Enjoying a cruise can be very expensive and even more expensive when you want to enjoy it with your family. Although there are great deals for more people you bring. The price difference isn’t that noticeable once you pay port fees and taxes. So how can a family of five take an amazing cruise on a budget? I will show what we do to cut cost and sometimes get a lower cruise price with free upgrades.
**These are affiliate links which will earn me a small commission if you purchase through this link. I thank you for your support. Read my disclosure, you can check it out here.
How to take an amazing cruise on a budget
Plan when and where you want to go. If you are lucky to live by a departure port and a resident. The cruise line offers specials and discounts. If you do not live near a port, decide how far you are willing to travel. The best way to decide is what places you want to see. Keep in mind hotel stay and airline tickets if needed.
~We live in New Orleans and have access to a port. This saves money when you don’t have to buy airline tickets and to stay in a hotel.
Booking The Cruise:
When booking decide what type of cabin you and your family will enjoy and be comfortable in. If you are prone to seasickness having a cabin in the middle can ease the rocking you may feel. The next step is to decide which level you like to be on. If you want to be close to entertainment having a higher level cabin would be ideal. Keep in mind many of these changes can be at additional cost.
We have always booked an interior cabin as it makes more sense to us as a family. We don’t spend that much time in the cabin other than to sleep and wash up. So being in small quarters for five days didn’t bother us.
Cruise ships over price their excursions to make money. If you are a big family like me this can be astronomical. So, as seasoned travelers, thanks to the military, we book off the ship. Believe me when I when I tell you, vendors are waiting on the shore with cheaper packages for the same excursions offered by the cruise ship. If you are afraid of this approach book with the cruise line. I do know that Carnival now does price matching. So if you find something cheaper. Carnival will match it and book it for you. (The excursion has to be the same as what Carnival offers or they will not match it).
What we did:
Many companies have websites that you can reserve or telephone numbers you can call. The savings is so great we can book more than one depending on how long the excursions are. We have never booked through the cruise line.
Take for example:
Carnival parasailing excursion was going to cost a family of 5: $700. That was for 1/2 hour ride. I called the company that does the excursion and I was charged $250 for an hour.
Carnival wanted to charge. $65/person for 2 hours of snorkeling which included snacks and drinks. That wasn’t a bad deal, however with a little homework we found another place in Cozumel that charge $90 all day admissions to park call Chankanaab. Snorkeling was free and they also had snorkel equipment. Not only was this the best choice. It allowed us to do other activities the park offered such as live crocodiles, a free sea-lion show, Mayan ruins, and they had pools to swim if you didn’t want to swim from the beach.
They are a waste of money. Why pay for something you can bring on the ship for free. That is right….. You are allowed to bring a case of soda onboard the ship. Water bottles are now prohibited, however they can be purchased and they are not expensive. A twelve pack of soda was plenty for us.
This was hard to follow. My cruise I got sucked into buying one of the drink specials. Cruise lines make a big profit off this. They try to sell you on these big looking cup that cost $15. When you open the inside they are nothing but little kid cups that are water downed. Doing our homework on this matter we came across RUM RUNNERS CRUISE RUNNERS Brand Ship Kit Flask 8 Pack Sneak Alcohol Runner Rum Liquor Smuggle Booze Gift (6×32 oz. + 2x8oz.). We smuggled liquor onboard. SHHHHH don’t tell anyone!!! I know Carnival has cards you can purchase for I believe $50/day/person. That is a lot. Here is the catch. There is a drink max. So you can not go over a certain amount per day.
Photographers are at every corner. while you eat and while you are exploring the ship. They are even waiting for you when you depart to a port. Taking photos can be pricey. Just politely say no. The best way to handle this pressure is to take one good family photo and use onboard credit to pay for it.
Who wouldn’t want to spend the day at the spa? I know I would, but the reality is the $80 facials are not in the budget. You can get the same treatment of the ship by locals. They are not only good but cheap.
I am not going to say I am a professional at booking cruises. Who knows how many can get a cruise deal cheaper than what I have found. However, I have done this several times and it has worked for our family each time.
How We Do Our Cruises:
So like I pointed out at the beginning. We saved tons of money and got free upgrades. Now I do not know if this works on all cruise lines, but I can tell you it works for Carnival. So take notes.
- Book the early bird special. This allows you to get a price guarantee.
Book well in advance to take advantage of this. We booked our cruise a year in advance which allowed as to make payments towards the total. We booked an interior room lowest level for $1400 for five nights. WOW!!!! Now while we wait for your cruise we constantly check back to the cruise line and continue to make payments to pay off the balance. We search as if we are booking another cruise. (Make sure it is the same cruise, same times, same ship, same type of cabin, same level). Cruise lines need to fill up the cabins. So, they cut the price the closer you get to the cruise. If you see a price difference in your favor call the cruise line and tell them. They will accommodate you with either one of these options or all.
They will give you onboard credit:
If you have already paid in full your cruise total they will return that money in onboard credit. This is a sweet deal as this is where you can buy photos or get a spa treatment done.
This comes in the form of moving up a level or changing the cabin. Not too bad if you ask me.
Reduce your cruise price:
AWWW!!! my favorite. If you still owe money towards the cruise they will take off the difference. That leaves you having to pay less.
We have always had a wonderful time with Carnival and they have always accommodated us above and beyond. Our first cruise came to a total of $1900. That was including cruise, rental car, gas, one-night hotel stay, excursions, souvenirs, and an extra tip to the wonderful cabin attendant. Yes, big savings. We ended up going from an interior cabin lowest level to an oceanview cabin one level up. We got $100 onboard credit as well. The total cost of cruise only was $1000.
The last cruise we took which was last year came in at $1200. We got it for $1000. Free cabin upgrade. It was interior but we didn’t mind. We also got $200 onboard credit. The total trip cost, $1400. No need for rental car or hotel. Just paid to park car and did plenty of shopping and excursions.
I hope you find this helpful the next time you decide to cruise. It is such an amazing experience and easy way to see different countries. There are so many activities onboard cruise ships for all ages. If you looking for travel trips and how to get organized for vacation check this out. If you enjoy my travels and want to see more on how we save on vacations check this out.