Survivor's Guide to Low-Cost Cruises
It's not hard to save money on a cruise if you know where to look and what to ask for. If you're willing to do a little research and seek the help of an experienced travel agent, you can book the cruise of your dreams, and perhaps for a dream price.
Book Your Cruise Early
Most people start planning summer cruises as spring approaches. If you beat them to the punch by booking your cruise as early as January, you can reap some terrific deals. Look for perks such as free airfare, cabin upgrades or onboard credits. If you're not too picky about your cabin and are willing to let the cruise line place you, you can save even more.
Check With a Travel Agent
As the travel agency business has shrunk due to more people booking their own travel online, the remaining agencies often provide even more services and deals for their customers. Before you book, pay a visit to a travel agent who specializes in cruises. Travel agents can point out the good cabins, warn you away from potential disasters and provide you with access to deals that aren't always available to the public. Don't worry about paying more by booking through an agent, since the cruise line pays the agent's commission.
Look for Extra Costs Ahead of Time
One of the costs that first-time cruisers don't always anticipate is that of tips. Most cruise lines ask passengers to pay a set amount of tips per day, but these aren't always made clear before you board. In addition, some cruise lines tack a tip charge on to every drink you buy. Read the fine print before you book your cruise, and see if you can get your tips rolled into the basic cost. Other extra costs typically include Wi-Fi, use of the spa, onshore excursions and gambling. If you plan to partake in any of these, ask for deals to get the costs included.
Travel During Low Season
High season, with its concomitant higher costs, occurs at different times of the year in different parts of the world. No one wants to cruise to Alaska at Christmas, but that's definitely high season in the Caribbean. In addition, cruise lines tend to get crowded when schools are not in session, typically during the summer and at Christmas vacation. Take a look at your preferred cruise line's schedule, and see if you can find the cruise you're looking for at a lower cost by booking just before or after high season. If you're cruising the Caribbean, make sure that any deals that you find aren't due to the fact that you're booking during hurricane season.
If you're in the market for a low-cost cruise, chances are you're nervous about hidden costs, sub-par service or chintzy amenities. Put aside all the horror stories you may have heard about cruises that went wrong. If you follow some of these tips, you can save money on a cruise, see the world in luxury and have a fabulous time doing it without fear of the bill when you reach home.