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In my early (or maybe mid thirties) I went on my first ever cruise from Vancouver to Alaska.  My traveling companions were cruise veterans, but I was a cruise virgin.  It is a bit surreal seeing over 2000+ people on a large ship and options after options of dining choices.  Living in Vancouver, there have always been a ton of cruise ships coming into port.  Spring and summer in Vancouver is known as the cruise ship season.  I always thought that I would be retired and have grey hair when I go on a cruise.  However, the chance to try a cruise and spend some time with my new future family came about and I had the opportunity to try my first cruise.

People often think of cruising like an ‘all inclusive vacation’ but there are many ways in which the cruise lines can ‘ding’ you and costs can add up.  These include alcohol, Internet and phones, spas, and onshore excursions.

Save Money on Booking the Cruise

There are often deals to be had when booking a cruise.  For us, it was booked at least six months before and a great deal, under $900 CAD including taxes for a seven day cruise.  Keep an eye out for deals from Expedia as they often have discounts on cruises.  The shoulder season, like spring is often much cheaper than booking during holidays or during peak summer season.  Also according to cruise critic, the best time to book is a few weeks before the cruise to get last minute pricing just before sailing.  USA Today also states that booking during ‘wave season’ can provide some great deals because the cruise lines are desperate to increase bookings and fill up the cruises..  Wave season is from January to March of each year.

Take Advantage of BYOB if They Allow

For the cruise we went on, which is by Holland America. they allow one bottle of wine in your luggage and don’t charge the corkage fee if you bring the one bottle.  Alcohol is usually a bit more expensive on c;cruise ships, so the more you can bring the better.  If the desire for alcohol supersedes your desire to be frugal, look for beverage combo options to stretch your dollar.

Take it as an Opportunity to Disconnect

Phone calls are $7.95 USD per minute because your phone call will be routed through satellite phone.  Internet connection is a cheaper option, but still, at $200+ for the week or $20 for 30 minutes, it’s certainly not something that one is accustomed to, paying for Internet that is often free or included.  Therefore, take this opportunity to disconnect from the noise of modern life. If you must connect, you can always check out Internet options when you are docked and head to an Internet cafe for some free wifi connection time.

Do Your Own Excursion

The excursions are tempting but the prices are not.  Skip the tour desk and head to the dining area instead.  DIY is likely the better bet. Just hop off the ship and explore your own options for excursions.  You can either organize it yourself ahead of time or see what’s available when you disembark on the port.  Both are less expensive than booking it from the cruise.

If you Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

Probably my most favourite way to save money, especially if you are traveling on cruises frequently, is to buy the cruise line share.  According to Traveling with the Jones’ owning 100 shares of either Carnival (Stock Symbol CCL) or Royal Caribbean (Stock symbol NYSE: RCL) can yield you $100 of onboard ship credits for a seven day cruise, for example.  Back in 2012, RCL was only about $25/share.  So at $2500 you can save $100 every time you travel (back in 2012, anyway).  Now RCL is over $70/share, so not only do you save money with onboard credits, you make money with investing, lol.  It reminds me of the perks with one of my favourite stocks, the Keg Royalty Income Fund, where they send me $25 to enjoy some steak because I am a shareholder.  You can check it out on my post on my five favourite stocks.

Readers, have you been on a cruise?  How did you save money on it?

Article comments

1 comment

We took a Disney Cruise a few years ago. It was fantastic!

We booked the cruise around the time that other cruise lines were experiencing negative publicity related to on-board illnesses. As a result, we got a great deal. The same room on the same ship is 3x or 4x more now.

I do agree that you need to be on the lookout for “other” fees. Specifically, I am thinking about the spa fees. It was a really nice spa, but it was comparable in cost to a high-end luxury hotel spa.

There are also some higher-end restaurants that you can dine in rather than the standard room. But again, you will pay for the privilege.