Some have asked what we paid for our recent 28 day cruise to the Hawaiian and Tahitian Islands. The original cost, when the cruise became available 2 years ago, was $3,300 per person but after watching on a weekly basis for specials or price reductions we were able to get the cruise down to $2,800. We pick out a destination we want to travel and watch for cruise itineraries that interest us. With airfare costing around $340 a person and cruise fare taxes at $135, the total cost of our trip was $3,275 a person plus whatever we elected to spend while on the cruise. What other vacation can you take for less than $125 per day with all the food you can eat and the entertainment you can watch, while seeing some of the most exotic places in the world! We are sold on cruising as the absolute best value proposition for a vacation that exists today.
We also have learned some other “tricks” to increase our spending money while on a cruise. Almost all cruise lines offer future cruise bookings (deposits made during a cruise for a future cruise) where you can easily pay a $100 down payment that allows you to book a cruise with that cruise line, either at the time you make your deposit or within a 2-4 year period. The advantage to making these future cruise bookings on board your cruise ship is that you receive an on board credit of anywhere between $25 and $300 (depending on the length of your cruise and cabin type). You must make this future cruise booking while on a cruise as this is free money on the next cruise you take with that cruise line! We always have extra future cruise bookings available for both Princess and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines whom we most frequently cruise. Besides the on board credit you get, the other benefit of these future cruise bookings is you only end up paying a $100 deposit per person when you book your next cruise instead of the typical $300-500 required. Princess also allows for each person in a cabin (up to 2) to use a future cruise deposit which doubles your on board credit.
In addition to gaining on board credit for future cruise bookings made on board your previous cruise, you can also get similar on board credit for owning cruise line company stock (typically 100 shares) or having been a member of the military. This credit varies once again on the length of cruise and on how long the cruise is but you can get up to $250 in on board credit. Not all cruise lines offer these incentives but the three largest cruise companies, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, all offer at least stock ownership on board booking credits. Carnival Corporation comprises of several cruise lines such as Carnival, Holland America, Princess, Cunard, P&O and Costa. Royal Caribbean Corporation is comprised of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Azamara cruise lines. Princess is the only cruise line we are aware of that provides on board credit for having been in the military although several cruise lines provide military discounts on fares. Some cruise lines also provide fare discounts for law enforcement, fire, seniors and at times certain state resident discounts. Princess is also one of the few cruise lines that allow these on board credits to be cumulative. For the 28 day Hawaii Tahiti cruise we took we were allowed on board credit of $800 ($150x2 future cruise credit a piece + $250 stock ownership + $250 Greg’s previous military service). This on board credit paid for our gratuities and one ship excursion we planned to take.
Another question we have been asked is how do we book our port excursions. Each cruise line has a listing of port excursions that the ship offers. These are available to book after final payment is made and we strongly encourage you to make these reservations early as it’s on a first-come, first-serve basis and many of the more popular excursions sell out quickly. You can always book early and if you decide to cancel at a later date you can do it either on-line or when you board the ship. Most cruise lines provide a 24-48 hour timeframe on when you are able to cancel without a penalty. We typically do a lot of research on a particular port to determine what to do in that port. You need to keep in mind that you may never visit this port again and you certainly don’t want to miss one of the most spectacular sites available or one of the most exciting things to try while you are there. After we determine what we want to do from our research, we inquire with various tour companies on pricing, availability, start/stop times (to ensure time slot is within the time the ship is in dock) and if they pick up/drop off at the pier where the ship will be docked. We tend to like these private excursions as the groups are typically much smaller and more of a personal tour rather than an entire bus load of passengers. In most cases excursions booked outside of the cruise line will cost less due to the commission the cruise line makes with each excursion they sell. We do book ship excursions if it will be an entire day trip and we feel that there may be some risk to make it back to the ship at the departure time. If you are booked on a ship’s excursion, the ship will await your return or at least commit to pay your way to the next port if unusual circumstances prevent the tour from getting back to the ship in time. If you tour privately, there are no guarantees that the ship will wait and it will be up to you to make your own transportation plans at your own cost to meet up with the ship at the next port if the ship leaves without you. There are some third party excursion companies we deal with that also make a promise to pay your way to the next port on the rare occasion the ship leaves without you.
In our next blog we will discuss the future cruises we have planned and group cruises we are organizing.