Cruising on a budget is something that many of us attempt to accomplish every time we board a cruise ship. Cruises are already a very reasonable way to travel, since they include transportation, food and accommodations while taking you to exotic destinations. But if you do not keep track of your on-board account, expenses can add up quickly without your even noticing it. Here are a few tips to help you plan your cruise while staying on a budget. The first thing you should do when cruising on a budget is to define what your priorities are and set the amount of money that you want to spend on them. We all cruise for different reasons, and everyone enjoys spending money on what they like the most. Just remember you do not have to do it all, just enjoy your cruise doing what you love to do the most.
Most modern-day cruise lines have several specialty restaurants aboard the ship that you can visit for an additional price. The extra charges for these venues range from $5 to $100; it is crucial that you do your research and find out which restaurants are included and which are not if you’re cruising on a budget. I have tried numerous specialty venues throughout the years, and I can tell you from experience that a lot of these restaurants are not worth it. Just do your research (a simple google search will reveal which restaurants are for a fee and which are free) and try only the venues that you would really like to experience. Some cruise lines also offer dining packages that offer substantial savings if you are planning on visiting several venues.
Alcoholic Drinks and Sodas
Most cruise lines include water, iced tea, lemonade, orange juice, hot tea and coffee in the cruise fare. Everything else you drink is an extra charge to your account that you have to consider when cruising on a budget. In most of my cruises, this is where I allocate the most funds. There are a couple of ways that you can save money with: read the guidelines for each cruise line or go to my independent ship reviews that I go through for each line. For example, Carnival and Royal Caribbean allow you bring (a limited quantity of) wine on board. Other options include the ability to purchase a bottle of liquor and have it delivered to the room; this is a great way to save on drinks and one that I use often. If you’re a heavy soda drinker you should consider purchasing the soda package; same goes for the liquor packages. But keep in mind that to really profit from the liquor packages, you need consume about $70 worth or more a day.
This is probably one of the items with the greatest impact when cruising on a budget, especially for large families. The main thing to note here is to try to avoid ship-sponsored excursions. Most cruise lines make substantial money off of shore excursions, and you’re the one paying the extra premium. In my time traveling, I have noticed that the main reason to book a ship-sponsored shore excursion is if it is not offered privately. There is one more reason that I can think of for booking with the ship, and that is for security. But if you do your research and book private excursions with good reputations, you should be just fine.
Cruising on a budget and Wi–Fi simply do not mix well. Depending on which plan you purchase, you will be paying anywhere from $0.35 to $0.75 per minute of Internet while you are aboard the ship. The bigger the plan you purchase, the lower the price point will be per minute. Another thing to consider is that the average Internet speed is rather on the low side—think dial-up speeds. The best way to go with this is to ask the crew where in port they access free Wi–Fi points and wait until you arrive to each port. Other options include asking your cell phone provider for information; some companies like T-Mobile offer unlimited international data and text on some of their plans.
Ship pictures can really put a dent in your budget. I have always steered clear of them, since I can usually get good results with my camera. One personal tip is to join a roll call, either on a forum or a social network, then find out if someone has a DSLR and simply ask for a picture or two. I have photographed groups in the past; it only takes me a minute to do so and later on I email the pictures to them. You can also try using your own camera. Ask someone with professional equipment to take your picture; you’ll be surprised by what some people can do with point-and-shoot cameras.
Casino (Match Play)
Quite honestly, there is not much to talk about here if you’re cruising on a budget. The best thing you can do is avoid donating your money into the future ships building fund. If you still plan on going there, look into special promotions, like the one that Carnival offers: If you purchase their specialty drinks, they match your money up to $5 per play.
Spa on Port Days
The spa aboard most cruise lines is priced around the same range as clubs around Florida; they are not exactly cheap. If you want to visit the spa while cruising on a budget, your best bet is to wait for port days and look at the special rates that are offered for these days. On most occasions the savings are substantial.
Shopping on the Last Day
Quite honestly, I have never seen the benefit of shopping on a cruise. But if you really want to do so, I suggest waiting until the last day. Most cruise lines have sales on the last day of the cruise and you could save some money. The two things you should consider buying even if you’re cruising on a budget are liquor and cigarettes.