01 of 05
Strongly Consider Buying Travel Insurance
Finding an affordable cruise vacation is important for budget travelers, because most of your expenses are covered in that one payment. You can avoid costly mistakes and impulse buys. The per diem costs for your trip can become quite reasonable -- sometimes less than you'd spend on an ordinary hotel room.
But that outlay of cash, several weeks before the trip, represents a significant investment for most of us. If an unforeseen circumstance caused you to cancel the trip, could you afford to make the same payment again?
Protect your good investment with some low-cost travel insurance that covers basic trip interruption, delays and perhaps medical expenses.
In months when bad weather is more likely to separate you from the point of embarkation and cruise ship, you'll be happy to know the policy is protecting you. But there's another step you can take to protect yourself beyond an insurance policy.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05
Make the Departure Port Your First Port-of-Call
A one-week cruise itinerary on passenger ships typically has three or four ports-of-call and perhaps a day or two at sea. But it often pays to consider the departure port as a destination on your cruise vacation. Arrive a day or two prior to the sailing date and take a look at what it has to offer.
There are several sound budget travel reasons for this idea. If you spend good money to go to the embarkation point and only see what's visible between the airport and cruise ship, you are wasting resources.
Another reason for arriving 24-48 hours before scheduled departure is to build in a cushion of time. Direct flights aren't always easy to find. If your flight tickets from Chicago to Miami call for multiple connections in January, it's possible weather will delay or postpone some of those segments. You'll feel much less stress knowing you still have time on your side. You won't face the prospect of a missed cruise ship and lost money.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05
Book a Port Hotel with Cruise Connections
In port cities that cater to cruise vacation traffic, you won't have much trouble identifying hotels that are connected to the industry. You become one of these select hotels by making logistics flow as smoothly as possible for cruise passengers. You offer packages that include a pick-up at the airport, a drop-off at the cruise port, and perhaps a sightseeing tour. All of these amenities save the traveler expenses for taxis and car rentals.
Do an online search using the departure port city's name, a few of your favorite hotel chains and "cruise packages." Keep shopping until you find an acceptable package. Look for some unbiased hotel reviews to help weed out properties that are not well-maintained.
Remember: not all the cruise-related amenities are going to be offered at no charge. But when you find a hotel that caters to these cruise ship passengers every day, you're more likely to be dealing with people who will give you the best value for your pre-sail cruise vacation stay.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05
Arrive at Passenger Ships Early
You've spent the previous night in the departure port city. So there's no reason why you shouldn't be near the front of the line for embarkation, right?
It makes sense to approach passenger ships when the lines open or shortly thereafter that appointed time. Lines will grow longer and slower as the later arrivals start pouring into the embarkation area. Your chances for a relatively smooth, swift embarkation improve if you can avoid the surge.
This strategy also allows you to walk the ship and become familiar with its features prior to departure. As you do this, there's one more pre-sail step you'll want to take...Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Introduce Yourself to the Help Desk Staff
Major hotels offer a concierge. This professional, friendly person helps makes tour arrangements or provides valuable local information. They help you solve problems.
A cruise ship has a team of people who do much the same thing. Some lines call it the help desk or guest services. The leader of this group has the title Cruise Director.
It pays to go by and introduce yourself to these folks while still in the departure port. Tell them the aspects of the trip that are most important to you. Ask any questions about shore excursions, or the best attractions on your cruise vacation itinerary. Passenger ships these days are the size of a small town, with several thousand people on board. First-time travelers can be overwhelmed. These people are paid to simplify the details so you can enjoy yourself.
They are likely to respond with courtesy, and they might even remember meeting you a few days later when you need their help. They can provide good information that will save money once the cruise... begins.