Cruises are a great family getawat, with a exotic ports of call and plenty of things to onboard, who wouldn’t want to go on one! However, there is more to learn than just what cruise ship to go on, and here’s why.
To save money on a cruise as well as airfare to get you to your cruise ship, you need to consider where you want travel to as well as what cruise line you would like to go with. You should pay attention to how far in advance you want to book as well as the time of year you will be traveling.
We’ll cover the basics like when is the best time to book, flight and cruise tips, and some basics on travel insurance to make sure you cover all your bases for the next time you travel.
Tip 1: Combine Airfare and Cruise!
Bundling your cruise and airfare together has some obvious perks. First off, you are likely to save money as the package deal overall would be less expensive than if you are to purchase flight and airfare separately. Some packages also offer inherent advantages, such as providing lodging and hotel if the flight is canceled or changed.
That means if there is a change of plans on their end, they’ll cover it, limiting your out of pocket expenses. It can definitely help bring peace of mind especially when you are planning your next trip.
The other benefit to bundling is that everything is taken care of all in one place. You won’t need to scour different websites and have to plan extensively to make it work: it’s all taken care of for you by a single program. If you enjoy simplicity and peace of mind, bundling can definitely offer that instead of booking a separate flight and cruise.
The best way to find out if bundling is for you is to check out the price of the bundled package, then find out when the exact date is. Check on your own to see what the prices are separately for the airfare and cruise, and if it’s within range of the bundle, just go ahead and buy the bundle to make it easier!
Tip 2: Advance Purchase and Time of Year
What time of year you purchase your cruise package as well as how much time in advance (or how soon to departure) can have an impact on how much you pay overall. Cruises can fluctuate and can have different rates than airlines. Consider where you’re going as well as when.
If you’re planning on flying or cruising during the holidays or summer months, its best to consider buying as early as possible to make sure you receive the best rate possible. Check rates out for flying middle of the week, and aim for 6 months advance to book your package.
It will vary by destination and the most important thing to do is learn when the busy times of year are for where you want to go, so you can plan around it or won’t be surprised. For example, December to April is extremely popular for the Caribbean due to dry, hot days and cool nights, and there isn’t as much tropical weather and rain as there is during September to October.
Likewise, many people enjoy visiting Iceland in the summer for the long periods of daylight and outdoor activities like hiking, but cruise lines may actually be most booked during beginning of spring and fall as savvy travelers try to catch a glimpse at the spectacular Northern lights.
Tip 3: Cruise and Travel Insurance
Getting Cruise insurance for your cruise, or at least considering it, is important due to how the journey is usually multi-faceted. First, you might be traveling by plane to the port city, where you may stay a few days and even get a rental car or hotel.
And then there is the cruise itself, as well as the return flight. With so many factors at play, unfortunately it opens up the real possibility of things going wrong, so a cheap insurance investment can help mitigate the cost should the inevitable happen.
Insurance can cover a number of things to protect you during your cruise, but a few of the following options are common: medical care coverage, emergency medical evacuation, baggage protection (from theft or loss), identity theft, and severe weather such as hurricanes.
When purchasing an insurance policy for your trip, it’s important to read the fine details such as coverage and exclusions to make sure you are getting exactly what you need.
In addition, if you do plan on getting insurance for your next trip, it’s usually best to buy it at the time of purchase to ensure you have coverage should something go wrong, especially prior to the trip.
Tip 4: Embarkation Day
Embarkation day is the big day: you are boarding your cruise and finally beginning your journey. There’s a few things to keep in mind and to plan for in advance in order to make it without hassle.
First off, consider flying in a day early. Plan for your flight to arrive a day early, so you can rest and enjoy the evening before. Embarkation day can often entail long lines and plenty of waiting, so already being at the port city can help prevent exhaustion and boredom accumulating from trying to cram everything into one day: catching your flight, hustling to the port, embarking, then figuring out where to start once you’re on the cruise.
Splitting it up into two days can make things easier and alleviate the worries of a delayed flight, as booking them too close together (if you decided not to go with a cruise and airfare package) means you could potentially miss the cruise if you don’t make your flight.
As we explained above, this is another great reason to book airfare and cruises together: if the flight is delayed or cancelled for any reason, you’ll often be covered.
Whether you ultimately choose to fly in a day early or not, arriving at the port early is important. It will help you to avoid the crowds that make embarkation day such a pain for some, by mitigating the hassle of long lines and giving yourself time for check in, luggage, and so forth, giving yourself plenty of time can definitely prevent a headache before it begins.
Be sure to have all of your official documents ready to go if they are needed. You don’t want to show up and realize you have forgotten your passport or have it tucked away somewhere deep in luggage, so being ready to go is the way to go.
On top of having documents ready, it’s also a good idea to carry cash for the day of, as airport ATMs and other ways to get cash around the port may be quite crowded. On embarkation day, time is of the essence, so sparing it anyway you can is vital.
Next up, you’ll want to carry a change of clothes with you in your carry on for the big day. This is two-fold. First off, you want to be able to be accustomed to the environment and not bogged down by work clothes or travel clothes. Secondly, the pools are usually a great place to hit on the first day before they get crowded – and we’ll go into this next.
Tip 5: Things to Do and Places to Go
After the flight and on-boarding process have happened, you’re now ready to go and its the first day of vacation on the cruise ship. You might be wondering where to go or what to do, and we have a few tips to help you get started.
Right above, we mentioned the idea of packing a swimming suit in your carry-on bag so that you can be one of the first to hit the pools on the big day.
This is a great way to relax as well as get a lot of time to yourself, as a lot of the crowd will miss it as they might not receive their luggage right away or be busy doing other things, like touring the ship or unpacking in the room.
Being able to access your swim suit right away and heading over to the pool can give you a pleasant, peaceful experience before it becomes overcrowded for the rest of the stay.
Next up, you’ll want to avoid elevators on the day of. These can be overcrowded with people and staff as well as luggage, so take the stairs whenever you can. It will help with getting where you want to be faster, have less crowds, and it will be good exercise to boot before chilling out the rest of your vacation.
Many people will hit the main dining room or buffet on the first day due to the long waits and hunger brought on by the process of flying, checking in, waiting around, and spending time in queues.
This is a great time to hit up specialty dining, because like the pool, it will be devoid of the large crowds that will flock to in the days to come. Something can be said of being in an established restaurant and enjoying the vibe during rush hour, but if timely food and top notch service are among your priorities, getting there first before everybody else can definitely be of benefit.
The first day is also a great time to find out more about shore excursions if you haven’t already pre-booked. These can vary widely, such as snorkeling in the reefs, swimming with exotic animals like stingrays or sea turtles, horseback riding, exploring the local countryside, taking a class with the local culture like cooking, and so much more. With so much variation and potential, you definitely want to.
Tip 6: Cruise Mistakes to Avoid
So, you’ve managed to do everything right thus far: you’ve booked your airfare and cruise together as a package deal because you researched and found out it was cheaper and easier than going separate; you purchased adequate insurance because this was a more intricate, longer trip, remembered all of your documents, and made the most of day 1 by exploring the ship and taking advantage of the less empty spots like the swimming pool or fine dining restaurants.
To help make the remainder of your trip that much easier, we’ve compiled some simple guidelines below to help out:
Watch What You On Your Cruise
Everything can end up being charged to your room, which can be a serious expense later on. There is a reason some cruise lines are so inexpensive: people become accustomed to vacation mode and begin to spend more loosely. A few hours at the bar or restaurant can rack up hundreds from expensive drinks and food, so just keep it in the back of your mind.
Gratuity will be included in many instances, so there is no need to tip again. It’s worth double checking every time to make sure that you do leave a tip if it’s not, but in many cases, people will tip twice, which only adds to the many expenses one can accumulate while on the ship.
Get the cruise guide or newspaper everyday so that you will aware of the many events you might not want to miss out on while on the cruise. For example, Royal Caribbean has the Cruise Compass, which is delivered by the stateroom attendant each day.
Many lament having missed a particular event they would’ve really wanted to go to, so its best to be informed and know everything that’s going on so that you can make the most of your trip.
Watch Your Cell Phone
Be careful not to accumulate excessive charges on your cell phone. Just because it works while you’re out at sea, doesn’t mean you’re being charged the same rate while at home.
The first step to take is to turn off data roaming, which can limit the damage done by data. After that, try to limit the amount of phone calls or texts you send, because they may build up quickly at international rates.
You want to check with your particular provider before setting sail to find out exactly what the plan is for your provider. It also varies with ships, as they can turn off their cellular network anywhere from 8 to 12 miles from shore.
When it comes to the main dining room, don’t be afraid to order up! While drinks will usually cost you, many people don’t realize you can actually order multiple entrees, so order what you want! This will likely not apply to the specialty dining areas so use discretion, and when in doubt, ask!
Use the Free Room Service
Most cruises offer this and many people will pass up on the opportunity. If you don’t feel like heading out and just need to stay in and crash for a night after all the traveling, definitely take advantage of this.
Tip 7: Enjoy a Smooth Debarkation
Since cruise ships are both travel and accommodation, usually the process of checking out is more complicated than at a hotel and can involve customs.
Being prepared and knowing what to expect can save you time. Most cruises will hold a brief meeting near the end of the trip but can also lay out the procedure in their daily guide they hand out, and sometimes it will be available on the TV in the room as well. After understanding the process, you’ll want to finalize the payments you made during the trip.
When the final bill is delivered to your room, be sure to tally everything up and make sure it makes sense. You can also check this throughout the duration of the trip usually via your online account or on the TV in your room, and it’s sometimes easier to fix mistakes during the trip rather than after on account of the long lines.
The most important thing is to get on the correct deck on the day of with all of your belongings and luggage. As we noted above, elevators can create long lines so if you can avoid them at all costs, try to do so. Getting ready ahead of time can help mitigate this.
The most important factor in making your next trip go well is to be researched, knowledgeable, and timely. From the initial booking of the trip, to knowing what to do when you’re on board, as well as finally disembarking, will make the journey and vacation as fun, stress-free, and relaxing as possible.
Each cruise, airline, and even specific ship will have their own set of procedures and rules, so become familiar ahead of time and make the most of your next tri