6 Tips for Cruising on a Tight Travel Budget

The following post comes from Joanne Guidoccio at partner site The Dollar Stretcher.

After the tragic accident involving the Costa Concordia, Sam was convinced that he and Angela could cruise for next to nothing. When some of his friends and family members expressed their safety concerns, he reassured them by quoting the following statistic from the Cruise Lines International Association: From 2005 to 2010, approximately 100 million people took cruises, and there were only 16 deaths attributed to marine accidents.

While there may be some bargains in the wake of the tragedy, cruises can still be expensive, especially when you factor in the additional costs for airfare, land tours, alcoholic beverages, and gratuities. If you’re planning a cruise, consider the following tips to cruise on a budget…

1. Try homeland cruising

Many cruise lines have embraced “homeland cruising” and established home ports along the U.S. coast. If you live near port cities such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boston, or Seattle, you can save the cost of an airline ticket and take cruises that sail in the Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada, New England, and Alaska. If you’re driving to the cruise port, factor in the cost of parking in the port garage.

2. Be flexible

If you’re flexible and can drive to a cruise port, take advantage of last-minute bookings and discounted hard-to-fill cruises. Whenever possible, select travel dates just outside the peak season. Pick October for your Caribbean cruise or visit Alaska in May, and you’ll avoid the more expensive summer and holiday prices.

With all the activities on the ship, you probably won’t be spending much time in your cabin. So, why not opt for an inside cabin? If you’re lucky, you may even get a free upgrade.

3. Organize a group

Encourage your friends and co-workers to cruise with you. Many cruise lines offer a free berth for a set number of bookings. For example, Princess Cruises offers a free berth for every 16 lower berths booked. As group leader, you can choose to spread the savings among the group or reward yourself with the entire amount.

4. Surf the Web

After obtaining brochures from your travel agent, search for better deals on discount travel sites that specialize in cruise fares. Visit Travel Zoo for a universal price list and deal comparison. Find additional deals at Cruise Now, but be prepared to book while searching, because most of these deals are only offered during a 48-hour window. Another good site to visit is Cruise Cheap. Alternatively, you can use Twitter to search for last-minute cruise bargains – many agents and agencies tweet their best cruise offers.

5. Read the fine print

While the $499 Bermuda cruise sounds like a bargain, be aware that this price is only the point of entry. There are extra costs like crew tipping, baby-sitting, liquor and soda, shore excursions, exercise classes, and spa treatments that are usually not included in the quoted price. After booking your cruise, carefully read the fine print on the last few pages of the company’s brochure. Follow all the links, paying special attention to the beverage packages. For example, Celebrity Cruises provides information on these packages at www.celebritycruises.com/beveragepackages.

6. Work it!

If you have a special area of expertise, you may be able to give lectures onboard and, in return, get all or part of your vacation costs covered. Sixth Star Entertainment and Marketing provides low-cost cruises to experts in such areas as bridge, ballroom dancing, and arts and crafts. While the terms may vary by cruise line, during a seven-night cruise, you’d be expected to deliver three to four one-hour presentations. The rest of the time, you and your guest can experience all that the cruise has to offer, including gourmet meals, daytime activities, and evening entertainment.

To Sea With Z is another entertainment provider that rewards onboard lecturers and instructors with a complimentary cabin. You must be prepared to present four different lectures, 45 minutes in length, answer questions, and use PowerPoint whenever possible. For a placement fee of $30 per person per day, you can cruise on a luxurious ship to exotic locations all over the world.

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