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Save money when booking a cruise

Whether you’re looking to book a once in a lifetime trip or you’re an experienced cruiser, retiresavvy presents 7 top tips to save money on your next cruise 

Our top tips could help you save money when booking a cruise Heading out on the oceans and treating yourself to a cruise is one of the most popular dreams for retirement. 

According to a survey by Skipton Building Society, more than a quarter (27%) of adults would like to go on a cruise after they hit retirement age.

But with a price tag often running into thousands of pounds, making your dream come true can be pricey – unless you know a few insider tricks to save money when booking a cruise. 

1. Consider the season

As with almost all holidays, cruise prices are most expensive at high season. Going either early or late season is likely to be the cheapest option, but it runs the risk of poor weather or sailing conditions – or even getting caught in a storm, depending on where you go. 

Look to book in what’s called the ‘shoulder season’ – the run up to or down from peak season. It usually offers better weather than the off season with lower prices than peak. Different cruises have different peak periods. 

2. Book early – or late 

You can often save money on a cruise by booking well in advance or leaving it relatively late. There are often ‘early bird’ discounts or offers for booking early, such as cabin upgrades, included flights, on board entertainment and dining. 

Equally, late booking – usually six or less weeks until cruise time – has the potential to be a bargain, as cruise ships look to fill remaining berths at a cut-price rate. However, you’ll likely have less scope to book your preferred room. You might be stuck with a less desirable internal cabin without a sea view, for example. 

3. Do your research 

Being prepared and putting some effort into getting your dream cruise can pay dividends. If you have a specific destination or itinerary in mind, you might find different cruise lines offering something similar at a lower price. 

You should also treat the brochure price the way you would as if you were buying a new car – never pay the rate advertised. Also consider using a travel agent, who will have access to the latest special offers and will be able to give you invaluable advice. 

4. Watch out for extra costs

A cruise ship is essentially a big floating hotel – once onboard, you’re a captive market. Be careful that little extra costs like an additional round of drinks or tips/service charges don’t mount up and become very expensive. 

On-shore excursions and on-board internet access can also be very expensive. Research your own trips in advance and access the internet using free wifi at cafes and bars on dry land. 

5. Do you need a room with a view? 

Ask yourself how important your accommodation is to your cruise experience. It might be that you see a cabin as just a room with a bed and a shower to sleep in. Perhaps you plan on being active and spending your days enjoying the views on deck. In that case, do you really need a cabin with a view? An internal cabin can be much cheaper. 

6. Check out package deals

Depending on how much you intend to eat or drink on board – and where – refreshments packages might work out better value than buying things individually. 

Cruises often offer alcoholic drinks packages that can work out cheaper depending on how much you drink – although the range of drinks is often restricted and your favourite tipple might not be included 

Look to eat your main meals in the main dining room or buffet and then splash out on posh individual meals if you want, rather than going à la carte every night. 

7. Travel on a cargo ship

Slightly off the wall, but the idea of taking a long sea journey on a working cargo container ship is growing in popularity, with several companies helping intrepid travellers ‘go freight’. 

It’s certainly not going to be a luxury cruise, but accommodation on cargo ships is comfortable. Cabins are the same as those used by the officers and crew and usually come with en suite bathrooms, air con and seating areas. You might have to contend with a view of a stack of containers though. 

Passenger numbers are low – perhaps a dozen fellow travellers at most – and you’ll embark or dock and disembark at working ports rather than the glitzy cruise terminals. But it would certainly be an experience… 

This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

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