5 Money-Saving Tips for Booking a Cruise

  • 01 of 05

    Consult a Travel Agent who Specializes in Cruises

    Budapest and the Danube River
    (c)Mark Kahler

    Some travelers are under the mistaken impression that travel agents are as outdated as typewriters. In an age when we can book our own flights and hotel rooms with a few mouse clicks, they disregard the advantages of a contacting a personal travel specialist.

    When pricing cruise itineraries, often it pays to have a travel agent in your corner who can describe the pros and cons of sometimes complicated choices. Frequently, the agent has made these trips personally.

    Find an agent who works with several cruise lines rather than promoting only one company.

    A travel agent can help you avoid wasting money on trips that won't fit your expectations. They are good at finding bonuses and offering insider tips.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Mention Special Occasions Early and Often

    Hood Canal, Washington
    (c)Mark Kahler

    Here's a tip that is far from sure-fire, but frequently worth the minimal effort it takes to employ: make mention of any special occasion that might be associated with your cruise.

    Is this your honeymoon? Are you celebrating a graduation or birthday? Be sure you tell the folks who are taking your reservations. Tell the concierge and the waiter. Don't belabor the point, but work it into your initial conversations.

    Cruise lines want your trip to be memorable so that you'll book more travel with them. Honeymooners might just book a second honeymoon in a few years. There are a lot of choices in the marketplace. Cruise lines put a lot of emphasis on cultivating loyalty. Repeat customers are crucial to their success.

    So if they slip you a few free extras during your trip, it's simply the cost of doing business. There will be no obligation on your part -- you simply enjoy the benefits.

    Don't feel cheated if you mention your occasion yet receive no perks. These offers (or lack thereof) vary greatly by season and cruise line. Still, it never hurts to try.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Look for Off-Season or Alternative Cruises

    Boat transportation is cheap in the U.S. Virgin Islands
    (c)Mark Kahler

    When you start pricing cruises, you'll quickly discover that the same cruise in peak season is often priced at a deep discount at off-peak times.

    At off-peak, you'll enjoy the same ports, the same food, very similar on-board activities and shore excursion opportunities at far less than peak-season prices.

    Are you fairly flexible with your travel schedule? Are you willing to leave at the last-minute and perhaps take your second- or third-choice of itineraries? If so, you might secure even deeper discounts than the off-season cruise passengers. As with hotel rooms and airline seats, cruise lines will make extraordinary efforts to fill empty space.

    Some cruise lines will assign a ship and crew to a place like Alaska or Norway for the summer months, then move that ship to the Caribbean for the winter. That move is expensive, so the cruise lines will take paying passengers for what is known as a repositioning cruise or "repo" cruise for short.

    These cruises feature many more days at sea, so there are sometimes special on-board programs that are not offered on standard trips. Also, some of the ports-of-call on a repo cruise are unusual.

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  • 04 of 05

    Resist Offers to Reserve Shore Excursions

    Glass Bottom Boat tour, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
    (c)Mark Kahler

    It always pays to find ways a travel provider builds profits. Airlines have found a long list of fees can generate strong streams of revenue. Hotel chains charge resort fees and offer overpriced snacks in their rooms.

    A key profit center for cruise lines is the shore excursion. You'll be urged from the outset to book these day trips before all the spots are sold. The line will arrange transportation and perhaps a meal and add on a hefty profit for its efforts.

    While some people like the idea of having their excursion plans made and prepaid, many budget travelers would rather make their own arrangements upon arrival at a fraction of the cruise line prices. There might be some cases in which the cruise line's arrangements make sense, but always investigate your options to go DIY on shore excursions.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Decline the Cruise Line's Travel Insurance

    Carnival Destiny
    (c)Mark Kahler

    Cruise lines will offer a variety of services in addition to the simple booking of your cabin. Beyond the aforementioned shore excursion pitches, they'll also offer travel insurance policies.

    For most cruise trips, a travel insurance policy is appropriate. It is a trip with several connections and fairly large expenditures. Some river cruise destinations actually require passengers to prove they have such insurance.

    The question is whether or not to buy the insurance policy from the cruise line. Many times, it makes sense to do this independently.

    You can be certain that you're buying from a neutral source. You might also find more opportunities to customize your policy.

    At the very least, do some shopping for travel insurance before agreeing to accept whatever the cruise line is offering.