Cruising remains one of the best values in travel. On most cruises you can enjoy the adventure without paying extra forfood, entertainment or most onboard activities. But increasingly, cruise lines have implemented fees that add to the lines' profits -- and threaten to bust your cruise budget. Here are some tips on how to save on your next cruise.
Not the other way around. Wherever your cabin is located on the ship, you'll typically have better food and service on a more luxurious line. Note: Make sure all cabins on the ship have access to the same amenities. Some ships have designated dining and lounge for certain cabin classes.
KEEP AN EYE ON THE INTERNET
If you're a do-it-yourself person, it's possible to book a cruise yourself online. Industry experts are divided, though, about whether you'll save money. Cruise lines work to protect their distribution channels and to some extent, are able to prevent discounting. But check cruise line websites frequently for price changes and special deals. Also, check websites that offer last-minute deals and flash sales. Checking these resources also keeps you informed of price changes so that you're a more informed consumer, however you choose to book.
BE FLEXIBLE ON YOUR SAILING DATES
Some departure dates for similar itineraries can be less expensive. Seasonality is a big factor. The best prices for Alaska cruises, for example, are typically early or late in the summer season. In the Mediterranean, prices will typically peak in July and August.
CONSIDER REPOSITIONING CRUISES
They're generally offered when lines move a ship from Europe to the Caribbean, for example, or to and from Alaska. They're usually affordably priced. Search for "repositioning cruises" and find many options.
BE SHORE EXCURSION SAVVY
Some excursions, like touring St. Petersburg, Russia's Hermitage Museum can be once-in-a-lifetime treats. But you can walk around most Alaska and Caribbean port towns on your own and get more from the experience than seeing them from a tour bus window. To explore deeper into the destination, consider going in with other passengers to hire a taxi; you can visit most of the sites included in the shore excursions, but at your own pace. Just remember: If the taxi breaks down, the ship won't wait for you. (If a shore excursion motor coach is delayed, it will.)
CONSULT A CRUISE-EXPERIENCED TRAVEL AGENT
Travel agents can alert you to deals you might not find on your own, and they typically have "preferred" relationships with certain lines, which can mean special perks for you. Among them: early boarding and spending credits. Knowledgeable agents can also help steer you to a cruise that suits your personality and budget. Plus, if something goes wrong, you have an ally.
BE PATIENT WHEN BOOKING SPA TREATMENTS
They're often more expensive onboard than ashore, but there are ways to save. While there's always a sales push when you board, patience can be rewarded. As the cruise progresses, you'll often be bombarded with special deals. And if you don't go ashore on days in port, you can sometimes save at the spa.
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