How to Cruise on a Budget

One of the most popular myths about cruises is that they are limited for the uber-rich: in fact, there are cruise ships and cruises available for just about any budget size, as long as you are aware that you need to do a bit more legwork to find a great cruise at a budget price. If you’re interested in knowing how to cruise on a budget, consider the following essential tips that will help you along the way.

Tip: Pick a date during less busy seasons

If you want to take a cruise during the busy season, you won’t find many budget-friendly options! To give yourself more choices, pick a date during the less busy cruise seasons. For most destinations, the less busy seasons are from January through March, and August through October. The winter months and summer months are the most popular dates for cruises since they often coincide with vacations.

Tip: Stick to free packages

Most cruise lines will offer you a free food package in a food court or dining room setting, while also offering “alternative” dining at multiple restaurants throughout the ship. Instead of paying for the more expensive alternative dining, stick to the free food provided by the cruise line.

Tip: Be flexible about cruise dates and length

If you can, be as flexible as possible about your cruise dates—that is, when you leave—as well as the cruise length. For instance, if you are looking at a Caribbean cruise on a popular ship with lots of entertainment options, you might be able to find a much better price if you shorten your cruise length from 10 days to 7 days. You don’t’ have to completely change your plans, but keep an open mind and you may find the budget cruise of your dreams.

Tip: Plan your own excursions

Excursions are those trips to shore that everyone looks forward to on a cruise—but planned excursions offered by the cruise company are usually expensive and not always the best way to enjoy the local area. Instead of paying for an expensive planned excursion, make your own plan! You will be able to control where you go, what you eat, and what you do. You’ll need to do a bit more planning before you leave for your trip, but the savings are definitely worth it.

Tip: Stick to a budget on the ship

It can be easy to overspend once you’re on the cruise ship, which offers lots of ways for passengers to spend money at the drop of the hat, often resulting in passengers who get off the ship and find they spent hundreds of dollars without really intending to do so. Cruise ships sell everything from food to laundry service to gym and spa packages to gifts to spots at casino tables and everything in between. You should create a very strict budget for the ship—for instance, how much will you spend on food? Internet? Gifts?—and stick to it as closely as possible.

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