A cruise trip can offer an enriching family vacation. With all-inclusive meals, lots of entertainment, designated kid’s clubs and many options for offshore excursions, cruising offers plenty of excitement for the whole family. While you’ll be sure that cruising is a fun experience for everyone, it might be a challenge to keep your savings intact. However, there are creative ways for cutting down costs and getting the most out of your family cruise. Whether you’re traveling with teens of toddlers, here are some tips for budget-conscious cruising.
1. Plan well your shore excursions
To save money and tour with fewer crowds, do some research online and plan your activities with a local guide or tour operator on land or explore the port cities stops on your own. Also, be aware of tourist traps. Restaurants and shop owners know they can raise prices near the port so if you like to try a local dish or buy a souvenir for home, just walk a few blocks further, and you may save a lot. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get back, because the boat will leave without you.
2. Calculate well your beverage package
Cruises offer right at the first evening an all-you-can-drink promotion or a soda card that seems to be worth given the fact you spend most of your time on the ship. However, in most cases, they won’t save you money. Instead, go for free water, iced teas, and juices. Good for your wallet and good for you!
Wine lovers should consider buying a bottle at the main dinner of the first night at sea. This is less expensive than purchasing wine by the glass, and if you don’t finish the bottle, the waiters can store it for you till the following evening.
3. Plan Your Parking
Driving to your cruise port (instead of flying) is a good way to save money if it’s geographically feasible. Still, you’ll have to find a place to park, and with an average of $15 per day that you find in the port parking lots, this is an expensive option. Look instead for an independent lot near the harbor; they may charge up to 50% less. If before your cruise, you spend a night in a hotel, then ask if you can park in their parking, sometimes they even offer it for free! When you must take a plane to reach the cruise port consider taking a taxi instead of using the airport transfers of the cruise company; the rate will be much cheaper.
4. Souvenir pictures, no thank you
Onboard photography is a huge activity for the cruise lines; ships tend to have several photographers taking every night pictures of the guests. They print their best shots and put it on display for sale. Most people do buy their picture, even though the cost is exponentially high, as much as $10 for a single small size picture. Know that you can take thousands of digital pictures on your own, view them back home on your computer, and print the nicest ones for less than $1.00 a piece! So, when you see your professional picture onboard, think twice and don’t be tempted by your lovely smile.
5. Log off once you are on board
Many people are used to check their social media and emails frequently during the day. This is an expensive habit on a cruise ship. Most ships now have internet access, but they mostly charge anywhere from 30 to 75-cents per minute for connections that are very slow and unstable. Recently, luxury cruise lines have moved to packages based on the minutes you plan to use (e.g. $9.99 for 15 minutes!) or unlimited access to the internet by day or by full cruise period. These packages are a much better deal; however, you might be better enjoying the scenery and free facilities on board and save your emailing for the internet cafes in the ports. Or just log off!
Be aware that if you take a cell phone onboard and access the internet, you will pay a data roaming charge that will cost about $5 per megabyte. Before leaving, you might better use the option on your phone to disable “data roaming”.
6. Go for the buffets
When it comes to dining, cruise ships offer plenty of options including specialty restaurants that you can book for an extra cost. Some are à la carte, some charge a fixed menu fee. If you travel with young children, you might avoid these restaurants as they may cost $25 to $40 per person, which adds up for a family. The casual meals at the buffet, instead, allow the kids to choose what they want (without waiting in a queue) and to try small amounts of food without ordering a whole portion. Besides, after their dinner, they can play in the kid’s club while you enjoy your dinner quietly in the main dining room at the late seating.
7. Clean your kids’ clothes by hand
Having your laundry done on a ship costs crazy money. So, instead of sending a bag of clothes off to be cleaned, buy some Woolite and wash your child’s spoiled shirt in the sink.
8. Service charges
Gratuities are a part of cruising; every drink and meal you sign for will already have a gratuity included in the price, so there is no reason to pay an additional tip.
The ancillary costs of cruises are what add up and make a cruise “expensive.” But if you are aware of this and take the discipline to avoid the tempting moments you can enjoy the entire cruise spending just a little money!