Cruise: How to plan for a cruise holiday without breaking the bank

Cruise: How to plan for a cruise holiday without breaking the bank

Though the cruise industry is currently tight in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, with multiple cruise lines now forced to further suspend sailings, there is some hope for cruise holidays. Despite the CDC’s no-sail ban being put in place until July, and the ongoing pandemic, many cruise enthusiasts have come forward to show their love of the industry and say that they won’t be put off their favourite way to travel.

Often, savings can be made the moment travellers book their cruise holiday with a simple bit of planning.

“It has generally been beneficial to book early,” explains Adam.

“That has often meant booking nine months to a year in advance of your travel dates.

“Cruise lines often offer booking incentives to travellers who book early – perks like cabin upgrades, complimentary beverage packages and onboard credit to use at your leisure while at sea.”

Though this could mean travellers now have a long wait until they next take to the seas, should they want to wait out the pandemic before booking their travels, forward-thinking could really reduce the overall cost of the holiday.

Should the cruise industry pick up again, another tip is to avoid peak seasons.

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“If your off-peak cruise isn’t full and the cruise line decreases fares in an effort to boost bookings, that’s a good time to ask your travel agent or cruise line representative for a free upgrade – especially if you’re not eligible for the price reduction,” Adam says.

“Many experienced cruisers often say that Shoulder Season – a time window that is not quite high season and not quite low season – is the ideal time to take a cruise.

“The key benefit of cruising in a shoulder season is that you can often enjoy similar or slightly more temperate weather from peak seasons in any particular area but without the crowds and the higher prices.

“It also usually means that most children are at back school – so you tend to get a quieter experience both onboard and ashore.”

Adam points out: “Booking your first cruise can be perplexing. It’s easy to be seduced by cheap cruise offers online but if this is your first voyage, it will really pay off to consult a specialist travel agent to make sure that you end up on the right ship for you.”

One of the major draws of cruise holidays is the ability to take in multiple destinations in one trip, thanks to port days.

However, what some travellers may not realise is that guided tours or on-shore excursions by the cruise line can come at an extra cost.

“If you want to save, skip the shore tour desk, and book independent shore excursions or tour guides (often for less money – or at least the same price for a smaller tour where you get more input),” Adam suggests.

However, seasoned cruiser Adele points out that there are some downsides to this, even if it does mean saving money.

“A lot of people think about excursions, some people are told not to book these directly with the cruise company and find a local tour operator instead,” she says.

“We normally book things directly with the cruise line as if we are late back on an organised excursion, the ship will wait for you (and this has happened!) but if you are using a local operator, they won’t!”

If you do want to arrange your own excursion, then be sure to take note of what time the ship is leaving.

“Look at where you are going in advance,” advises Adele.

“How far from the dock is the town? Is there a free or paid shuttle to get you into the town or can you walk it in?

“Some cities are nice just to have a stroll around on your own. But definitely look over the excursions if there is something of interest.”

There are also ways to save while onboard.

Though cruises are often all-inclusive, alcohol, speciality restaurants and some on board experiences – such as spa treatments – are not included in this offering.

“We always recommend that you purchase your alcoholic or soft drinks beverage packages before you board, if possible,” advises Adam.

“In general, it usually always pays to make this decision before you board – since many packages bought onboard can be up to 40 percent more expensive than those bought before boarding – so decide with your fellow travellers whether this is something you want to invest in before your departure date.”

However, if you are uncertain about whether these packages will be worth the cost, savvy sailor Adele has her own thrifty tips.

“If you search the internet you can generally find a price list of the drinks on your ship,” she explains. “Work out the average cost of the drinks that you consume, and how many drinks you would have to drink per day to break even.

“Are you booking excursions, or spending a lot of time off ship? Then this reduces the amount of time you can have these drinks.”

Adam continues: “In the same vein, if you want to go all out and sample the speciality fee-paying restaurants onboard a few times, book a restaurant package, if available.”

One way to slice the cost of speciality dining in half is to dine on the very first night of the cruise.

“As most passengers tend to use the main dining rooms on the first night, you usually find that onboard speciality restaurants offer some great deals for dining with them instead – such a free wine,” he adds.

Similarly, Adam suggests booking spa treatments on shore days if you want to enjoy a relaxing experience for half the price.

Aside from the costs of goods, many first-time cruisers might not be so accustomed with onboard gratuities.

“These days, most cruise lines add to your cruise bill an auto-gratuity or service fee that covers your cabin steward and dining staff,” says Adam.

“Bar bills often have a 15 or 18 percent gratuity included, as do many spa and fitness charges. Yet, more and more, the slip you have to sign indicates a space for an additional gratuity. You’re always welcome to give an extra tip for outstanding service, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to give more than the auto-gratuity if it’s not warranted.

“Uninformed travellers see the blank line on the bill and add 15 to 20 percent without thinking — and end up tipping double.”

If you do want to pay your tips separately, cruisers are allowed to remove auto-gratuities.

“Different companies have their own gratuity policies. We normally pay them, but they can work out expensively. Some split them equally between all their staff (from the engine room to captain), some only split them between your cleaner and your waiter,” explains Adele.

“Our last cruise, we removed our gratuities for the first time ever and left them a tip ourselves as it was only split between two members of staff.

“If you look into it before you go then make sure you ask on one of your first days on ship to remove the gratuities.”

Though the future of travel is uncertain for now, if you are hoping to cruise in the future now could be the time to begin much-needed research.

Whether it’s saving money when booking, or cutting costs once on deck, the major theme that runs throughout is to plan in advance.

Published at Sat, 25 Apr 2020 03:01:00 +0000