How to Save Money on a Cruise

Everyone is revenge traveling from the 3 years of travel lockdown so it’s no surprise that prices are much higher than before.  It’s harder to save money on traveling these days but cruising is not only an easier way to travel with kids, but it is quite an economical way to travel.  The cruise lines have been hit hard because of Covid and people are still a bit hesitant to go on cruises.  There still might be some reasonable cruise deals to be had.  Here’s how we saved $2400 CAD off of our Eastern Caribbean cruise from Vancouver. 

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I’m by no means a cruise expert, but this was my second cruise and it is a much different experience when you have kids.  My first cruise was to Alaska and this was before my husband and I had children.  To be frank, I felt at that time, that the cruise was a little bit like a nursing home, as I waiting for my next meal and was reliant on external entertainment and shows. 

This time, we went to Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the Dominican Republic and it was a completely different experience!  Having the Kids Club (aka free babysitting) was fantastic to get a 1-2 hour break from parenting (and they actually really liked it and kept asking to go back).  The water slides and beach provided hours of fun for the kids.

Here are some tips on how to save money on a cruise.

Research the Cruise Options

There are some great websites to use to plan your next cruise.  Thanks to Twitter friends for the tips. 

Vacations to Go is a great website that breaks down the cost of the cruise per day and shows you how many percent off the cruise is from regular published fares.  However, at the end of the day I found that the prices they quoted weren’t very different (sometimes a bit pricier actually) from the prices directly quoted from the cruise line.

They have a feature where you can see the discounts on last minute cruises and look for cruises that will be starting in the next 90 days for deals.

Cruise Critic is another website that you can search for cruise deals for ideas and itineraries.  However, despite those two great websites that were useful for sourcing cruises and itineraries, I ended up booking directly on the cruise website.

Though I must say that it’s a little fishy when these website like Vacations to Go and Cruise Critic ask for your contact information when you are clicking for more details on the cruise, and they end up actually calling you to follow up on cruise quotes.  When that happens it always makes me wonder why they are so aggressive with the cruise sales.

Finally, Cruise Sheet is another good one for research as it includes all taxes and port fees and you can sort from “cheapest cruise per day”.

You Have to Plan Ahead

Unfortunately travel hacking does take some planning, at least 6 months ahead of planning I would say. 

You have to sign up for credit cards and wait for them to arrive, then wait for the fulfillment of the welcome bonus (sometimes this involves meeting a minimum spend of $1000 in the first three months), and then wait for the points to hit your account. 

Despite this time intensive effort, I think that travel hacking is worth it.

Travel Hack your Flights

We were able to save $1200 off of our flights by using the West Jet World Elite Mastercard.  The Westjet World Elite Mastercard has a $119 companion fare ticket, which allows the 2nd traveler on your reservation to pay only taxes (and the companion fare). The companion fare is great if you have children.

Westjet World Elite Mastercard

Depending on the promotion at the time available, it also comes with $350 West Jet Dollars.  My husband and I both signed up for this credit card and we were able to get return flights from Vancouver to Orlando for $300 return per person.  Full price it was about $650 per ticket.

There was a promotion where you got the welcome bonus and companion fare right away with a first purchase (without having to make a minimum spend) after you pay the annual credit card fee.  This took about 4-6 weeks to hit the West Jet account and then we booked our flights shortly after receiving the West Jet dollars and the companion fare.

The Westjet World Elite Mastercard also helped us save another $80 from paying a checked luggage fee since it includes checked baggage for the primary card holder.

Travel Hack The Cruise with Credit Cards

Now that we have the flights handled, how do you actually save money on the cruise itself?

Carnival cruise line allows you to pay for your cruise fare at the time of booking with two different credit cards.  This is a great scenario should you have a “Player 2” to help you with your travel hacking. 

For example, when we booked our cruise, we paid for half of it with my Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite and the other half was booked on my husband’s Passport Visa Infinite. 

The Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite has no foreign transaction fee which is helpful when you are paying in US dollars.

Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite

We had also signed up for the Scotiabank American Express Gold Card, which gives you around $300 worth in Scene Points. 

Here’s my Scotiabank American Express Gold Card review and my Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite review if you are interested.

Scotiabank American Express Gold Card Review

I then redeemed our Scene+ points balance using the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite.  We were able to save a total of $1200 CAD off our cruise fare because of this.

To redeem your Scene+ points, log into your Scene+ account online and click to redeem your Scene points towards travel.  It will search for the travel item purchased on your Scotiabank credit card that is eligible for redemption. 

Royal Caribbean cruise lines also has this option too (to pay for your cruise fare with two credit cards) but you have to call in for payment and it cannot be done online.

Skip the Excursions

The excursions are overpriced and you might get a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if you don’t book an excursion, but if you head outside of the port gates you’ll be able to find local taxi drivers or local tour guides who could do something similar for the fraction of the price.

For example in the Dominican Republic (Puerto Plata), hiring a local guide for a city tour cost $180 USD for a family on a cruise excursion.  However, when we just went past the port gates, local taxi drivers gave us a nice leisurely tour of downtown Puerto Plata and a beach stop at Cosita Rica for $70 USD. 

That being said, there is a small window of time that your ship is at the port (like 6-7 hours) so you have to be organized if you want to set up your own excursions. 

You have to know ahead of time how long it will take to get to your desired destination and back… and then plan accordingly.

Avoid the Drinks Package

Many cruise ships allow you to bring a certain amount of alcohol on board.  For example, for the cruise we went on for each adult you could bring one 750ml bottle of wine on board. 

The new recommended alcohol limits and guidelines in Canada are two drinks per week anyway.  We don’t drink much hard liquor; usually just wine or beer so not having a drinks package isn’t much of a loss.

Besides, you’re already likely overeating on a cruise, and if you add on over-drinking, packing on the pounds will be a 100% certainty on your cruise. It’s already hard enough to keep the food calories “budget” within reason.

Skip the internet Package

We didn’t get the Internet package.  I took this challenge for 7 days as an Internet detox.  The wifi package costs something like $22 a day and the Internet isn’t what you’re normally used to (fast) on board.

Instead, ahead of time, we downloaded Netflix shows onto the Amazon Fire tablet our kids use so they can watch their favourite shows without Internet if need be.

It was weird not knowing how the stock market was doing but it’s just a few days and I survived.

If you are planning to get Internet for your cruise, it is more economical to purchase it ahead of time before your cruise departs.

Onboard Credits Can Be Used Towards Gratuities    

Some cruise packages allow you a certain dollar amount for onboard ship credits as a promotion. 

You could use also them towards the gratuity that is charged at the end of the cruise. Many people don’t realize this, and instead use them on special meals or other promotional spend on the cruise.

How to save money on a cruise recap:

Obviously, booking a cruise last minute (e.g. within the next 90 days) is probably one of the best ways to save money- though it’s not always the case.

Sometimes if you plan ahead you can get a better deal on a cruise.

For example, this fellow cruiser we met who lives in Florida cruises multiple times per year and because she doesn’t have to deal with flights, she just books it a month in advance.  Her cruise cost only a few hundred dollars even though she was a single traveler. 

However, this proves more difficult to do when you have a family of four, school, and work schedules to juggle AND you need to try and book discounted airfare.

In addition, this doesn’t happen all of the time (meaning that prices aren’t necessarily cheaper the closer you get to the sailing date).

So, “mild travel hacking” works for us and saves us a few bucks.

Hopefully these tips help you save money on your next cruise!

Do you have any other tips on how to save money on a cruise?

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4 thoughts on “How to Save Money on a Cruise”

  1. darn I couldn’t do the book with two credit cards thing because in order to be eligible for the insurance benefits on my card (CIBC aeroplan visa) cause the trip has to be paid in full on the same card

    • @cee- Ah darn, thanks for the reminder to be cognizant of that when you are splitting up the cost of travel, to make sure you can still be eligible for the insurance benefits.

  2. Don’t forget to check Costco Canada Travel site for the same cruise trips since Costco gives Digital Gift Cards as rebate. One other suggestion if you are not able to find the Cruise Cabin you are looking for, you can always reserve your room through Cruise directly by only paying the deposit, Royal Caribbean allows you to transfer your reservation to your travel agent within first 30 days of booking so you can still enjoy the Costco rebate. Costco travel also works with other credit cards(not only M/C as in their warehouse etc) so you can still enjoy the Credit Card benefits of your preferred Credit Card, fyi


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