Cruising can be an ideal way to see the world. Once you book your trip, all the worries of a land-based vacation, like car rentals, directions and parking, are out the window. And with all the competition in the cruise industry today, deals are out there for the taking. However, to get the most out of your cruise experience, it’s important to consider your personal needs and desires, and learn how to discover those killer bargains.
The Cruise Experience
Modern-day cruising is far more than a big boat with a pool and a destination. Cruise ships each come with their own set of offerings, including spas, casinos, live entertainment, fine dining, educational programming, fitness opportunities and offshore excursions. The first thing to consider when planning a cruise is which of these amenities are most important to you? Which offerings do you hope to utilize? Talk to your cruising partner(s) and create a priority list. Then, as you compare cruise lines and pricing, these factors can help you determine your final selection.
Tips to Save Money
For most vacationers, how much the cruise will cost is of utmost importance. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your cruising dollars:
- Start your shopping early. Oftentimes cruise lines will want to fill their berths early, so you may want to purchase six months or so in advance. On the other hand, if you’re flexible and can drive (rather than fly) to the point of embarkation, you can also watch for last-minute deals aimed at filling empty berths.
- Booking a cruise in the offseason (such as the Caribbean in the fall) can be a major savings and can also translate into less crowds at the ports of call.
- Newer ships generally come with higher price tags, so if the older ships have the amenities you’re after, you can generally get better deals.
- While an advertised price may sound low (or high), make sure you’re considering all costs in your final comparison. For example, what exactly is included in the base price? What beverages are included? What about all food costs? How much are the offshore excursions (including options for booking them yourself)? Are any upgrades or credits being offered? Where is the port of embarkation, and how much will airfare cost that time of year if you need to fly there and back?
Your AARP Membership
AARP members can take advantage of numerous discounts. At AARPTravel.com, members can register to customize their travel preferences and receive special travel offers via e-mail. The AARP Travel Center powered by Expedia offers those booking cruises up to $100 in extra onboard credits, special deals and more. Many cruise lines, including Blount Small Ship Adventures, Hurtigruten, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line and Variety Cruises also offer discounts and/or room upgrades to AARP members.
With a little bit of research and cost comparison, you can get the most out of your vacation budget, and then sit back and enjoy the ride.