Going on a cruise can be like buying an ice cream cone at Dairy Queen. You start out with that vanilla cone for $1.29, but before you know it you’re adding a fancy waffle cone, getting it dipped in chocolate and nuts, and all of a sudden your change from your $10 is fairly piddling.
The price for a cruise is the same way. It can start out unbelievably cheap – $249 for four nights in the Caribbean. But five days later, you’re staring down a long list of charges and your $249 cruise is now going to set you back more than a mortgage payment.
Here are just a few ways we saved on our holiday cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas. Your savings may vary by number of people and cruise ship of course, but here are just a few ideas to get you started.
1. Take a taxi rather than a shuttle from the airport. Our group of seven flew into Miami and needed transportation to the Miami port, approximately 7 miles away. We could have booked the shuttle ahead of time for $30 round-trip. But taxis have a flat fare of $24 to the port. We found one that held all seven of us. Savings? More than $150.
2. Take your own luggage on board. On previous cruises I had noted that as soon as you arrive at the port, a nice gentlemen offers to take your bags. You are expected to tip handsomely and may not see them for several hours. Savings? Around $20-$30 and no hassle waiting for our bags to show up on the ship and back at the terminal when we disembarked.
3. Compare costs on excursions. During our day in Nassau, our group decided to go visit the stunning Atlantis resort on Paradise Island. As we were unable to come to a consensus prior to our cruise, we hadn’t booked any type of excursion, which proved to our benefit. Rather than paying a hefty $54 a person and being on someone else’s schedule, we just strolled off the ship at our leisure, found a water taxi for $6 a person round-trip, and toured the property on our own. There is a public beach you can visit as well, at no cost. (Unless you decide to accept one of the many offers for all-you-can-drink coconut drinks for $20.) Savings? More than $340.
4. Take your own alcohol on board. Sssh! This one is a secret, as our cruise line did not allow alcohol on board. Many do, however, and we found that the best way to handle taking on wine is in a box. No worries about breakage, and you can fine decent box wine that holds the equivalent of four bottles of wine. Savings? More than $150.
5. Join the cruiseline’s loyalty program. If you’ve cruised with that line before, get details on their loyalty programs. I joined the Crown & Anchor Society for Royal Caribbean and received a coupon book for discounts and an invitation to a members-only cocktail party.
Cruising can be an enjoyable, and affordable vacation. Just keep an eye on all those extra charges.
Cruises are a great value for family vacations. We took several when our kids were younger and they will always remember the adventure of riding the high seas The wonderful sights along the way and the haut couture of dressing for formal dinners. One tip with younger kids is to purchase the soda card that many cruise lines offer. For about $50 (seems like a lot at first) the kids can get unlimited soft drinks for the entire cruise. If you can convince them to hang together and look out for each other, one card will suffice for more than one child even though the cruise line “requires” a seperate card for each child.
We always planned our own excursions and saved bundles while getting the feel and flavor of the various ports of call. One thing to be aware of with kids is the relatively lax clothing requirements on many tropical beaches. The waiters at our table each evening were always eager to see the photos my oldest son took of scantily clad bathers after we strayed inadvertantly onto a clothing optional beach in Martinique a few years ago. Sadly (my opinion) we were only at that port of call for one day.
Finally beware of the dreaded post cruise syndrome. After days of being practically force- fed an almost endless variety of calorie rich foods and being waited on hand and foot by the cruise staff, the day after the cruise ends can be miserable. The abrupt absence of service in the presence of plummetting blood sugar levels while trying to make return connections can quickly unravel the fun of the previous week…I suggest having plenty of snacks and Tylenol ready if the kids start to decompensate.
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