning cappuccino from the coffee shop, know that’s an extra cost as well.

First, when looking for a cruise, understand that cruise pricing fluctuates frequently.  The closer you get to sailing time, the higher the price tends to go.  But, about three to six weeks before sailing, the price on any remaining staterooms may drop significantly, making great deals available to those who are able to travel last minute.  Many times, though, these staterooms are the least desirable, but if you can be flexible with what you get, you can often times snag a good cruise fare.

No matter where you are sailing from, you’ll have to spend a little money to get there.  Airfare, hotel room stays, even parking at the pier, all cost money.  Don’t forget to account for those costs when looking for your cruise vacation.  You can keep costs down by sailing from a port you can drive to in a day, versus spending money on airfare.  No matter what you do, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you arrive at the port at least one day before your cruise.  This gives you some breathing room during your travel time in case of delays of some kind, and will help prevent you from missing the ship.

On board, two of the bigger daily expenses are soft drinks and alcoholic drinks.  Both of these are extra costs, and can add up very quickly.  Most cruise lines have a type of soda card which allows the bearer unlimited soft drinks for the duration of the cruise.  They’re only available on the first day on-board, so look for a crew member selling them, typically on the Lido Deck.  Alcoholic drinks can be pricey in the first place, and then there’s almost always an automatic gratuity added.  If you’re on a budget, limit how many alcoholic drinks you’ll get, or avoid them altogether.

Want to enjoy the spa services, but the prices are scaring you off?  If you wait until a day when the ship is in port, the spa typically discounts the offerings a bit.  You can also save money by booking a package of some kind, versus purchasing everything individually.  Be aware the spa staff may try to sell you some of the beauty products after your treatment – it’s okay to say no, especially if it’s not in the budget.