Many people have trouble sticking to a vacation budget, but managing money on a cruise ship is easy with some simple precautions.
Managing Money Before Setting Sail
The first step to managing a cruise vacation budget is to keep track of money long before setting sail. There are many ways to save a few dollars before embarkation, including:
- Shopping around for the best discount cruise fare
- Choosing to sail in the less popular season when fares are naturally lower
- Opting for a lower priced cabin such as an interior or porthole room
- Assuming the risks of forgoing the travel insurance
- Choosing to purchase independent airfare instead of using the cruise line's booking options
These options can potentially save hundreds of dollars even before setting sail, leaving more money to spend on shore excursions, spa treatments, souvenirs, or other expenses.
Onboard Tips for Managing Money on a Cruise Ship
Many cruise travel agents praise cruises as being an all-inclusive form of travel, and it is true that you can enjoy a wonderful cruise vacation without spending a dime over the cost of the initial fare. At the same time, many different amenities are not included in the cruise price, such as soft drinks, alcohol, spa treatments, shore tours, professional photographs, babysitting services, and casino games. Despite these temptations, it is possible to manage a budget even while on the ship with these simple tips:
- Use an unlimited soda card if you will be drinking many sodas, but purchase drinks individually if you only have one or two each day.
- Wait until the last night of the cruise to purchase professional photographs and only choose the ones that look best.
- Set a strict budget for gambling and keep winnings separate.
- Do spa treatments while the ship is in port and special prices are offered.
- Choose free snacks and treats such as self-serve ice cream instead of purchasing brand-name foods.
- Buy a bottle of wine to drink at several dinners rather than pay the more expensive by-the-glass prices.
- Review credit slips from the cruise ship ID card carefully with each transaction.
- Adjust automatic tips to reflect service if necessary.
Passengers who want to monitor their onboard spending even more carefully can opt to prepay their shipboard account with cash and put other limits on those transactions, or guests are always welcome to visit the purser's desk and ask for an account update. On the last night of the cruise, updated statements are delivered to each stateroom and guests should always review each charge for accuracy so any problems can be cleared up quickly.
Managing Money in Ports of Call
Once the cruise ship docks at its destination, many guests have trouble with excessive spending on shore. Merchants near cruise ports recognize that passengers are only on shore for a few hours and they have many tricks and gimmicks designed to encourage spending. To avoid big bills in port, try these tricks:
- Do not take every penny ashore, especially if it is the beginning of the cruise and there are more ports to visit.
- Bring small bills on shore to prevent mistakes in giving change and to be ready for any tips or other small transactions.
- Arrange independent shore tours or pick up a map and enjoy the port without organized tours to avoid pricey fees.
- Opt for free attractions such as walking tours or window shopping instead of scheduled excursions.
- Split cab fees with other passengers interested in the same sights.
- Be polite but firm when rejecting solicitation offers or too-good-to-be-true deals.
- Return to the cruise ship for meals instead of spending money for food on shore.
- Visit several similar shops to compare prices on the same souvenirs instead of buying the first one available and don't be afraid to haggle with merchants.
By wisely watching your budget on shore, you can avoid financial blunders that will sink your spending for the rest of the cruise.
Saving Money on Your Next Cruise
After a thrifty cruise vacation, many passengers are eager to set sail again, and returning travelers can save even more money on future cruises. Most cruise lines offer loyalty programs for repeat cruises that are free to enroll in and include special offers and reduced rates on selected sailings. Some cruise ships even offer special deals for passengers who book their next voyage before the current cruise ends. With a flexible schedule, these can be great deals for discount cruise fares. Furthermore, repeat cruisers may receive vouchers for free drinks, spa treatment discounts, and other savings when they sail again, which will make managing money even easier.
Managing money on a cruise ship may not be an easy task, but with careful spending and wise budgetary decisions, it is possible to enjoy a world-class vacation without sinking in unexpected bills.