How to save money on your cruises and other related costs by timing your cruise purchase.
When planning a cruise vacation it is important to understand that while cruises are considered "inclusive vacations" they are not considered "all-inclusive" except on the pricier cruise lines. For example, the typical Caribbean cruise on a mainstream cruise line like Carnival will include room and board (your stateroom and all meals) and shipboard entertainment. The cruise also includes your itinerary; stops at various ports of call.
While there is no entry fee to the vast majority of ports, some places do require acquiring a visa before your arrive. Visa rules vary greatly by destination, but whoever is selling you any particular cruise should have complete information about any visas that may be required. If not, you can always visit the U.S. State Department web site at www.state.gov. This is an excellent resource for many travel questions including passport requirements, prohibited items for import, consulate locations and the visa requirements for U.S. citizens in various nations worldwide.
Countries where cruisers commonly encounter Visa requirements include Turkey, Brazil and Russia. Each of these countries has its own rules – so be prepared. The most important cost consideration for visas is the price of NOT having one – you may be denied entry to a country or even your cruise if you don't have the proper visa.
Cruise Tip: If your passport comes from someplace other than the United States, even if you are a U.S. citizen through marriage, you may still need a visa to visit many places – take a copy of your marriage license.
When to Fly to a Cruise
Most experienced cruisers fly in to a cruise port the day before a cruise because they do not want to miss the ship. In all cases, make sure you will be able to arrive at least four hours before the ship departs. If you plan to arrive the same day, try your best to get a non-stop flight, because most travel delays occur during transfers.
Lately, more people are taking red-eye flights to get to the Florida. This is fine as long as you arrive early enough to make it to the ship. But if you possibly can - a hotel is still a better idea, and if your cruise is leaving on a Saturday you may find it is cheaper to fly in on a Friday and book a hotel. At least compare the options and only choose to fly in the same day if you have plenty of time and save a significant amount of money.
Transfers: Airport to Ship
Many cruise lines sell vouchers to get you from the airport to the ship and back. Usually these transfer vouchers are priced on a per-person basis, where a taxi is one price regardless of the number of passengers you have. Anytime you can share a cab you will save money, or if you are traveling with two or more people you can just assume a taxi will be cheaper, and usually more convenient, than using the cruise line transfers.
It used to be very difficult to fly into Fort Lauderdale and get a cheap transfer if your cruise sailed out of Miami, but many cruise lines are now offering transfers to and from the port of Miami to FLL for just $30 per person. This is about the same price as a taxi for two people, but a real savings if you are sailing solo. By the way, if you are sailing solo be sure to check out our "singles cruisers" section of CruiseMates for many more tips.
Length of Cruises
While many people book a three-day cruise as their first, just to see if they will like it - they are not representative of the best the cruise industry has to offer. It is fully understandable that you you may want to see the size of the staterooms, the quality of the food, etc. However, most three and four cruises are offered on the oldest ships in the fleets - they are bargain cruises for people who just want to get away (and in many cases, to party).
The best and biggest ships are almost all (with the exception of Disney) sailing on seven-day cruises. If you are willing to commit to seven days you can get on the newest and most exciting ships at sea; Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas, the biggest and newest Carnival, Princess, Holland America, Celebrity, etc.
Cruise Tip: Four day cruises are usually the same price or cheaper than three-day cruises because a three day cruise only requires one full day off from work, while a four day cruise sails Monday night through Friday morning. If you are retired and want a quieter cruise at a cheaper per diem cost – take the four-day cruise.
Regular cruisers always take at least a week, and some stay on far longer. many will tell you it takes at least two days just to feel "settled in" to the cruise, and that a seven-day cruises ends just when you are starting to really get used to it. On the other hand - depending on your ports of call, a 14-day cruise may be too long unless you are seeing a wide variety of destinations. But a 14-day cruise comprised mostly of days at sea is only good for retired people. Younger, working people will start to feel the strain of missing their regular life.
Next Cruise Tip >> 3. Picking Your First Cruise Ship
Contents: 1. Selecting a Cruise Port 2. Related "Getting There" Costs 3. Picking Your First Cruise Ship 4. Timing Your Cruise Purchase to Save Money 5. Discounts and Other Credits 6. Cruise Ship Stateroom Selection 7. Saving Money During the Cruise 8. Shore Excursions and Tours 9. Seasickness and Health at Sea 10. Why Use a Cruise Travel Agent