If you’re a fan of the open seas, it’s time to rejoice: Cruises are now back in full-force, and as they try to lure back customers, there are some amazing deals to be had — if you know how to find them.
With the fun ports to visit, tons of on-ship entertainment and yummy food options, there’s nothing like cruising. If you’re looking to take a cruise, there are a lot of ways you can save money and get a better deal, from booking your cruise early to being flexible with your dates. Of course, some cruise lines are more expensive than others, so it’s in your best interest to try shopping around to find the best deal.
Use a Price Tracker
When booking a cruise, it’s important to compare prices between different cruise lines. Price trackers are readily available, (including CruiseWatch and Cruiseline, which will even send you an alert when prices drop on a specific route you are watching) and they will do a lot of the work for you.
You’ll also want to sign up for emails from cruise lines and websites that search cruise deals. “Cruise companies are always sending out deals, so sign up for their emails and follow them on social media. Cruise lines like Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Holland America Line and more offer discounts and promotions to their loyal customers,” says Fred Baker, the Senior Travel Editor of Travelness.
And if you’re willing to wait to cruise until next year, keep in mind that cruise fares are typically sold at the lowest prices when they first go on sale, 1 to 2 years in advance of the sail date. “By booking early, you’ll get a great deal on the cruise,” says Victoria Ridley, co-founder of High Seas Cruising, a blog dedicated to helping cruisers travel smarter. Of course, if you do this, you will need to wait a while before you sail. But, there’s a better reason to book early. “Most cruise lines offer price protection when you book more than three months from the sailing date,” says Ridley.
And if the price of the cruise drops below the price you paid, you can ask the cruise line to match the better price. “Taking advantage of price protection has saved us thousands of dollars on cruises. By taking advantage of price protection, and keeping an eye on the cruise fares, we always get the lowest possible rate on sailings,” says Ridley.
September and October Will Offer The Best Deals
The early bird isn’t the only one who can catch a worm. It’s also worth checking out last-minute deals, which may be more readily available in the off-season. In other words, if you’re willing to wait to book your cruise in September or October, you may be in luck.
“Between temperatures dropping and kids returning to school, these months are statistically the least popular times for people to go on cruises,” says Larry Snider, VP of Operations of Casago Vacation Rentals.
Sometimes, cruise ships will need to fill empty cabins as they get closer to the departure date and will offer deep discounts. You can snag a great deal with a bit of flexibility — just keep an eye on those price trackers. “If you’re looking for last-minute deals on a cruise, keep an eye on social media feeds for last-minute deals,” said Baker. These might come from companies like Groupon or LivingSocial — both of which offer discounts on travel plans — or from individual cruise lines themselves. “Some cruise lines, for example, have been known to offer discounts during its Happy Hour events when booking less than a few weeks before departure date,” said Baker.
Look To Cruise-Affiliated Cards and Cash-Back Portals
Before booking your cruise, consider getting a new credit card to maximize cash back on your trip expenses. “Some will give you a bonus reward such as free cash when you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months from when you opened an account,” says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert. “Using that new card to pay for your initial cruise booking could help you instantly reach that threshold so you can apply the bonus as statement credit to help pay off your vacation expense,” says Woroch. It’s like an instant discount off the total trip price!
For instance, the Chase Freedom card offers a $200 cash bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months. “Look into a flat rate cash back card like the Bread Cashback American Express card that offers an unlimited 2% back on every purchase with no spending limit to ensure you get more money back for your entire trip and all the purchases leading up to it since you can redeem your cash rewards to pay off your cruise,” says Woroch.
Also, while you’re looking into rewards, keep in mind that you can earn more back when booking your cruise through a cash-back portal like CouponCabin.com. For example: “You can earn 2.5% back at Princess Cruise and 1.75% at Cruise Direct through the site. Depending on how much your overall cruise costs, that cash back can add up and you can then use it on the ship to cover those out of pocket cruise costs like drinks on the pool deck!” says Woroch.
Check Warehouse Store Deals & Look Close To Home
Toilet paper, a giant block of parmesan cheese, some granola bars that look interesting, and…. A cruise? No, a cruise might not be the first thing on your Costco or Sam’s Club list, but have you ever stopped to see what’s available at their travel portal (both online and in-store) to see what types of cruise deals they have? You can check out the prices, and compare them directly with the provider. “Even if you aren’t a member, buying a membership could end up being worthwhile since the savings may pay for it and then some!” says Woroch.
Also, keep in mind that when booking a cruise, it may be a good idea to try leaving from close to where you live. If there’s a way to save the money you’d spend on airfare, do it. Ships sail from many U.S.cities, and if you can easily drive to the port, you’ve just saved a lot of cash. Plus, as flying is so unreliable of late, why risk a missed or canceled flight connection keeping you from getting to the ship in time?
“You may be shocked how many cruise ports there are around the country. If possible, try to book a cruise that is closer to where you live to save money on travel costs like airfare and hotels,” said Kristen Gall, Rakuten’s Retail & Shopping Expert.
Lower Your Expectations
While we all want to go as luxe as possible, a good way to stay within your budget is to lower your expectations of what you want your cruise experience to look like. You won’t get a five-star hotel experience on a budget-friendly cruise. But you will get lower-priced cabins and lots of amenities without spending too much. After several years on land, you’ll have a beautiful and enjoyable cruise no matter what.
Read More On HerMoney:
- The All-In Guide To Traveling Less In 2022
- 6 Travel Agents On The Biggest Financial Travel Mistakes Most People Make
- 8 Budget-Friendly Last-Minute Summer Destinations For 2022
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