How to take a cruise holiday on a budget

How to take a cruise holiday on a budget

Cruises are often thought of as holiday options for the rich and famous, but when you consider that there are countless deals that make them cheaper than living in London for a couple of weeks, they are attainable! Cruising is one of life’s great pleasures band with some judicious planning, it needn’t break the bank. By employing a canny approach to the booking procedure and later additional charges, you may reduce your overall costs quite considerably.

To start the ball rolling, decide on a number of things as early as possible and remember that cruise lines will start advertising itineraries as much as 18 months in advance. Book at that point and you have the best chance of getting the cabin you want, while being able to take advantage of any early booking deals and additional perks, like a complimentary upgrade.

Avoid the price hikes

Traditionally, many cruise lines will then gradually raise their prices, in the same way as airlines, as the vessel slowly fills. In theory, the later you leave it, the more expensive it will get. But if the cabins sell slowly the company may slash the prices in order to fill them. If that’s the case and you’ve already paid then you run the risk of missing out. Of course it’s a gamble to leave it late in the hope of further reduced prices. You may prefer the peace of mind that knowing it’s already booked brings.

It’s never a bad idea to ask about price-match guarantees, as you might be able to claim a refund, if your trip gets reduced at a later date. That just equates to extra spending money!

Last minute offers

If you haven’t already booked and are ready to go at a moment’s notice, with flexibility as to your destination, last minute offers could mean a substantial saving. For those that like everything to be planned out well in advance, this will definitely not be a viable option, but if the style of cabin on offer isn’t all that important to you and you’re happy to take a bit of a gamble, there are some incredible deals to be snapped up. Just be sure that your passport and all relevant vaccinations are up to daye, otherwise you might have a last minute disappointment.


Excursions are an important part of the cruising experience, but will usually add to the cost of your holiday, so consider organising your own. With a little internet research, but not on the ship because that could be chargeable, you can compare self-guided adventure costs with official tour costs.

From a logistical perspective, destinations like Venice, Dubrovnik and Barcelona, for example, are all fairly close to the cruise ports. Even Rome is only about an hour by train from its port of Civitavecchia. So getting to the destination should be a relatively pain-free and inexpensive process. Invest in a guidebook and you’re good to go. Remember though, you cannot be late returning to the ship.

Shop ’til you drop

Many cruise ships will have a number of shops, selling all manner of things that you never realised you needed, but expect to pay more than in your local high street. To resist temptation, as much as you can, make sure that you bring sufficient sunscreen, toiletries and other everyday items, so you won’t have to buy emergency supplies.

When it comes to keepsakes and souvenirs, try to buy them during shore excursions, as you’ll normally be able to enjoy a good haggling session when visiting markets.

What is full board?

To be super budget savvy, be sure to really understand what’s included in the cruise package you are thinking about buying. Consider, for example, what full board means. In most cases, it means main meals and not food and drink outside of meal times. So without turning into Scrooge just be aware that the cost of that extra burger and coke is going on the bill. All-inclusive deals mean that you shouldn’t have to spend one penny more, but again, it’s worth checking the small print very carefully.

It may well have been Sir Francis Bacon who professed that, “knowledge is power”, but from your point of view, it certainly is. The more you understand about how and why extra charges are levied, the more chance you have of saving a few extra pounds.

Taking a cruise on a budget definitely does not equate to a less meaningful experience, but be realistic about what it will cost and look for clever ways to make your money stretch a little further.