Top Cruising Tips - Saving Money

(Reprinted from Cruise Critic)

Go for the cheap cabin. If you only use your cabin to shower and sleep, consider booking an inside stateroom. You'll pay less, leaving more money for onboard splurges around the ship. And if you're only in the cabin when it's dark outside, you won't even miss the window or balcony.

Don't overspend on transportation. Always compare prices on transportation options, whether on embarkation morning or in a port of call. Taxis can empty your wallet fast, even if it's just a simple drive from the airport or hotel to the cruise terminal. Transfers provided by the cruise line are most efficient, though sometimes they're not as cost-effective as sharing a car service, driving yourself or taking public transit. But before you go for the cheapest option, look at the cost versus the hassle. You don't want to be changing trains or hiking from the bus stop with two weeks' worth of cruise luggage.

Take advantage of discounted packages on offer. If you like to dine in specialty restaurants, look for packages that bundle fees for multiple onboard restaurants. Big drinker? Definitely go for a beverage package. (Some even cover alcohol, soft drinks and coffee.) And Internet packages are absolutely the best way to get the most minutes for the least amount of money.

Pay up front. Charge as much as you can in advance by pre-booking specialty restaurants, buying drink packages and prepaying gratuities. That way, you have a better sense of what you can spend on impulse buys and can enjoy your vacation knowing a lot of extra charges won't be waiting for you when you get home.

Plan for splurges. If you're cruising on a budget, you can still feel that carefree rush of throwing caution (and dollars) to the wind if you isolate your spending. On a mission to relax and know you're headed for a spa treatment? Get the works -- just plan on eating in the main dining room more often. If specialty dining is your thing, make reservations at the best joint on the ship, but rein in your onboard spending (and curb your daytime cocktails) throughout the cruise. Vacation is intended for indulgence, but picking and choosing can help avoid a painful bill at the end.

Just say no when a ship's photographer tries to take your photo. Even if you don't think you want to buy a photo of you posing with a dolphin or you with a half-eaten plate of salad in front of you, you will be more tempted to buy the print once you see it live. By all means, get that formal night photo -- but bring your camera, and have a fellow passenger take the shot for free in front of a real onboard background.

Don't break the bank on port days. Shore excursions can take a hefty bite out of your vacation budget. On a port-intensive holiday, save at least one port day (or a couple of half days) for exploring on foot and taking it easy. Local lunch (street food!) and a self-guided walking tour can equal a cheap, fun day. Don't forget one of our favorite free activities: people-watching.

Go to the spa on port days. There are almost always special offers. Plus, port day slots book up more slowly than sea day appointments, so you don't need to rush straight to the spa to book your massage as soon as you board.

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