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How to Save Money While Having the Time of Your Life on a Trip


What’s your plan? –

Where can I find the most reasonably priced shipping tickets? Which is better, a local travel agency, a massive online marketplace, or the cruise company itself? Surprisingly, it doesn’t make much of a distinction regarding the starting price. Where you purchase your ticket is less of a factor in the price difference than whether or not you’re eligible for a promotional, seasonal, past passenger, military, or last-minute booking discount. The quality of service and extras provided during the booking procedure are the real differentiators between channels. So keep reading to discover how to get the most out of your trip without breaking the bank.

Comparing the advertised price to the actual cost of a cruise can be just as frustrating as comparing the prices of different airlines. Cruise advertisements frequently use ambiguous language and tend to overstate the cost of a trip. All advertised rates are for a pair of people assuming a standard room configuration. Extra passengers sharing a bedroom pay a reduced rate. All passengers, regardless of cabin type or the number of occupants, must pay the same high port taxes and other fees. On shorter, already heavily discounted cruises, the additional costs, and taxes can increase the total per passenger by an extra 20% to 50% over the basic fare. Be sure to read the fine print of any brochures or specifically inquire if the listed price includes all applicable taxes and fees. However, most cruise companies do not have these costs in their published fares. Ask questions.

Instructions for Obtaining Coupons –

The seasonal, last-minute, military, geographical, prior passenger, elderly, positioning itinerary, promotional, and distressed are some of the most common discounts offered.

Depending on the time of year, fall is usually the cheapest time to sail the Caribbean. Beginning and ending the season in Alaska will yield lower prices for excursions (May, September, and October). Similarly, if you want to save money on a voyage through Europe or the Mediterranean, you should try to avoid booking your trip in July or August.

Waiting until the last minute to book can net you a lower fare, particularly if you’re flexible with your departure date and aren’t picky about the ship or route.

Tell the agent you fought alongside Sergeant York at the Battle of Verdun and earned the Medal of Honor, and you might get a discount of 5-10%.

Location-based – If you reside in Paris, Texas, instead of Paris, Tennessee, you may be eligible for a small discount. (Don’t ask why; it’s a secret among high-ups in the shipping industry.)

Cruise lines often reward repeat customers with perks and deals based on the number of cruises they’ve taken with the company.

If you are over 55, you may be eligible for a senior citizen rate.

The cruise line may offer a promotional discount for various causes, some of which are only known to the company’s top executives.

Positioning cruises are voyages from one regular port to another, such as from Miami to Seattle, so that the ship can begin the Alaska season. The best deals on these vacation packages can be found between March and November. Be aware, though, that these positioning cruises feature fewer places of call and long days spent at sea. Transatlantic positioning trips illustrate this point particularly well.

A ship may be oversold in one category and severely undersold in another, leading to steep discounts on the latter during a category sale, a common type of price promotion.

Maximizing Your Benefits –

In many cases, all it takes is a question. If you’re working with a travel agent, they can inquire on your behalf about discounts and perks for the trip you’re interested in taking. A reputable and knowledgeable broker will have access to various benefits for which you may be eligible. You can use this information to your advantage if you book directly with the cruise company, but you’ll have to play Grand Perk Inquisitor alone.

Those who are part of a larger group booking the same cruise are entitled to various freebies and discounts, including but not limited to higher cabin categories, onboard spending credits, free photos and beverages, private meetings, free beach excursions, and more.

A common misconception among would-be cruisers is that you must be a literal company member to be included on the cruise’s passenger list. Consequently, it would be best to locate a travel agency or an online consolidator with group space reserved on cruises that coincide with your preferred departure and arrival points. Before you realize it, you’ll be relaxing in the balmy waters off the coast of Perk City. Furthermore, if the group is a theme group fronted by a star, you may get to bask in the spotlight generally reserved for them for a little while. Just picture yourself being on the Simon Cowell School of Charm Cruise, where you’ll be publicly chastised and scolded by Mr. Warm and Friendly.

Many large companies will use hundreds of departures with blocked group space to sneak incentive-seeking customers onto their flights.

Tips for minimizing initial investment –

Once upon a time, passengers paid just one flat rate for their entire cruise. These days, the final payment from a cruise can be much more expensive than the fare itself. The variety of add-ons means you’ll have to keep track of your spending as you go.

You can leave your cash, credit cards, and even your wallet at home, as your room key, on-ship spending card, and boarding ticket will all be stored on a single magnetic stripe card. Alcohol, soft drinks, gift store items, shore excursions, photographs, spa treatments, artwork, surcharges for alternative restaurants, internet access, ship-to-shore phone conversations, and casino chips are all available with this handy bit of plastic.

The running sum of your onboard purchases and specifics about each purchase can now be viewed in real-time on the closed-circuit TV in your cabin on many ships. If expenses spiral out of control, you can easily pull them back in. In addition, if you believe a charge to be incorrect or excessive for any reason, you may contact the front desk at any moment to file a dispute.

Carefully navigate the landmines of hidden fees –

Alcoholic drinks – Alcoholic drinks are always an additional charge, and the prices are on par with what you would pay at a relatively upscale land-based establishment.

Sodas range in price from $2 to $4 per drink, depending on the ship and the cruise line, so passengers who anticipate daily soda consumption should consider paying a flat rate for “unlimited sodas” for the length of the cruise.

Wine is never included in the price of a meal on a cruise, but you can count on getting a free bottle at the Captain’s Welcome Aboard celebration or a discount on your wine purchase on your anniversary.

The typical additional charge per diner at a specialty or alternative restaurant is around $30, ranging from $15 to $40. We think it’s worth it to splurge for a night or two if you want to experience the hotel’s elegant, high-end dining, which would set you back $100 per person or more at an equally luxurious beachfront restaurant.

Most cruise liners now offer Internet connectivity, with time packages for a fixed fee. Read and write emails offline, saving your precious online time for sending and getting.

Forget making phone calls from a ship to a land station. Prices range from $2.50 to $3.50 per minute. Instead of the phone plan, invest in Internet connectivity and use Skype on your laptop. Additionally, if you are leaving from a US port and are near land, there is a chance that your regular cell phone will function. When we are within five or six nautical miles of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or any US island like St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, etc., my Sprint phone works fine from the ship’s deck.

Specialty coffees like lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos are available at the coffee bar for an additional fee, roughly equivalent to what you would spend at a Starbucks.

Photos/videos are incredibly overpriced, but since customers are confined to the venue, the vendors can get away with it. You might want to purchase a couple of them anyway. On formal nights, my husband and I like to take a classy photo of ourselves in our identical pink satin bib overalls.

Shore Excursions are another significant source of revenue for cruise lines, so they tend to be overpriced. However, there are now trustworthy third-party choices that can help you save a ton of money without sacrificing quality. One such site is

Art auctions are usually staged on sea days to attract a captive audience. They are always located in a heavily traveled public area to ensure that the smooth talk of the auctioneer will dupe unwary passersby. You should always keep one hand on your wallet, keep your eyes down, and hum loudly to yourself to drown out the tempting sales pitch if you ever find yourself close to one of these people. We have a hypothesis that the recent spike in suicide by jumping off ships is related to these Pimped Up Picasso Pushers. It’s just us, though.

In-flight shopping malls have come a long way from their humble beginnings as a Dutch-doored storage closet open for only a couple of hours a day so that elderly passengers could buy things like Denture Cream and Preparation H (sold individually) as not to be confused) for their trips. In addition, the bargains have continually improved due to the bulk discounting that has resulted from increased sales.

Merchandise discounts are standard on the final day of the voyage and during port stops (if local authorities permit stores to remain open). Waiting to purchase that cheap tank top that reads “I went down with the Titanic” could save you money.

Another evolved aspect of sailing is the custom of tipping the crew. Originally, tipping was not expected of passengers, but that has since changed. Expect to tip on modern ships, but we’d decide who gets listed and how much. We, therefore, continue to use the conventional approach. We give out fake bills in envelopes and pose as lobbyists for Congress on the final night of the cruise. Prepaid is the way to go if you value ease, though. Extra gratuities are always appreciated and can be made at the cruise’s conclusion.

Gambling – The English blackjack operators have a name for their patrons: punters. That’s why we’re telling you to stay away as well. …especially if you’re the type to let yourself get distracted by fast-moving, brightly-colored things (NASCAR fans, are you paying attention?).

Advice: Everyone needs to try their luck every once in a while. If this is the case, only gamble with a predetermined amount of money you can afford to lose. When that sum is gone, gracefully finish your drink (but never the ice; people who eat ice when they’re nervous or out of control can end up with snow in their pants), and then slink away from the table with your head bowed and your pockets turned inside out. Despite this, your canine still adores you.

Making the Most of Your Time at Sea –

It is common knowledge that cruise companies provide a free “TC” (Tour Conductor) cabin to travel agencies that reserve multiple staterooms for their clients. Most cruise companies offer a complimentary passenger for every fifteen paying customers. The only costs for the sixteenth member are administrative ones. You can’t “stack the deck” by having five people stay in each of the three cabins because only the first two stay in a house contribute toward the TC. (The third and fourth people staying in a place at a discounted rate do not count.)

Advice: Most travel agencies will work with you to find the best method to take advantage of this offer. You can either transfer the credit to another passenger, use it to reduce the price of your cruise, or instruct your travel agent to apply it as a group discount. Alternatively, you can do like a bankrupt CEO bailed out by taxpayers and not go on the cruise, keeping the credit as a cash bonus and moving into a luxury double-wide on the shores of Lake Titicaca.

The benefits and drawbacks of making an on-ship reservation –

Advantages The cruise line should be able to answer all your questions in great detail and accept your booking directly if you know which line you want to take. You don’t have to wait for the travel agency to open up; you can use a cruise line’s web booking engine whenever convenient.

You won’t save money booking directly with the cruise company because their prices will be the same as those offered by travel agencies. However, they will not inform you of competing cruise lines that may better serve your requirements or offer more affordable rates for the same trip. You can expect to hear from them frequently if you sign up for updates on several different cruise companies’ sites. One can get weekly phone calls and texts for months or even years.

Leave the cruise booking details, follow-up inquiries, etc., to the travel agency after you’ve spoken with them (although other cruise-related add-ons such as airfare, hotels, car rental, travel insurance, shore excursions, etc. can still be handled on your own – or online if you are a “do-it-yourselfer” and wish to avoid agency service fees.)

If you have already booked through an agency, the cruise company will unlikely give you more details. If you try to contact the cruise company without going through your travel agent, they will ignore your calls and refuse to provide any information.

You are now prepared to set sail and maximize your vacation while minimizing expenses. And that’s not all. Articles on finding the cheapest flights, booking the perfect stateroom, making the most of the ship’s onboard dining, activities, and amusement, and finding the most affordable travel insurance are on the way (hint: it is usually NOT the coverage offered by the cruise line).

Managing Member, Network Transport Services, LLC Lyn Edwin Cathey

Trainer, educator, agent, consultant, agency owner/manager, and product specialist with over 25 years of experience in the travel field. Lyn was a full-time performer and comedian for 15 years before getting into the tourism business (see [] for more details). He plays the banjo and the guitar. He has made and keeps up several websites, including (

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