Cruise more than once a year (15 cruise hacks)

Have you ever wanted to be able to cruise often and more affordably? How do some people manage three or four cruises every year? We have 15 cruise hacks so you too can get the best cruise fares to enable you to cruise cheaper and more often. And make your vacation budget stretch even further.

Flexibility is key to finding the best cruise deals. Remaining flexible with your planning gives excellent results when you are looking to save money and cruise for less.

1. Cruise in low season

If you are flexible regarding when you can travel, better deals on cruises are during the low season. Avoid the peak summer season or December holiday time for the best prices.

2. The most affordable cruise line

If you don’t mind which cruise line you travel with, it could be worth checking out the competitor. For example, mainstream cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line offer ships with similar facilities.

Not restricting yourself to a particular cruise line means a better chance of finding a great price.

Make a short list of the cruise lines that could suit you. Are you a family looking at the large cruise ships with multiple activities and big Broadway-style shows on board? Or are you a couple looking for a great deal on a luxury cruise line?

Or are you looking for a unique immersion experience on an ultra-luxury cruise line or expedition cruise? But still want a great price to make your budget stretch as far as possible.

Once you have a list of possible cruise lines, look regularly at the websites and the campaign pages for new offers.

3. Which cruise ship offers the best deal?

Older ships are less expensive. It’s just a fact. And many older cruise ships have been fully renovated, so you can still travel in luxury. But they are often priced lower than brand-new ships with the latest entertainment and facilities.

For many, choosing an older ship with a focus more on the destinations is an excellent way to save on your price.

4. A cabin is your home for your entire cruise.

Where your cabin is located onboard can sometimes make or break your vacation depending on the type of traveler you are.

If, for example, you are a light sleeper and book a cabin beneath the pool deck, you will not appreciate the vibrations of the movement above you. Nor if your cabin is located too close to elevators, stairwells, or crew member entrances where passenger traffic may be busy.

But, for the less fussy guests willing to take a chance on cabin location, one of the best-known cruise hacks is to book a cabin category known as the “guarantee category”. This means the lowest price, but the cruise line chooses your cabin for you.

You could end up anywhere on the ship. On a positive note, however, you also could be upgraded when the cruise line allocates cabins, without any extra cost.

5. A cruise port close to home

Some of us live within driving distance of major cruise ports. Others must fly to a cruise port a few days before their cruise begins.

Very often, driving and parking are less expensive than flying, depending on the distance you need to travel. If you can book a cruise with a departure port close to you or a short haul direct flight away, this is an ideal opportunity to save on your total vacation cost.

6. A flexible cruise itinerary

How determined are you to visit every destination on your bucket list? Are you willing to perhaps choose an itinerary with ports you have already visited on a previous vacation?

If you are flexible on your cruise destinations, you have a better chance of finding a lower-priced cruise. Remember, even if you find yourself back in Nice, France, and you have visited before, there are some great surrounding areas to explore while your ship is in port. How about hopping on the train for the short journey to Monte Carlo? or the medieval village of Eze, just 9 km north of Nice?

And many other ports offer easy access to regions where you most likely have never been before.

7. Newsletter alerts

Sign up to receive newsletters from the cruise lines. All cruise lines frequently send out the latest campaigns and deals via email. Visit each cruise line’s website and register to receive special and the latest cruise news. Then keep an eye on your inbox.

As soon as you see an appealing campaign, get in touch with the cruise line and create a preliminary booking so you can see the real cost of your cruise and start comparing prices.

8. A cruise to where ever

Do not tie yourself to a particular cruise region. If you can accept a cruise holiday anywhere and are just eager to get away at the best price possible to save money, open yourself up to all regions, the most popular being the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Alaska.

9. Last-minute cruise deals

We usually recommend that you book a cruise in advance to save money. That way, you often would get the best deal, as cruises often increase in price closer to the departure date when fewer cabins are available.

However, since the pandemic, we say tried waiting for your cruise booking. If you are flexible on your cruise line, ship, cabin location, and even itinerary, try waiting for between 90 to 60 days before the cruise departure date.

To be able to travel at short notice, you’ll need to be organized. Make sure you have a current passport, and your travel insurance is up to date.

10. Talk to your travel agent before booking a cruise

You may like to book your own holiday with the cruise line directly and take care of flights, hotel, and transportation yourself. Indeed this is often the best way to save money when you book and plan your vacation.

However, if you have reserved a cruise with the cruise line, you may want to contact your local travel agent before confirming the booking. Allow them to quote a price, then see if they can offer a better deal. For example with any extra perks that the cruise line cannot offer. Such as free drinks in your cabin, a complimentary bottle of wine, dinner in specialty restaurants, a cabin upgrade, free onboard credit, or a discounted beverage package shore excursion.

Sometimes a travel agent can access group rates or extra incentives that your cruise line does not offer directly to cruise guests. Then choose the best deal.

11. A repositioning cruise as a value for money option

A repositioning cruise is a more extended cruise that happens in the shoulder seasons of April and October. During this time, cruise lines reposition their cruise ships for the upcoming season.

For example, a cruise ship based in Barcelona during the summer could be deployed to Port Canaveral in Florida as its new base for the winter Caribbean season.

You can book these cruises, start on one continent, and finish on another. With many days at sea and often just 3 or 4 ports of call over a 14-day itinerary, you only need a one-way airfare. Repositioning cruises can offer a fabulous relaxing vacation on board and unique opportunities to visit ports you have never to been before—all at a reduced rate.

12. DIY shore excursions to save money

The cruise price is just part of your vacation: Remember there will be add-ons to your cruise holiday, and it’s essential to budget for this. Shore excursions are one area where the cost can run away significantly. Look at external trusted suppliers instead of the expensive options the cruise lines offer.

Or better still, research each destination on your itinerary and figure out how you want to spend your time on shore before you leave home. Plan your own shore excursions. For example, choose hop on/hop off buses as an alternative to booking expensive cruise excursions.

Invest in a good destination guide and research your ports of call before leaving home to make the most of your time on shore. We also have detailed walking itineraries and sightseeing ideas for the main port destinations to help you plan your day on shore. Check out our pages on Barcelona, Rome, Venice, Naples, Athens, Southampton, Dublin, London, Palma de Mallorca, Lisbon, Seattle, Vancouver, New York, Miami, Sydney, Auckland, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Amsterdam!

Most cruise ships offer shuttle transportation from the terminal to the town if the port is within walking distance. You can plan your walking tour or use local buses and trains to get around. Very often, tourist information offices are very close to the ports as they cater to cruise guests visiting daily looking for information.

13. Check your cruise price before your final payment

Probably the best cruise hack is rechecking the price of your cruise before you make your final payment to the cruise line.

If the price has dropped, you should be able to get the difference paid back to you immediately. Just be sure you are not losing any extras that were included at the time of booking.

And if you have opted to book with a travel agent, they should watch the price for you and adjust your final cost if the price drops.

14. Free wifi

Wifi packages are expensive onboard. If you cannot find a suitable cruise package deal where free wifi is included in the cruise price, then consider not having wifi while you are sailing.

You will still be able to use the cruise ships app on your smartphone. And when on shore, you will always find cafes or restaurants where wifi is offered for free, allowing you to connect with friends back home.

It’s by making these types of changes when you travel that will allow you to cruise often and cruise for less. Wifi packages are pricy and waiting until you go on shore to get internet can save you a lot of money on each cruise.

15. Opt for shorter cruises

By choosing a cruise that is four nights instead of seven nights or longer, you can get make your money go further by cruising more often, and in different regions. A 4-night cruise is also a great way if you are new to cruising and just want to test out this style of vacation.

Look for four or five-night cruises that offer at least 2 ports of call for more varied itinerary. And if you find a great deal on a new ship, don’t hesitate. Even with sea days, a new ship will offer all the entertainment, activities and sport facilities you need to keep your days as action-packed or as relaxed as you please.

Meet the author: Sarah has created and booked hundreds of travel itineraries for thousands of customers during a career in the travel industry that spans 20 years. Having worked hand in hand with cruise lines, hotels, airlines and tour operators worldwide, she offers inspiring & detailed insights in the world of travel and tourism.