One of the best trips of my life was my first cruise vacation to Alaska.
In fact, I had such a great time that I want to go on a cruise at least once a year.
However, cruising can be very expensive and can cost thousands for a 7-day trip.
These tips below will make cruising more affordable for you so you can go more often. I wish I had known of these before my trip!
1. Book a cruise through Ebates
When booking your cruise online, make sure to go through Ebates before making your final purchase.
Ebates is an easy to use website that you must use if you're an online shopper.
It's easy – all you have to do is find which store you want to shop at online, and click on the website through Ebates and you'll get cash back from the purchase you made.
You can save on pretty much everything. Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and tons of other popular stores are on Ebates.
Currently, you can get up to 8% cash back when booking a cruise through Ebates, which is an insane amount since cruises can be pretty costly!
2. Take advantage of free things to do
There are so many free things to do on cruises and at ports.
In fact, I had the most fun on this trip when I was doing something free.
Visit the local visitors center and find out what are the best free things to do in town. When I visited the visitors center, I made sure to ask where the best hikes were. There's so much valuable information there!
Before you leave for your cruise, create your own itinerary of things you want to do at each port.
Look up free things to do in the ports on Pinterest. For example, I'd look up “free things to do in Juneau, Alaska”. So many free things came up!
3. Get a reliable telephone line
I did not once need to turn off my phone or put it on airplane mode, and it's because I have T-Mobile.
Though I didn't get service at sea, I always got service at ports and was able to check in with family back home every now and then.
If you have T-Mobile, make sure to verify with them that you will be covered during your trip. I didn't have to pay anything extra to get coverage on my trip.
Even better, you get the same coverage in Canada and Mexico as you do in the U.S. So while I was on my cruise from Vancouver to Alaska, I got free coverage the entire time!
Make sure to arrive at your cruise embarkation port at least 1 day before your cruise leaves. This makes sure you aren't rushed or late for your cruise. To save money, I recommend using Airbnb, which is what we used before we left for Alaska. This link will even give you $40 off your first Airbnb booking!
4. Book during low season
Cruising during the peak tourist season is going to add hundreds to thousands to your cruise vacation.
To beat this, make sure you figure out when your destination is having its low season.
For example, the peak season for Alaskan cruises is June through August, which means it's best to book in April or late fall.
SmarterTravel has a great article on when to cruise and how to save.
To save up for your cruise, I recommend using YNAB (You Need A Budget), which will give every dollar you make a specific job and category, so you never waste your money on things you don't need.
5. Bring wine on board
Alcohol can get pretty expensive on a cruise. Luckily, you're able to bring a wine bottle of your own on your cruise.
Make sure to check rules and regulations about bringing alcohol on board since every cruise line is different.
When shopping for wine, groceries, and other travel needs, use Ibotta to get cash back off your purchase.
I'm not a fan of coupons, but Ibotta makes it so easy to save, so it's silly not to use it.
The app is user-friendly and it's fun to see what items are listed for cash back. I've seen all kinds of things on Ibotta, such as groceries (that's what it's mostly known for), makeup, hygienic items, household necessities, and so much more.
6. Book straight with a travel agency for shore excursions
When booking shore excursions, book straight with a travel agency. You will save hundreds of dollars doing this because the cruise lines tack on extra fees for selling them on board.
Before you depart for your cruise, look up which excursions you want to do and book online through the travel agency's website.
Or you can wait until you get to the port, where many travel agencies and adventure tours will be waiting to help you.
However, if you like to stay on the safe side, booking straight with the cruise means if the tour is late to get back to the cruise, the cruise will wait for you to come back. (This is how it was with Princess Cruises at least).
7. Rebook with the same cruise line
Rebooking with the same cruise line can save you hundreds of dollars per person. Cruises love loyal guests and will reward them for coming back, so take advantage of this.
Tip: Use Honey, a free money saving service that connects to your internet browser for free. Honey tells you when a certain product is decreasing in price, on sale, AND it even finds all coupons online to give you the best coupon.
8. Book a repositioning cruise
A repositioning cruise is a cruise that has a different disembarkation port than the original embarkation port.
Cruises need to reposition because of season change which means the cruises need to go to a different location.
For example, cruises in Alaska only run from May-September roughly, so when this season is over, the cruises will be repositioning somewhere else, possibly to Australia.
There are downfalls to a repositioning cruise, such as not being able to fly back home from the original city you landed in, being at sea for days on end, and the weather may not be the best.
However, I know of people who still have a great time on these cruises and they save hundreds if not thousands in the process.
Tip: Cushion is an app that refunds bank and credit card fees. You can expect refunds on things like late fees, overdraft fees, monthly service fees, account maintenance fees, ATM fees, credit card interest charges, late fees, and more! “Cushion got $187 worth of fees (that I was not aware of) waived from my credit card within a few hours of signing up. They turned me into a believer real quick!” – Isaac, Cushion User
9. Find a special occasion
When you book your cruise, tell your travel agent that you are celebrating something.
It could be a birthday, graduation, honeymoon, retirement, etc. Doing this will give you special discounts and deals on spa packages and more.
You will also get special treats and surprises for your special occasion.
It doesn't even need to be an event taking place during the cruise.
For example, my travel agent wrote that I was celebrating my birthday, even though I went on the cruise 1 month after my birthday.
Tip: Are you spending too much money on your cell phone every month? Mint Mobile has 3-month plans at $20 per month with 5GB of 4G LTE data per month, along with unlimited talk, text, and data, along with free calls to Canada and Mexico. You can even use your current unlocked phone and simply switch SIM cards.
10. Don't book your spa appointment until a few days after embarkation day
It may seem tempting to book a spa appointment the first day at sea, however, spa prices will be at full price during the first few days on the cruise.
During the last half part of the cruise, you will almost certainly receive a paper stating that spa packages are up to 25% off, which can become an estimated savings of roughly $50.
If you want to save even more money on spa packages, make sure to book your appointment on a day that the cruise is at the port.
You will save money because the cruise expects mostly everyone to not be on the ship, so the spa will be dead, resulting in less money for them.
If you haven't been on a cruise yet, I highly encourage you to go at least once! I honestly thought I wouldn't have a good time.
I've heard mixed reviews from others, so I'm glad I tried it out myself!
P.S. You must get a balcony.
It is worth it for the extra cost because there will be times when you just want to hang out in your own space. There's nothing like drinking a glass of wine on a balcony overlooking snowcapped mountains at sea.
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Have you ever been on a cruise? Where did you go?
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