Vacations have a tendency to cost an arm and a leg, particularly if you happen to have children; but what if I told you that you could have an amazing international vacation for around $50 a day after taxes, fees, and tips? Here’s a guide to gleaning cruise deals!
I would never have believed it, had I not recently gone on one myself. It was a cruise that visited several countries in Central America and the Western Caribbean– and it was a wonderful, if not eye-opening, experience for our entire family.
What does a Cruise Include?
Here’s the most amazing part, they include just about everything- Endless Entertainment such as musicals, comedy shows, acrobats that give Cirque du Soleil a run for their money, amazing food (buffets, fine dining restaurants, daily grills which vary by boat and cruise line), 24-hour complimentary room service, comfortable sleeping accommodations with private bathrooms, activity clubs for kids of all ages and access to multiple countries.
When you stop in various ports, be aware that there are “excursions” that can cost extra. These are various guided tours and entertainment venues that you can schedule ahead of time, such as guided snorkeling or diving, para-sailing, cave-tubing, zip-lining, swimming with dolphins, etc. These are obviously completely optional and whether or not you wish to spend extra on them is entirely up to you.
If you want to take an excursion, it can be done for about $30 cheaper per person by booking the excursion directly yourself and avoiding the “Ship Excursion” help team for each cruise line. Most excursions cost an average of $40-150 per person. There is a caveat to purchasing the excursion on your own, as opposed to through the ship.
If you purchase through the ship and there is a delay in returning to the ship (for any reason, such as traffic, broken down transportation, inclement weather issues, etc) the ship WILL wait for your return. If you purchase on your own, the ship will NOT wait for you if you don’t make it back on time.
However, they are not necessary to have a great time in ports, you can still walk around the ports of call, take photos, talk with the locals, see the wildlife, enjoy the beaches, shops and maybe snack on some local foods for little to nothing.
How to Find Cruise Deals:
In order to get the best deal, you have to either book very last minute or several months ahead (8-12 months in advance).
Booking ahead gives you several advantages:
- You’re eligible for additional discounts/early saver deals, depending on the type of cruise package you choose. This may mean free upgrades as you get closer to your cruise dates.
- Daily Rates are considerably lower- For it to be an excellent deal you’re looking at about $60 or less per day, per person.
- Search your favorite travel website for last-minute cruise deals, mine happens to be Travelocity.com.
Once you’ve located a particular deal you think you might like to take advantage of, DO NOT BOOK THROUGH TRAVELOCITY, instead visit that cruise lines website directly. (Yes, forgo the 3rd party- you’ll save more in the long run).
Booking several months in advance gives you a chance to pay off the cruise with smaller payments, say $40 or so dollars a month, depending on the total cost for the entire family
Advantages of Booking Cruises Last Minute:
Got Patience? If your answer is “No” – seeking out last-minute cruise deals might be a better option for you.
Oftentimes there are fabulous deals to be found but will offer fewer booking options- such as your choice of the deck (floor), choice of stateroom (interior, porthole, balcony, suite). Alternatively waiting until last minute simply means accepting what they have available, which is perfect if you’re simply looking for a spot on the ship to check out the destinations on the itinerary.
Dirt Cheap- in the last few weeks, we’ve seen cruises that cost as little as $27 per person, per day. Where else are you going to find nice hotel accommodations, entertainment and all you can eat food for $27?! (If you know of a place, please share it in the comments below, we want to know about it!!) Here is an example Cruise I just found for $27 per person:
More Tips for Finding Cheaper Cruise Rates
Book in the Off-Season – meaning don’t wait until your kids Spring Break vacation from school and expect to find an amazingly cheap deal. Book Alaskan Cruises in the Spring to save, Caribbean Cruises in the Fall or winter months, etc
Reserve in Groups- Do you have a Church group, book club, reunion, wedding, etc? Generally, if you can get a group together of 16 or more people, you can receive excellent discounted rates. Additionally, deals that can be found online by searching the individual sites of each cruise line.
Choose your Ship Wisely- while it may be great to book on the latest and greatest ship, it’s going to be less expensive to choose a more seasoned ship instead. Do you really need to be on this years latest model or will you have just as much fun on a ship that is 3 or 4 years old
Do I have to have a passport?
This depends entirely on the cruise line and which ship you’re on. If a cruise is a loop cruise (meaning it leaves from a port in the USA and Returns to a Port in the USA) you more than likely are not required to have a passport.
Regardless, you will be required to provide proof of citizenship however and this means you must have a photo id and a legal birth certificate (not the cute certificate from the hospital with your footprint on it!).
So technically speaking, NO, you do NOT necessarily have to have a passport in order to enjoy a cruise.
There are downfalls of not having a passport- if someone in your party requires medical attention in another country, say they fall down and break their arm and end up in the hospital. If they are unable to get their behinds back on the ship in the allotted amount of time, they will NOT be allowed to fly home to the USA. You cannot FLY WITHOUT A PASSPORT.
You can cross between Canada and the USA & Mexico and the USA with a Passport CARD (on foot/car or ship)- but you CANNOT Fly with only a Passport Card.
If you intend to get off the ship in the various ports of call, it is highly recommended that you have passports for each member of your party. If you’re not sure how or where to obtain your passport, we recommend the Cheapskates guide to getting your first passport.
Best Vacation for the Money
Dollar for dollar, with cruise rates so consistently low and affordable, for our family, this is by far the best vacation for the money.
Have you taken a cruise? What money-saving tips would you like to share from your own cruise experiences?