Cruises are a terrific vacation value, particularly for those who shop carefully. There are some great ways to save money and get an excellent cruise vacation deal, particularly for those who can be flexible. Here are seven sure-fire ways to save big on your next cruise.
1. Cruise During Shoulder Seasons. For the best cruise deals, travel during the cruise industryís low seasons. The best deals typically are offered during the fall (September through early November), pre- and post-holidays periods (first two weeks of December and first two weeks of January) and late spring. Sometimes even being flexible by a week can save big bucks. Fall hurricane season ushers in outstanding bargains, but some of the trade-offs can include missed ports and changed itineraries. Make sure you're comfortable with the possible outcomes before booking during this period.
2. Bring A Group. Traveling with friends and family can help save big. Significantly lower cruise rates are generally available for group bookings of eight cabins or more. Sometimes this can be achieved by traveling with friends and family, but itís also easy to do if you can arrange to travel with members of your kidsí sports teams, a local club or another affinity group. If you donít have a group, get in touch with cruise travel agents to see if they have a booking group that you can join.
3. Check With Top Discount Agencies. Look for the lowest available per person rates before doing comparison shopping. Some of the best places to start can be VacationsToGo.com, Cruises.com, CruiseOne.com, LastMinuteCruises.com, and other cruise-oriented online sites. Visit their websites and then call to find out if they have better non-advertised deals. In addition, contact the cruise lines directly to see what they can offer. Some discount agency sites may quote prices without port charges, taxes and fees, fuel surcharges and other costs, so make sure to include all these costs before comparing prices.
4. Put Your Cruise Out For Bids. If you'd like cruise travel agents to bid for your business, check out CruiseCompete.com. This free service allows vacationers to anonymously request competitive cruise quotes. All of your customer account information stays private, so none of the cruise agencies can contact you directly and thereís no obligation to purchase. It's up to you to contact the agents if you are interested in their bid.
5. Ask About Discounts. Cruise lines regularly provide a wide variety of discounts for potential guests, including military discounts, senior fares, group travel discounts, past passenger specials, state or regional resident discounts, air gateway discounts, 2-for-1 specials, cruise line stockholder discounts, membership deals, past guest savings offers and more. This is just one of the many reasons for working with a good cruise travel agent. Make sure to let your travel agent know about past cruises as well as military and stockholder status, if any.
6. Look For Added Value. Guaranteed upgrades at time of booking are sometimes offered by cruise lines to stimulate sales. These upgrades allow you to purchase a cheaper stateroom with a guaranteed upgrade of one to five categories, depending upon the promotion. Guarantee cabins provide another opportunity for a free upgrade. Only buy a guarantee cabin if you will be happy with the category you've purchased as well as any potential stateroom in that category. Ask the cruise line or your agent about potential "soft sailing" upgrades. Onboard credits are often offered on these sailings, which will give you a set amount in your shipboard account to use for shore excursion purchases, spa treatments, specialty restaurant charges, and other times. Other added value deals can include free gratuities, free shore excursions, complimentary Internet packages, free beverage packages and other incentives.
7. Arrange Your Own Transportation. Look for homeport cruises within driving range of your home. Eliminating airfare costs will easily save hundreds of dollars on your vacation. If thatís not possible, make your own air arrangements. Separating your airfare from your cruise booking can save money and provides complete control over your itinerary and connection choices. Check with your travel agent and research online sites and low-fare airlines. Using frequent flier miles when possible will also result in considerable savings. In addition, hailing a taxi from the airport is often less expensive than purchasing cruise line transfers when traveling with two or more people. Explore local taxi fares online and then plan accordingly.