You can't beat a cruise for vacation value
Save Money on Your Cruise
We are dedicated to helping our readers get more value out of their cruise dollars. We cover everything from the best seasons to take a cruise to which cruise regions present the best values and which ships are the best of breed for visiting any particular cruise region. But there is another area where your cruise costs add up - your onboard purchases of drinks and tours.
Consumer confidence is returning and people are taking vacations again, so cruise prices have rebounded since the ridiculous bargains we saw last year, but fares remain lower than normal due to the still recovering economy. Many of you are among the people filling cruise ships once again, and now that you are paying a little bit more the focus has returned to saving money onboard.
For the record: we consider gratuities a fixed expense in the amounts recommended by the cruise lines and we don't encourage not tipping or even tipping less. We also do not endorse sneaking liquor onto a cruise ship although we realize it is common. That practice is against the rules, and worse, it often leads to over-imbibing which can bring on other problems.
So - what are the best ways to save money during your cruise? Here are some of the suggestions we have gotten from our readers.
One place you can certainly save money is shore tours. While certain conveniences come with ship sponsored shore excursions, such as a guarantee you won't miss the ship, there is nothing to say you cannot organize your own adventure in port. But we must advise you to be careful when doing so, because you have to rely on people you have not met before and who have not been vetted by the cruise lines.
Some people go ashore to find a taxi driver and ask him to give them a tour of the port of call. Many people who do this regularly report that they can get a driver for an entire day for about $100. If you split this cost with another couple then the per-person cost is far lower than a ship's tour.
But there are drawbacks and potential pitfalls. First of all, a taxi cab driver is not a professional tour guide so his knowledge may be limited. Secondly he won't be wearing a super hero cape to show you he is completely honest.
If you want to hire a driver in this manner we recommend two things; first, bring informational tour material with you from the ship to show to the driver. Confer with the driver about the sights you want to visit. He should be able to tell you whether your plan is feasible, and you can gauge whether he will be a worthwhile guide if he makes suggestions about your ideas. The best "impromptu tour guides" are the taxi drivers who say they know exactly what you are trying to accomplish and that they conduct such private tours all the time.
Naturally, you want a driver who has a good command of your native tongue. You also want him to be well informed about the sites you want to see. You should have your own information materials with you just in case, but ideally the driver should know where to go and point you in the right direction when you get there.
This driver will be your tour guide. You will be asking him questions and hopefully getting in depth answers with facts and anecdotes. The last person you want to hire is a person who seems sullen or distracted while you are trying to hire him. If he is looking around during your initial interview to see who may be watching him then move on to someone else.
Another area where you can save money onboard is your beverage purchases. One drink on a cruise ship can cost well over $10 for a glass of a nice wine. A beer or cocktail can be $6 to $10. Many cruise lines allow you to bring a one bottle of wine per person with you on the cruise. You can drink this wine in your cabin at no added cost, or if you want to take it to the dining room you will probably be charged a $15 to $25 "corkage fee."
You can bring the bottles onboard when you first join the ship, and you can buy more when you reach each port. Another alternative is to buy "bar setups" as offered by most cruise lines. For $60 to $90 you can have a liter bottle of your favorite spirit waiting for you in your stateroom along with your preferred mixer.
When you are out in public you should buy your drinks at the bars onboard. Just be aware of the fact that every drink you purchase, including bottles of wine, already has a service charge added to the price, as much as 18%. There is no reason to add an additional tip to a drink ticket.
These two suggestions are enough to save you plenty of money on your cruise, but for more money saving ideas please join our message boards and get to know our regular CruiseMates readers. You will meet some of the nicest and most helpful people on the Internet.
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