BY SABAH KARIMI
Planning a cruise on a budget often involves searching for the best cruise deals and cruise specials. While it?s true that one of the best ways to save on cruises is to take advantage of major cruise lines? seasonal promotional offers, there are other ways to significantly reduce the cost of your trip without sacrificing your dates of travel. You might even be able to enjoy a cruise on as little as $100 a day.
We consulted with Colleen McDaniel, senior executive editor of Cruise Critic, to get even more money-saving tips. Read on to discover how you can enjoy cruises for cheap this autumn and beyond.
??Purchase an all-inclusive package. An easy way to rack up a high cruise bill is by taking advantage of every extra a cruise line has to offer without knowing which extras are included in the package you purchased. If you?re worried about spending too much on activities, beverages, food and accommodations, book an all-inclusive package, which could help you save money in the long run.
You can even take advantage of special rates when traveling with a friend or significant other. For example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers 2-for-1 all-inclusive fares that include round-trip flights, unlimited beverages, open bars, dining at specialty restaurants and 24-hour room service. You could easily save up to $100 a day or more on food and beverages alone on a luxury cruise ship.
??Seek unadvertised discounts. Though they don?t always advertise them, many cruise lines offer special prices for certain groups. Royal Caribbean, for example, extends special pricing on all cruises to airline employees, employees of Federal Express and UPS and retired employees of airlines that are still in operation. Military personnel ? including active personnel, retired military personnel, honorably discharged veterans and spouses of actively deployed military personnel ? might also be eligible for special cruise prices.
Call the cruise line to find out if it offers discounts for any groups, employers or organizations you are affiliated with, and you could save up to $100 or more a day on your cruise booking.
??Use an app to track cruise prices. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you might be able to get a great deal on a fall cruise by using an app like Cruise Critic. The app lets you monitor prices of upcoming cruises and notifies you of any major changes on cruise prices as the days go by. If the price on your cruise drops after you?ve booked, you can contact the cruise line to negotiate the difference. The cruise line might refund you in the form of an onboard credit that you can use for cruise activities and other amenities during your trip.
??Join rewards or loyalty programs. When you join rewards programs or loyalty programs, you get access to the latest cruise deals and cruise specials. Sign up for these programs to get discounts on dinners, special events or cabins and get access to behind-the-scenes tours and other desirable add-ons.
?For avid cruisers, joining a reward or loyalty program can absolutely pay off, in the form of bigger money-saving perks like cabin upgrades, discounted rates and sometimes even free cruises,? McDaniel said. ?But even if you?re not an avid cruiser, being a member can still pay off with things like priority boarding, complimentary beverages and special events.?
For example, Royal Caribbean?s Crown and Anchor program extends onboard offers and provides freebies like priority check-in and a private departure lounge with a continental breakfast. These perks and complimentary access to events and tours can save you up to $100 a day.
??Look for local deals. Many cruise-goers extend their vacations by booking stays and planning activities in port cities before and after the cruise. If this is your plan, save money on dining and adventures by looking for local deals ahead of time.
Use sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to live like a local for a few days. Sites including Yipit, Woot and FatWallet are some other options for securing local deals and cash-back offers. You can take advantage of deep discounts at local hotspots and eateries or find discounted admission tickets to local attractions.