By Amy Watkins
Amy is an award-winning cruise writer. She loves travelling by ship and she has explored all corners of the globe from the northern frozen waters of Canada and Greenland’s Arctic, to rounding the legendary Cape Horn in South America.
Choose the right deal and cruises offer excellent value for money – with transport, accommodation, food and entertainment all covered in your fare. But chances are you can probably get even more for your cash with a few extra smart moves. Booking last-minute, getting extra credit onboard and looking out for special deals while you’re sailing can all help you get more from your cruise.
1) Find a great deal
Cruise deals can range from last-minute offers to early-bird discounts. The easiest way to find them is to check the website of your preferred cruise lines. P&O Cruises for example updates latest offers every week, with special ‘Getaway fare’ deals on last-minute cruises. Search by duration, destination or ship to find your ideal break. In particular keep an eye out for ‘repositioning’ cruises around April and November when ships have to be moved between the Caribbean and Europe. Often there are deals to be had on these transitional voyages as the cruise lines don’t want to sail with empty cabins but need to move their ships between destinations to begin summer European cruises or the winter Caribbean season. This may not be just about reductions in price – some deals include onboard credit to spend towards extra excursions, spa treatments or drinks.
2) Collect loyalty points
Join a cruise line’s loyalty club to get discounts and onboard benefits that add value to your cruise. Just like your favourite hotel chain, cruise lines operate points systems based on how many nights you’ve spent with them. Most lines offer a tier system that is based on how often you’ve sailed with them and the entry level type of membership is usually the points equivalent of a two-week cruise. Benefits range from an onboard spend discount to an exclusive check-in area, special cocktail parties and a free bottle of champagne in the cabin. Watch out though as some top tiers of the loyalty clubs have a condition that you must have cruised recently with them to keep that level of membership. In the US cruise lines Disney, NCL, Princess and Carnival have dedicated credit cards which allow you to collect additional loyalty points as you spend. Similar credit card options are much harder to find in the UK, but they are out there if you hunt for them. One such is the HSBC Premier credit card, which offers money off selected cruises when you accrue enough points.
3) Relax for less
Spa treatments are a popular way to while away a day at sea – but wait until a port day to bag a bargain deal. When the ship is berthed you’ll often find special deals on at the onboard spa. These can range from ‘taster’ sessions for £15 for 15 minutes to special packages of three of more treatments for a reduced price. Look out as well for free stretching classes and health/beauty lecturers – your onboard newsletter will let you know which classes are complimentary.
4) Buy your drinks in bulk
Drinks packages are another way to save money while you’re sailing. Some cruise lines offer soft drink packages, mainly aimed at children, and other cruise lines offer alcoholic beverage packages. On longer itineraries you may find wine packages available that cost around £80-120 and feature six, nine or 12 bottles of selected wines themed by colour and origin. Typically you’ll save 15% compared to buying the wine per bottle. Look out for daily drinks offers too. Your newsletter will let you know which wines and cocktails are on special, and your waiter can also let you know the drink of the day.
5) Save money on excursions
Pre-book excursions to save money and guarantee that you’ll have a place on your chosen trips. You’ll save around £5-10 on the onboard cost of excursions if you book before sailing – you can read about them and select them online or through your travel agent. If you are going to be travelling independently in port then it’s worth researching the destinations beforehand and checking forums such as Cruise Critic to see if fellow passengers are looking at renting a taxi or guide. Share a ride or a guide with them and you can save money and find some new travelling companions if you are on your own. There are also single traveller meet-ups onboard where you can meet other solo passengers and go into ports together.
6) Avoid expensive medical fees
Be prepared when you’re travelling outside of the UK to avoid a potentially expensive and early end to your holiday. Take any medication that you may need as this will save you having to pay to use the ship’s doctor for routine healthcare issues – a typical visit to the onboard medical centre costs between £25 to £100 and you’ll have to pay upfront and then claim it back on your insurance Cruises are a safe and easy way to travel, but you must still check with your cruise line and doctor about vaccinations and visas. Most passengers are covered by ship visas but it is the individual’s responsibility to check if certain vaccinations are needed in some more exotic destinations and not having the correct documents could mean an expensive trip back home.
7) Make the most of daily newsletter deals
Read your daily newsletter. As well as proving information about what is happening onboard and any special deals at the spa and bars, the newsletter also features essential information. Take it with you when you go ashore, especially if you are going to head off on an independent excursion – it features the name and contact details of the port agent, who would be your point of contact should you be late returning to the ship or encounter any difficulties whilst ashore.