Cutting Costs on a Cruise

When in ports we see shop and stallholders perceive passengers with their cruise cards swinging from their lanyard as an easy sale, because it is assumed cruisers have lots of money.  The fact is nothing could be further from the truth, for most of us.    It’s no secret, we budget and save hard to afford the cruises we have been on, and most of us already know how to do that.  So we are not going to tell you how you can afford a cruise.  What we want to share with you are a few tips to save money once you’re onboard.

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You see cruising can in fact be a very cost effective way for high class travel at around $66-$150 per day.  For the money, you will get a place where you pack and unpack once, that includes all visas, mode of transport, supreme accommodation, all meals and drinks (except alcohol and specialty coffee) complete with a different view from your window each day.

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Although sold as an all inclusive trip, once onboard the high sales pitch begins for specialty coffee cards, specialty restaurants, shore excursions, spa and salon treatments, souvenir photos, you can even pay for a tour of the ship.  So beware!  That card is not only used to ‘beep’ you on and off the ship and unlock your cabin door, it is also linked to your credit card and every time you make a request for something that is not included, ker-ching, it adds it to the tab.  This is why when fixed to a lanyard your cruise card becomes easy money.

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There is absolutely no need to spend any extra money onboard, should you choose not to. What is included is more than enough to enjoy and have a memorable holiday.  You may want to purchase some of the optional extras, but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, keep reading.

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Starting with the booking, you will save if you travel at the end of a season or book a repositioning cruise.  If you book either well in advance or at the last minute you will get the very best deals.  Keep an eye on the prices after you book too; if the cruise price is reduced you can request they pass on the reduction.  Shop around and look for specials, our last cruise we got a balcony cheaper than the regular price of an internal cabin.  Also look at all the factors of location, weather and itinerary before deciding if you really need a balcony.  If you are going to be at sea for 5 or 6 days straight, are very social onboard and rarely in your cabin, you can save if you get an obstructed view or even an internal cabin, though these are not for everyone.  As we found too, a heavy port intensive itinerary means disembarking early each day leaving little time in the cabin, so again a cheaper, internal cabin or obstructed view could suit.  Check where else you can save. You may be entitled to a group discount, an age discount or even discount for shareholders or military personnel.  Another way of cutting costs on a cruise is to book and pay for future cruise deposit once onboard.  $100 will secure a heavily discounted deposit on a future cruise for up to 2 years and includes onboard credit.

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As I said previously keep an eye on the traps of non-included items as these out of pocket items can quickly run up your tab if you don’t keep an eye on them.

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Limit yourself to one nice photo or ask a fellow passenger to take a photo of you.  There is more than enough variety of good quality food choices, from casual dining to fine dining and decadent desserts that you can eliminate the extra expense of the speciality restaurants and not feel you are missing out.  Choices include 24 hour buffet, fixed or anytime dining in the main dining rooms, silver service high tea, pub lunch or just a Hot dog or hamburger by the pool.  The choices are unlimited, the staff very attentive, offering top notch personal service whether room service, by the pool or in the main dining room from your allocated waiter who knows you by name.  This is all included in the price.

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Spa and salon treatments are usually discounted on port days.  If you are in a port that has a lot of sights close to the port you can disembark early, see some sights and return to the ship for a late lunch followed by a spa or salon treatment.  After all, you’ve already paid for the lunch in the cost of the cruise.  Other charges easy to avoid are the laundry and internet charges.  Instead of sending your clothing to the laundry, use the self service laundry for around $2-$4 per load to wash and dry and use free Wi-Fi in ports for Facebook check-ins and to send pre-drafted emails.  This will not only save money, but also patience as the ship internet is not only very expensive starting at 2 hours for $69.00, but extremely slow.

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Use any free onboard credits for your bar tab.  You can even reduce you bar tab with free drinks by checking for champagne art auctions and captains cocktail party where they freely pass around champagne.  Purchase a bottle of wine and limit to one glass per night and they will keep your bottle to consume with your next meal, which is much cheaper than buying by the glass.   Look in the daily newsletter for advertised ‘drink of the day’ or ‘happy hour’ specials.  Often the pool bar will offer a ‘bucket of beer’ special, buy 4 get 1 free.  Cruise lines will allow you to bring one bottle of wine onboard with no corkage charge and you can order a bottle of spirits for your room which works out a lot cheaper than purchasing by the glass at the bar.  Keep an eye on the menu in the dining room too.  Cocktail soups and drunken desserts are a saving.  You can usually see a Pina Colada soup or similar at least once per voyage.

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Avoid purchasing shore excursions onboard too. The ship has port lectures running which give useful facts on how to get around, what to see, etc so take advantage of the free information.  You will be advised of free shuttle buses to get to the main tourist area where you can purchase hop on/hop off bus tickets and see all the free sights or for next to no cost.  It will work out cheaper and quicker to pre-purchase skip the line tickets for the major attractions.

Another cost you can avoid is the Ultimate Ship’s Tour.  I must tell you, it is amazing and we did purchase a ship tour as a memento of our first cruise, our honeymoon.  Or you keep an eye on the daily newspaper advertising the Executive Chef and Maitre D’s culinary demonstrations which is followed by a galley tour.  There you will be informed, educated and entertained about life in the galley and shown the secrets of the Chef’s uniform food presentation, his galley bible.  Oh and more free champagne!

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Onboard you have a variety of free entertainment to choose from including production shows, live music and comedy shows, cooking demos, pool and trivia games and educational lectures ranging from visiting ports to astronomy.  You can watch the latest release movies either in your room, by the pool or under stars on the big screen which even includes popcorn.  Whilst cruising you can relax by the pool, reading a book and be served milk and cookies or you might prefer a piece of pizza by the slice.  Instead of getting the milkshakes and gelato that are not included go and get a soft serve that is free.  Don’t forget when booking to advise of any celebrations whilst onboard and you will receive a complimentary celebration cake.

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Now if all this has enticed you to save and book a cruise and you decide to cruise subsequent times, you have even more savings, as part of the Loyalty rewards for returning passengers.  The loyalty rewards include members’ only events with, you guessed it, free champagne, preferred check in, disembarkation lounge, internet discounts, priority ship to shore tender, shoe polishing and free laundry, based on applicable number of sailing days or cruises sailed.

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With a staff ratio of 2.2 passengers per staff member, you can rest assured. Not only will you have have fresh fruit in your room each day, your towels will be refreshed and your bed made every time you walk out the room. Each evening your bed will be turned down with a free chocolate on your pillow each night. And you can have this first class cruising experience without any added extra charges.

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If I have missed anything, or you have further questions about cutting costs on a cruise please leave a comment below.  Is a cruise on your buckets list? Did I entice you to want to try a cruise?  If so, contact Princess Cruises

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Royal Princess

This trip was a long time in planning, we followed the construction of the Royal Princess from the beginning and eagerly awaited her completion, watched the sail out, christening, etc.  Embarkation and disembarkation went fast and efficient with minimal congestion.

Royal Princess is beautiful and opulent and in particular the Piazza elegantly decorated in cream, gold and wood tones which give a luxurious feel. The public areas are clean and well maintained.  Automatic doors and wider entryways everywhere are wonderful. It feels like a luxury resort hotel on the water, which is really what all cruise ships should be.  The service overall was wonderful.  We were very pleased with the ship and the amenities, the style and grandeur of the Royal made us feel like we really were somewhere special.

Our stateroom was great, decent room size, plenty of storage, the bed comfortable, good quality linen and the in room movies were a great plus.  We watched several movies that we had wanted to see. Our room was very close to the elevators and laundry which was very handy.  Given the proximity it was extremely quiet and although we had neighbours on both sides we never heard them or their TV.  We found the crew very helpful and pleasant, especially our room stewardess. Christina was very courteous and supportive and always had a big smile and kept our room constantly refreshed and as requested she added a top sheet for us.  Unlike previous Princess ships we have been on the staterooms now have power saving facility where you put your cruise card in the slot to turn on lights.

The production shows for the most part were good and with the larger theatre posed no problems getting a seat for the show.

It is truly a beautiful, massive ship with such splendour but you really would not know there were that many people on board most of the time, and often you couldn’t even tell the ship was moving. We were never short of a table to sit at, or a chair to sit on. It didn’t matter if we were at the aft of the Horizon, or if we were outside at one of the bars or if we were in the piazza. There was always a place available to sit and take things in no matter where you happened to be.

In my opinion the lack of a Promenade deck that allows you to walk completely around the ship outdoors was disappointing.  We have always enjoyed a stroll around the ship on our previous cruises, that’s part of the romance of a cruise ship and a relaxing way to walk off the evening meal after the show.

The only real criticism of the ship is the elevator due to the absence of mid stairs made for long walks to get to certain parts of the ship and overcrowded elevators, which although there were more of them, they were smaller.  This was mainly an issue in and out of ports where you wait to find them crammed with people. We had to learn to cram people in elevators and as a joke my husband would say ‘shuffle in we can take another five people’ or joke and tell me to get up on his shoulders.  This is not a deal breaker and by taking out the midship staircase gave Princess space for the beautiful new larger atrium or “piazza”.

The Horizon buffet has been redesigned and now divided into 2 parts, it is huge, and they have different food, so you really have to walk across the length of 2 full buffets to see the full selection. Because of the size a map with the day’s selections indicating which areas are open could be useful.  In the buffet the food selections were good and the choices were plentiful and the inclusion of the Pastry shop for desserts was good. The Horizon Court staff was quick to get drinks and clear tables.  I must say we actually felt there were more selection and better choices to eat at the buffet rather than the dining room for dinner.  We ate several times in the main dining room, Allegro where had opted for late sitting. We also ate there for breakfast on the first sea day. The food was excellent but found the variety lacking a little. We had originally booked for a table of 2 but made friends who we wanted to dine with and were easily accommodated.  This and the noticeable decrease in the menu selection meant we only ate at our selected table 3 times so we missed the rapport you develop when you have the same waiters each evening. I attribute the decline in service to this fact.  Most were friendly but the clearing of dirty dishes and the refilling of drinks was not up to prior standards. The wait staff mixed up orders a few times and were not as attentive as those in the Horizon. It was fine, but not as special as eating in the MDR. Whilst in the Allegro we saw passengers enjoy the opulent Chef’s Table which looked amazing and on our last sea day we had a tour of the galley with the Head Chef and Maître De.

We also ate in Symphony on Italian night, tried the English pub lunch in Wheelhouse and at the Crown Grill for an additional fee of $50 and really enjoyed them all.  Alfredos was good as always, the Gelato shop with crepes and waffles and ice creams, was nice but not sure it was worth the fee when you could get soft serve ice cream at any time up stairs by the Sea Walk.  The Sea Walk hangs over the ship and is quite fun, but after you’ve walked over it a couple times you’re kind of done with it.  The Seaview bar was where we enjoyed our first cocktail onboard and we also enjoyed the Plaza Bar, Wheelhouse and Crooners several times.

On the first night we enjoyed “Movie Under the Stars” whilst enjoying good popcorn and afterwards pizza from the outdoor Prego Pizzeria whilst my husband enjoyed the burgers from Trident Grill a few times.

We went to the Internet Café a few times and found having the free ‘send a postcard’ option a good way to send brief updates to friends and family advising of our whereabouts.  Because of this we didn’t have the need to buy a package of internet time and just paid for use as you go to collect important business emails.  The layout of the photo shop was good and it was nice to be remembered by one of the photographers from a previous cruise when we boarded.  I don’t know why Princess doesn’t offer the choice of having photos sent electronically or to be viewed in your cabin so they have such wastage of printing them all and not selling the majority.

The Royal Princess is a beautiful ship. It has a fabulous crew. I enjoyed it and would most certainly recommend it to anyone.

The real gem of the Royal Princess is its staff with exceptional customer service who seems genuinely happy to be there. With Captain Tony Draper in command we were in good hands while on Royal Princess.

PS We loved the ship’s horn when it played The Love Boat theme.

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*All opinions and photos are our own and we were not financially compensated for this post.

Royal Princess, Grand Mediterranean

We booked the last sailing on the inaugural 12 day Grand Mediterranean itinerary and had time in Europe for both before and after the cruise.

Princess Cruise Line provided one of the best itineraries and this voyage did not disappoint.  There were no problems incurred like the week before when they could not retrieve the anchor in Mykonos.

Ready for departure in Barcelona

Ready to board in Barcelona

The sailaway on deck

The sailaway on deck

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We boarded promptly in Barcelona and our itinerary including the ports of Toulon, Florence, Rome, Naples, Mykonos, Istanbul, Kusadasi and Athens. After an overnight stay onboard, we would be disembarking in Venice.

This was a very busy itinerary, with few days at sea and lots of exploration time and can get a bit tiring, particularly if you choose excursions including lots of walking through ruins. We loved the destinations!

First port of Toulon

First port of Toulon

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The ports were great. We did one “Princess Shore excursion” at Toulon and really enjoyed the experience, it was run very well.  The Amalfi coast and Pompeii was one of the best shore excursions we have ever been on. We had an amazing guide, and found this tour very good value.

The itinerary allowed us to see sights and places we had only dreamed about, Cote D’Azur, Leaning tower of Pisa, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Amalfi coast, Pompeii, Vesuvius, Grand Bazaar, Acropolis and many more.  It was a sight to behold but very strenuous, so be sure to wear comfortable rubber soled shoes so as not to slip on the marble and cobblestone ground. This was the inception for “A Hole In My Shoe”. We also loved the actual cruising, although with the itinerary being so port intensive we didn’t get much opportunity for relaxing out on our balcony with a glass of wine.

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The Captain decided to bypass Kusadasi port due to high winds,  much better to be safe than sorry and I understand all who had Princess tours were refunded charges. Overall it was a great trip and we had a wonderful time.

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The sail in to Venice was amazing, very emotional with Pavarotti playing on the ship’s speakers creating the perfect atmosphere for our first glimpses of this beautiful city.  We stayed on the ship overnight before disembarking the next day. Once in Venice, they conveniently charged $15 per person to our account for a round trip direct water taxi to St Marks square but you could go to the desk to have them remove this fee if you didn’t want to use it.

Sailing into Venice

Sailing into Venice

Arrived safety at our destination, Venice

Arrived safety at our destination, Venice

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Princess arranged for our luggage to be taken direct to our hotel and used the people mover to get to the closest point to our hotel. We had decided the day before when we wandered through Venice that we would spend our first day to take a vaporetto to Murano & Burano which was lovely and we thought was well worth the visit.  We loved Venice, not a cheap place but not as expensive as we were expecting.

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Waiting for us whilst in Mykonos

Waiting for us whilst in Mykonos

If you can afford the time, build in extra time at each end. Barcelona and Venice are both worth some extra time.

This itinerary was port intensive and the two sea days were much appreciated and it was an outstanding cruise. We experienced some wet weather and the ports were crowded but we did expect this at this time of year.

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Mmm cocktail time

Mmm cocktail time

We have been back home for a week now and we are still in post cruise blues wishing we were back on the wonderful Royal Princess.

Thank you Princess you made our dream holiday come true!

Is this cruise on you buckets list? Have you cruised this itinerary? We’d love to read your comments below?

*All opinions and photos are our own and we were not financially compensated for this post.

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