How To Save Money On A Cruise -Lots of tips and tricks for making cruising cheap and affordable for families from a real cruising mom.
Cruising really is the perfect, affordable vacation. You might think cruising is only for the rich, but I promise it’s not any more. In fact it’s very comparable or even less than any all inclusive holiday. My husband and my two daughters have been on over 10 cruises. And I have tips on how to save money on a cruise that are tried and true. I’ve used these tips over and over to help us be to afford a two week cruise every year.
Go On A Smaller Ship
One of the great secrets of how to save money on a cruise is to book aboard a smaller cruise ship. When I say smaller, let me put it into perspective for you, it’s still like a floating city. Even the smaller ships are huge and all have swimming pools, hot tubs, dining rooms, theatres, gyms, spas, libraries, coffee shops, speciality restaurants and bars, shops, climbing walls, kids areas, teen areas, and even baby areas. It’s amazing how big cruise ships are, and I promise even the smaller ones have all you need to keep you and family entertained for a week or even two. The newest and largest ships are always the most expensive. Even the medium sized ship in every fleet will be cheaper.
Book An Inside Cabin
On a cruise there are different rooms available at very different costs. You can choose anything from a suite with sitting areas and separate bedrooms for your whole family, a regular room with a balcony, right down to the smallest inside cabin, with up to four in one room. One of our secrets of how to save money on a cruise is to book an inside cabin. It’s always cheaper to get an inside room, and although they’re smaller, and certainly cosy for four people they’re very workable.
The way it works is that there are bunk beds over the main bed for the kids to sleep on. The room has no windows, but believe it or not, it’s kind of nice when you’ve all been up late and you want to sleep in, because the room stays nice and dark. The truth is, at least for us, and probably anyone traveling with kids, you don’t spend that much time in your room. The ships have so many fun activities, and things to do, not to mention the ports, that the rooms end up being for sleeping and getting dressed and that’s about it. Would a larger room be nicer? Perhaps, but I’d rather get to take a two week cruise and be a little cozier, it’s a lot like camping, and your kids will probably love it.
As my girls have gotten older, we upgraded to two adjoining inside cabins. It’s still cheaper than outside rooms or a family suite. So even with older kids I really recommend this.
Wait For A Sale
Royal Caribbean have amazing sales. The last cruise we went on was purchased during their “Kids Sail Free” sale. We’ve also purchased before during buy one get one half price sales. A great tip for how tons save money on a cruise is to wait for a sale before booking. There are sales on all the time, so be patient and find one that really works for you.
Drive To The Port
Our last few cruises we’ve saved a lot of money by driving to the port where we get onto the cruise ship, rather than flying. We live in Toronto, Canada, so there’s no cruise ships leaving from here, but you don’t always have to fly to Florida. We’ve sailed out of New York and Baltimore, and there’s other ships out of Texas and New Orleans. It’s always cheaper to drive a family than to fly a family (unless you have some points to fly for free). We usually find a hotel deal where we can drive in the day before and park our car at the hotel while we’re on the cruise. They offer a shuttle to and from the hotel and it’s quite quick and easy.
Bring Your Own Wine
We aren’t big drinkers, but I do love a glass of wine before dinner. Royal Caribbean lets each stateroom bring tw0 bottles of wine on the ship. Your cabin steward can bring you a wine opener and glasses. This helps cut down the bar bill a little. And, if you’re travelling with Grandparents who aren’t drinkers, have them bring on a couple for you too. It’s really easy to get carried away ordering drinks on the ship, since you use your room card instead of money. Just think about your budget before you go. It’s often cheaper to drink in port, since the local beers are always really affordable -and the bars often offer free wi-fi too.
And once you’ve been sailing for awhile there’s the loyalty club to look forward to. We’re diamond members on Royal Caribbean so we get three free alcoholic drinks everynight between 5-8pm. It’s a very nice perk and means next to no bar bill at the end of the cruise. Even kids who are the same level as their parents if under 18 get free soft drinks during those hours so it’s really a nice reward to look forward to.
Explore the Ports On Your Own
A great way to save a little money on a cruise is to explore the ports on your own. These days with the Internet, you can totally plan out your ports of call before you even leave home. Take some time to research each port and what family friendly activities are there. You can plan your attractions or what beach is family friendly, even research how much the cab fare will be. Some places even let you pre-book tickets on-line before you go, and sometimes at a discount.
In the port you’ll easily find a cab driver and know exactly what you’re doing, and it will be at a fraction of the cost of an excursion booked through the ship.
Getting Back To Ship On Time
Some people worry about not getting back to the ship on time, but the islands are quite small and there are tons of taxis, so I would say just head back to the ship early and you don’t have to worry at all.
The biggest tip I have for this though, is to make sure to agree on the cost of the taxi with the driver before you leave -they certainly love to negotiate, and haggle, so be prepared for that. You might get a cheaper price if you go with others too, so don’t be afraid to ask other cruisers if they’d like to share a taxi with you. Also, don’t pay in advance for the return trip. Be sure to only pay for one way at a time, just in case they don’t return for you. If that should ever happen to you, there’s aways someone around -at the attraction, or at the beach’s little bar to call another taxi driver for you.
In our 10 years of cruising with our kids we’ve never booked a shore excursion through the ship. We always make our own plans and we’ve never, ever had trouble getting back to the ship. Once our taxi didn’t return for us at the time we’d set and within 15 minutes a different cab had been called and picked us up by just asking at the beach. The ship will always try and scare people into using their excursions so that they don’t miss the ship. We leave ourselves lots of extra time and have never ever had a problem.
Take Advantage Of The Ships Children’s Programs
Royal Caribbean has kids programs for babies all the way up to teens, and from 3 years old and up they don’t require the parents to be there. The regular children’s program is all free, included in the price of your cruise. (There is a charge for after hours night care, and in room babysitting.)
My kids have loved the children’s program. They make friends, play games, do crafts, and even science experiments. It’s all run by trained professions, and they even have a pager system you can use if your child wants to reach you after you drop them off. What’s really nice about these programs is it lets you have a little grown up time without the kids some days too. A true holiday for everyone.
Keep An Eye On The Extras
They’re are lots of little extras you can purchase, but they can really add up. Enjoy a few cocktails, or a speciality coffee, but keep an eye on it. You might be tempted by Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream, but there is an upcharge for it. You can have all the free ice cream you want up at the self-serve ice cream machine, or in the dining room. It’s tempting to order a soda, but there’s an up charge. Remember you can get water, lemonade, orange juice, apple juice, chocolate milk, ice tea all for free in the dining room. The speciality restaurants are amazing! But they do come at an extra cost. When the dining room is so, so good and included in your cruise cost, why not enjoy it instead?
The Internet service has really improved on the ships, and it’s a pretty reasonable cost now too. I kind of like the unplugged feeling of being on the ship, but if you’re on a long cruise you can definitely connect. On our last cruise we were tempted to buy a package for the whole cruise, but in the end it was much cheaper to buy it twice for 24 hours, and use free wi-fi where we could in the ports. We ended up buying wi-fi for one day on the way down while we were at sea, and one day on the return trip home for a sea day.
I’d say the big up charge areas to watch are the spa, drinks, shopping, and the casino. By all means enjoy, but think about your budget and how much you’ll be comfortable spending before you over indulge.
Enjoy Your Food
There are so many great dining options, which makes cruising truly family friendly. One of our tips on how to save money on a cruise is to take advantage of all the complimentary dining and skip the ones that require an uncharge. Royal Caribbean offers a buffet, the main dining room, a coffee shop, a cafe all as complimentary dining-and on larger ships there’s even more options.
If your group isn’t keen on formal night, don’t worry just go to the buffet that night, or order room service. Did you have a nap and miss lunch in the dining room, no problem just go to the buffet or cafe. Want a special dinner for just mom and dad, bring your kids to the buffet for dinner, then drop them at the kid’s program, and enjoy a late adult only dinner.
Are your kids fussy eaters? They should be able to always find something at the buffet. And in the dining room, you’ll have the same wait staff every evening, and they will bend over backwards to meet your needs. Once your waiters learn what your kids like, they’ll really cater to them. Ours even cut up their meat for them so that I didn’t have to when they were little. The service is amazing!
Let Staff Know About Your Special Needs
I had the pleasure of chatting with the exectutive chef on our last cruise about how they accommodate families, and one of the sweetest things he said was, we always have peanut butter and jam sandwiches available! Of course he’s a father of three so he gets it. There’s also a kids menu in the dining room, or they can adjust the adult menu -leave off sauces, add a side of fries, that kind of thing. I promise no one will go hungry, in fact it’s probuably the oposite.
If you or your kids suffer from allergies be sure to inform the cruise line. They’ll work with you to find options that work for you on the buffet or in the dining room and if necessary they’ll individually prepare your food for you ensuring it’s suitable.
Our family have become real foodies over the years, and even our kids look forward to the gourmet dining. It’s a great chance to try new things and indulge, since everything is all included. All these things -complimentary dining, free accommodations for kids, or allergies, and trying new gourmet items all add up to amazing value and are just another way reason cruising is such great value for families trying to save money.
Enjoy the Family Activities -There’s Something for Everyone
One of the great parts of cruising with your kids is getting to spend time with them. We love swimming with them -or at least watching them swim, haha. There’s also hot tubs to enjoy together. My girls and husband love doing the rock climbing wall together. There’s always pingpong tables, and shuffle board too. On past cruises we’ve had a lot of fun having mini golf competitions as a family. The ships usually have some board games you can borrow and play together, and cards. There’s also scheduled activities. My youngest daughter just loves the napkin folding class, and this year our girls loved competing in daily trivia competitions and even won the Disney theme songs one! They’ve also had a blast at family karaoke night, and the family scaventure hunt.
We all enjoyed the movies on the pool deck. Every night there’s a different movie played up on the pool deck and you can watch it under the stars in the pool lounge chairs. A few of the movies were family movies. It was so cool watching Disney’s Moana on the big screen as she sailed through the sea and looked up at the stars while we were doing it too!
Something For Everyone = Great Value
One of the things we love about cruising is there’s something for everyone -and it’s all included in the cost of your cruise, making it really great value. The foodies can enjoy the gourmet food, the athletes can go to the gym, the music lovers can listen to live music everyday, the relaxers can lounge beside the pool with a good book, the kids can enjoy an age appropriate kids program -everyone’s happy, the kids, the parents, the grandparents. And happy is the name of the game when your vacationing! That’s why we keep coming back year after year, after year.
Knowing how to save money on cruise, life really is a party!
I received a few perks on my last cruise, but I can assure you all opinions are my own, as always. I just love cruising with Royal Caribbean!
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