Whether you’re a first-timer or a cruise aficionado, there are always ways you can cut back costs without cutting back on the fun:
Do your research: Need we say more?
Get on the list: As in, the email lists for cruise lines and travel agencies. Then just sit back and wait for weekly, daily, last-minute and past-passenger deals to land in your in-box. They’ll have a short booking window, but great savings are possible if you’re willing and able to take off on short notice. And isn’t a flexible schedule one of the main advantages of being a 60+ traveller?
Get in early: Depending on the cruise company, you might be able to get an early bird fare if you book and pay far enough in advance. This could mean anything from free flights to on-board credits or pre-paid tips. Plus of course it means you’ll stand a much better chance of nabbing your preferred cabin.
Avoid peak season: Peak season differs according to where in the world you’ll be and what sort of cruise you’ll be taking, but whatever the case, avoid peak season and you’ll avoid the crazy crowds and the higher prices.
Go all-inclusive: Some cruises look like the most amazing deal – until you factor in the extra costs. Oftentimes it’s actually more cost-effective to take the option that looks like it’s more expensive, but will actually save you money in the long run. Things like tips and drinks can add a huge bill to your holiday, so if at all possible go for cruises that have all of these included – or at least do the maths to work out the best option.
BYO booze – Speaking of drinks, some (but definitely not all) ships allow you to bring drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) on board. The policies vary wildly, so be sure to check them out before you board or your wine/gin/Diet Coke might be confiscated. If you are allowed to bring in a bottle, however, it will obviously help save some money. Be sure to bring a refillable water bottle, too, and fill it up for free while you’re on board.
Step away from your smartphone/iPad/laptop: Onboard internet package prices are becoming less crazy, but they’re still expensive (not to mention slower). Far better is to get a local SIM card to use at each port (or you can rely on free Wi-Fi hot-spots) and do a digital detox of sorts. (Note: if you do buy an internet package, always remember to actually log out at the end of each session, otherwise you will use up your pay-per-minute allowance very quickly).
DIY day trips: Read up about shore excursions before you go – in many cases you’ll be able to make your own arrangements for about half the price. Just remember: your ship will wait for one of its own tours that's delayed, but not yours.
Eat out: While you’re ashore, make the most of local eating establishments. Do your research and you can discover some real gems that will deliver authentic, amazing local food at great prices.
Cheap eats: There are often ways to eat more cheaply at specialty restaurants on board your ship, too. Check out restaurant packages, or go for lunch instead of an evening meal.
Here is the news: Every night a programme of events for the following day will be delivered to your cabin. It will often include special offers such as discounted prices for spa treatments or a cocktail of the day, so make sure you scour it each day for any deals that appeal.
Spa stars: If your eyes lit up at the thought of a massage or facial on your cruise holiday, be sure to investigate any special spa deals or packages. Even if you don’t want to fork out for a treatment, a spa pass is a great idea as it will let you use facilities such as steam rooms, saunas and thalassotherapy pools etc. Just make sure you purchase passes as early as you possibly can (preferably before you set sail), as they’re usually limited. Ditto booking treatments – get in early or you might miss out.
Embrace free time: Nope, we don’t mean time you have free, we mean time during which you can do stuff for free. From dance classes and sporting activities to trivia games and movie nights, check out the fun stuff that’s going on for free, and then get involved! This is a great time to try something new – you might even discover a passion for something, or a fabulous latent talent.
No paparazzi, please: An easy way to spend money you won’t have budgeted for is to buy photos from on-board photographers, who are there to capture you at various stages of the journey (getting on and off the ship, dinners, gala nights etc). Just. Say. No.
Skip the shore: Been to a destination before? It’s a brilliant opportunity to skip a shore excursion and make the most of your ship – and the fact that so many of your fellow passengers won’t be there with you. This is the time to nab a sun-lounger by a peaceful pool, or try for a booking in a popular restaurant or the spa – you might even be able to get a discount.
If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel: As always, be sure you have the right travel/medical insurance – preferably before you even book. Policies and coverage can be very different for cruises as opposed to other types of holidays (it’s all about which waters you’re in), so be very thorough with your questions and reading the fine print when you sign up.