Around 27.2 million people are expected to take a cruise vacation in 2018, with the industry showing a consistent rise in passenger numbers since 2009 (a year in which 17.8 million passengers took to the seas). The Cruise Lines International Association’s newest report indicates that one big trend shaping the industry is budget cruising. Some 33% of cruisers surveyed who have boarded a liner within the past three years have a combined household income of less than $80,000. Cruising has changed vastly to cater to new interests, including transformational travel (in which cultural immersion, adventures in the wild, and volunteering play an important role), sustainability, river and small ship cruising, and health conscious travel. How can travelers make the most of all that is on offer yet stick to a reasonable budget?
Watching out for deals
Rather than booking the first cruise vacation that looks interesting, consider ways to make savings. Follow major liners on social media and be daring enough to book last minute. All companies publish last-minute offers as a way to fill up empty cabins so try to be flexible with respect to exact destinations and dates. Make sure to subscribe for these liners’ newsletters as well. They will often communicate interesting deals via e-mail. When checking out offers, see which companies are offering additional perks (which may include day tours at your chosen cities of destination and the like). If you are traveling as a family and are inflexible when it comes to dates because of your children’s schooling, book as far in advance as possible to take advantage of ‘early bird’ deals.
Avoiding unnecessary purchases
Even if you’ve booked your voyage last-minute, take the time to draft a checklist of items, so that you don’t end up having to pay hefty prices for essentials you forgot at home. All ports have souvenir and toiletry essentials; if you plan on buying these items, wait until you get into the city you are visiting, where shops will have prices catering to locals rather than to tourists. Forego your normal credit card when you are on the move; cards that return a specific percentage of your expenditure are the way to go, especially since you know you will be spending during your voyage on everything from food to drinks, souvenirs, fashion and other items you won’t be able to find at the same price back home.
Making the most of onboard discounts
Most cruisers head directly to see local attractions when their ship is docked. Go against the grain and head for the onboard spa, which often has discounted prices for moments when the ship is at the port. Typical deals include two-for-one pricing, various treatments for a lower total price, and discounts. Some liners even offer discounts for specific treatments when the ship is sailing so make friends with staff who can inform you of any available offers.
To make the most of a cruising holiday without breaking the bank, timing is key. Try to be flexible and if you can’t, at least be early. Take advantage of free entertainment and food/drinks onboard, and once in a while, forego the local attractions and enjoy the best features the ship has to offer at a discounted price. Finally, if you must pull out the credit card, be wise in your choice of card and try to get something back from every purchase if you can.