If you’ve always loved the idea of a cruise holiday but thought that cruises were way beyond your budget, think again. You and your partner or family can enjoy all the fun of cruising for the same cost or less as your average package holiday, if you’re in the know. Here’s how to book a cruise holiday on a tight budget and take advantage of everything that cruising has to offer, from enticing food and blissful relaxation to exciting entertainment and adrenalin filled activities to delight the whole family.
Before we explain how you can get the best cruise deals, it’s worth mentioning that although cruises can look quite expensive, they do offer exceptional value for money in comparison to a regular package deal. Usually, all of your food is included in the price, along with a decent selection of drinks and excellent activities to keep you entertained. If you’ve got children, you’ll know just how quickly all those little extras can add up on a regular holiday – from drinks and desserts to snacks and things to do. Most cruises are full board so you’ll get breakfast, lunch and dinner included for all the family, with meals and snacks available around the clock.
Hurry Up! Take a Last Minute Deal
If you’re able to take a holiday with only a week or two’s notice, you can save an absolute fortune booking a last minute deal. As an example, Norwegian Cruise Line are currently offering an amazing 11 night cruise that will take you to Italy, Monte Carlo, Toulon, Barcelona, Valencia, Cagliari, Palermo, Naples and Rome for just £575 including flights. At just over £50 a day including all your food, a selection of drinks and a wide range of activities, this offers incredible value for money. The catch? You’ll need to be ready to fly in just ten days’ time. If leaving at the drop of a hat works for you, check out some of the other fantastic last minute deals on offer from Cruise1st as this is the best way to grab a cruise bargain.
Compare Cruise Lines
There are many different cruise lines sailing to the same destinations and offering very similar itineraries so it pays to compare their prices. For example, for a seven night Caribbean cruise, Carnival, MSC and Norwegian tend to offer the best prices. Prices for comparable cruises with Princess, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Holland America are just slightly higher. At the top end of the scale, a comparable cruise with Disney, Windstar, Oceania, Seabourn or Silversea can set you back eight to ten times more. You’ll find generally that the smaller cruise lines and smaller ships tend to offer the best value.
When shopping around it’s best to use sites that allow you to search deals from a number of cruise lines and compare them, as this makes light work of finding the best deal. Make sure you compare all aspects of the trip – itinerary, accommodation, excursions and features of the boat – before deciding on the best deal for you.
Book Out of Season
Although most of us take our holidays during mid-summer, there are plenty of destinations to choose from out of season that have fantastic weather and fewer crowds to contend with. You’ll find that different destinations have different pricing through the year – so, for example, the Caribbean is cheapest in early Autumn or in January/February, cruises to Alaska are cheaper during April May and September, and Mediterranean cruises tend to be cheapest during September and October. If you book off season, make sure you know what the weather is typically like and ensure that you’re happy with the temperatures you’re likely to experience.
Take a Repositioning Cruise
Few people have heard of repositioning cruises but they are an amazing way to get a fantastic deal on your holiday. On a repositioning cruise, the port at which you embark and the port where you disembark are different. These are offered where the cruise ships need to relocate because of a change in season. For example, many ships will spend the summer in Europe and then move to the Caribbean for the winter. Some cruise ships also relocate for economic reasons – for example, a number have moved to Dubai and Asia in recent years to meet a growing demand. There are downsides to a repositioning cruise: you’ll spend more days at sea, for example when crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and consequently there will often be fewer ports of call. You’ll also have to purchase two one-way flights to the embarkment and disembarkment locations. However, these disadvantages are set off by the huge discounts: typically, repositioning cruises can cost as little as half the price of a regular cruise.
Try out a New Ship or Itinerary
When ships introduce new itineraries or set sail for the first time you can often bag a special introductory rate. However, a word of warning: don’t expect plain sailing for these trips. If you’re the guinea pig for a new deal, inevitably a few things may go wrong so be ready to smile and demand a compensatory margarita when things don’t quite go to plan.
Book in a Group
Some cruise lines are able to offer deals and discounts for large groups and this can even mean that one of you goes along for free. Whether you’re going with friends, family or work colleagues, if you can get a group together for your trip it’s worth phoning your agent to book and see what group deals are on offer.
Check for Special Deals
All the cruise lines run special offers at some point so it’s worth keeping an eye on offer pages for news, deals and discounts that change on a regular basis. You’ll often see ‘kids go free’, money to spend on board, percentages off for the second passenger, days at the port before or after the cruise, discounted extra days at sea and occasionally two-for-ones.
Be Vocal about Occasions
If you’re booking a cruise for your honeymoon, anniversary, birthday, family reunion or some other event, make sure your agent knows about it. It’s sometimes possible for them to get you a little extra discount or an upgrade from the cruise line to help make your occasion even more special.
Be Upfront with your Agent
If you can’t find a deal on the agent’s website that meets your budget and offers everything you’re looking for, it’s worth giving your agent a call rather than spending hours shopping around online. They’ll be aware of all of the discounts and offers that are currently available and because they have a good relationship with the cruise lines, they may be able to secure you a deal that isn’t advertised on their website.
Book with Cruise1st
Images via Royal Caribbean Press Center and Flickr Creative Commons: Davide Costanzo, popofatticus, Tom Mascardo, Geraint Rowland, Prayitno