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  • Travel tips for budget cruises

    photo by Paul Gillet

    Gone are the times when only the rich could afford the pleasures of a cruise. Nowadays, with so many travel deals ripe for picking, it’s not impossible to visit faraway places without paying a small fortune.

    If you don’t like the hassles of budgeting, going on a cruise doesn’t sound like a bad idea, because for a fixed price you get accommodation, meals and sometimes even flights to the departure port. But in most cases, the guest ends up paying a lot more, which is enough to make any budget-conscious traveler wary of cruise offers.

    But if the idea of sailing on blue waters, relaxing and enjoying yourself on board and stopping at interesting ports sounds like a dream come true, then you can try to make it work without going broke in the process. Here are some travel tips for budget cruises that can help you.

    Calculating costs

    1. Consider hidden costs. Say you found a great budget cruise deal and it looks like you won’t even have to touch your life savings to go on the trip. But the price of a cruise is rarely the one advertised in the offer, because that fee only covers bare necessities: a (usually windowless) cabin, meals and that is it. What it usually not advertised are the port fees, taxes, the mandatory tips you owe to the cruise staff, and excursions in the ports of call, plus a lot of tempting onboard activities which you have to pay for. You should use an online cruise free calculator and get a general idea of how much you’ll end up paying.
    2. Everyday necessities such as sunscreen and toiletries are not cheap on the islands, not to mention on the ship. Buy them before your trip at home and you’ll save money and time
    3. Save on drinks. On most ships juice is free, not like soft drinks, beer, wine, and cocktails at meals.
    4. Communication, When you travel with family or friends, take with you a walkie-talkie to save roaming costs.
    5. Plan your next budget cruise right on the ship. However this tip is only for your next budget cruise, it’s worth considering to book right on the ship your next trip. Some lines offer a discount of $175 and up on the deposit for future trips. Usually you get a refund on your deposit if you decide to cancel later.
    6. Plan early. Book your budget cruise six to nine month in advance. Check if there’s a frequent cruiser program (similar to frequent flyer).
    7. Travel off-season. You’ll find lower airfares, pre- and post-cruise hotel rates, and budget cruise prices. Savings depend on destination, and are between 20 to 50 percent. Off seasons vary by destination. November or the early part of December, is a favorable period to cruise the Caribbean, while fall is when you can find bargains in the southern Mediterranean and the Pacific Northwest. May is a smart time to visit Hawaii.If you are traveling at off-peak times, make sure to study the weather patterns in the destination. You might find Caribbean deals in late August through October, but that’s hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Travel insurance during these times—and reading the fine print to make sure it covers you if your flights are delayed or if the trip is interrupted by bad weather—is recommended.
    8. Last-minute deals. Do you have a flexible schedule, your best choice are short-lead, online sales. Consolidators and discount sites as well as the lines’ own e-mail offers can provide considerable savings. Lot of folks buy their trip and can’t participate for some reason. They are looking to reduce their losses and try to get rid of their tickets. Check out online bidding sites also. Prices often fluctuate based on kids’ availability.
    9. Spring break, for example, is a popular and also expensive, but the last week in August, when school begins, is a bargain.
    10. Smaller is cheaper. Smaller boats are cheaper expensive since they offer fewer amenities and attractions.
    11. Repositioning cruise. When cruise lines move ships from one part of the world to the next in anticipation of the upcoming season are a great way to cross an ocean cheap.
    12. Airport transfers. Cruise companies own airport transfers are overpriced. Take a cab
    13. Spa treatments. You’d make a massage but you can’t afford it? Spa treatments are coming with significant discounts during the ship anchors in the port. Spa appointments fill up early, so make sure you book as soon as you get on the ship. Also check the newsletter for daily specials that usually are available during certain hours.

    Picking a cabin

    photo by Roger Wollstadt

    The cabin fee is included in the cruise price, but it might not be the kind of cabin you dreamed about. The cheapest cabins usually have no windows and no balcony. As dreary as that sounds, investing in a fancier cabin with great views of the sea might not be that smart.

    Presumably, you won’t spend much time in your cabin, and the common areas of modern cruise ships are pretty attractive to draw you out. Since you don’t need windows when you’re sleeping, picking the cheapest cabin won’t ruin your trip in the least.

    Activities on board

    Stops at port of calls afford the most excitement of a cruise trip, but you will need to occupy your time with something in between ports. Activities abound on cruise ships, but often they don’t come free. You can swim in the pool and lounge in the sun, reading a book, go to live events, use the fitness room and other free facilities,.

    However, you might want to steer clear of the spa, the casino, the fancy restaurant and cocktail bar, or the yoga classes everyone is talking about. Plan your budget, and decide on a sum of money that you are allowed to spend each day, and give yourself a little gift every now and then to keep yourself happy.

    Activities on land

    photo by ggoldie

    When the ship stops at ports of call, you obviously won’t want to stay on board, so it’s time for some sightseeing. The cruise line can arrange tours for guests, but these on-shore excursions usually cost a pretty penny.

    You can save money by making arrangements yourself, and by taking a self-guided tour. All you need is a map and some research on which sights are nearby. However, keep in mind that ports can be a bit far from the actual sights and cities, so you need to set aside money for transportation.

    However, great attractions can be had with little time and money – explore the beaches and the nearby nature spots. One advantage of cruise-arranged tours is that you won’t be left behind if you are late, so if you are in the habit of being tardy, consider signing up for a tour anyway!



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