Is the cost of living getting you down? You need a holiday! Follow our money-saving guide and you'll be able to afford the cruise getaway of your dreams. There are amazing cruise deals and steals to be had right now, if you know where to look.
Book early or late
The lowest prices are usually offered when itineraries are first released. If you know when you want to cruise, be ready to book a year or more in advance. On the other hand, if you are able to travel last-minute, incredible deals can be snapped up a few weeks before embarkation.
Package it up
Many cruise lines offer package deals that include airfare, port transfers and pre- and post-cruise hotel. These packages can be a great way to save money, especially if you're travelling from a long distance.
Choose your price point
Cruise lines understand that one price does not fit all. That's why many offer the choice of a cruise-only fare or all-inclusive package with specialty dining, drinks, pre-paid gratuities and more.
Princess Cruises Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, UK and Europe, Stuart Allison, says the line offers a package for every guest's budget. "For guests looking to save a little extra, our Princess Standard package is perfect," he says. "Guests have access to all the Princess favourites, like entertainment and dining options, as well as our MedallionClass experience."
For those who want more premium options, there's Princess Plus and Princess Premier. Both packages include WiFi, fitness classes, premier beverage packages and more.
Go low, then upgrade
Here's a hack the cruise lines don't want you to know about. Some cruisers swear by the money-saving method of booking the lowest-priced inside cabin, then placing a modest bid on an upgrade to a balcony suite. If the bid is successful, you'll save hundreds or even thousands off the published balcony suite price.
Avoid the gift store
Well, not entirely. Onboard shops can be great places to pick up a souvenir toy or T-shirt. However, you'll pay through the nose for medications, toiletries and snacks. Pack accordingly.
Switch on aeroplane mode
It takes a second and could save you thousands. Horror stories abound of cruise passengers using their mobile phones in international waters or overseas destinations and returning home to a four-figure phone bill.
Think before you drink
Katrina Van Der Merwe, cruise specialist at Flight Centre, advises her clients to think about how much they plan on drinking, before they sign up for the all-inclusive package.
"It may be more cost effective to simply buy a few cocktails by the pool, or a glass of wine with dinner, than to purchase the whole plan," she says. "Remember, if one adult in the room purchases the package, every other adult must as well."
Don't spa at sea
Cruise ship spa treatments are notoriously expensive, even before the mandatory gratuity is added. Wait for port days, when significant discounts and packages are offered. It's also wise to attend the spa tour on embarkation day, when discount coupons are often handed out.
Go off-season, on-budget
If you can travel outside of school holidays and peak times (Christmas, New Year's, Australia Day), you'll nab the best deals.
Despite what the shore excursions team will tell you, you don't need to join an expensive, organised tour in every port. Enjoy a walk around European cities, take a bus if there's good public transport or sign up on the dock for a tour with a local operator.
Repo is the way to go
Repositioning itineraries (also known as repo cruises) start in one port and end in another, often involving lots of sea days as they cross an ocean or sea. They allow cruise lines to relocate ships between destinations for the start of a new cruising season, for example between Europe and the United States. While some people prefer a cruise with lots of active port days, others rave about the relaxing nature of a repo voyage and the low fares available.
"Repositioning cruises offers P&O guests a chance to take a cruise, at great value for money," says Marguerite Fitzgerald, P&O Cruises Australia president.
"Guests can have a fabulous time at sea, spending their days and nights being entertained or relaxing, and enjoying delicious cuisine. It's a unique one-way travel experience, for example for Australians or New Zealanders planning a trans-Tasman holiday."
Embrace the buffet
Cruise lines are masters of the up-sell and will heavily promote onboard specialty restaurants, also known as "for-fee dining". You can save a lot of dough by eating meals in the main dining room or at the buffet.
Wait for the sales
Keep your eyes open for onboard sales and promotions, like one-day only markdowns on merchandise or WiFi packages. Many river cruise lines offer a laundry special halfway through the cruise.
Trust the experts
Van Der Merwe says using a travel agent to book your cruise will almost always be better for your budget than going it alone.
"We often have access to early-bird deals and promotional fares that might not be on websites," she says.
"Also, you get the comfort of knowing someone has your back and will assist with questions around boarding procedures, COVID requirements - yes, these still exist sometimes! - and checking in for your cruise."