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Finding the Best Cruise Ship Deals

HOlland America OosterdamIf you haven’t experienced a cruise, I’m here to tell you, do it. Both RFT Editor Anne Weaver and I were hesitant about cruising until we experienced a delightful 7-night “Dancing with the Stars at Sea” voyage to Alaska on Holland America’s Oosterdam. Everything from the onboard activities, the entertainment, the food, and the shore excursions were incredibly fun and well-managed. It made us cruise converts.

Whether you’re a cruise veteran or someone interested in experiencing a cruise for the first time, here are some tips to finding the best cruising value.

Holland Aerica Oosterdam with moon

Cruising lets you relax with no luggage schlepping.

Find the type of cruise that suits you. Different types of ships and cruise lines specialize and, to get the best value for your dollar, you’ll want to match your interests and temperament with the cruise. For instance, if you’ve got kids, a Disney cruise might be perfect. If you’re a partier, Carnival might be more your style. For those interested in nature, you might consider Lindblad Expeditions or Un-Cruise Adventures. If your taste runs toward great food and entertainment, you can’t miss with Holland America. Looking for a women’s only cruise? Check out Olivia. Do a little research and find the type of ship that fits and you’ll have a great time.

Book early. It’s never too early to book your trip. Talk with your travel agent and get signed up early before the season gets started.

NOrway ship

Cruising allows you to explore exotic destinations (here it’s Norway).

Or go last-minute. Deals can also be had if you’ve got some flexibility in your schedule and can go at the last minute. Flexibility in your ports of call is a plus too. You can usually get deals 30-60 days out.

Consider cruising the shoulder seasons. If you’re willing to visit the Caribbean in the fall, Alaska in early September or Europe in early spring or late fall, the shock to your pocketbook will be much less.
Mediterranean cruises in October or November, just before the ships cross the Atlantic to start the Caribbean season, are especially value-priced, Besides, traveling in the shoulder seasons usually means fewer crowds and better values everywhere from restaurants to tours.

Holland America Vista dingin room ocean view

Cruising can give you some of the best views around.

Look for added amenities. The best deal on cruises isn’t always the lowest price. Look for added amenities like dining opportunities or onboard credit. Some cruises offer shore excursions with some tickets.

Consider river cruises. If you’re interested in exploring Europe, river cruises with companies like Viking River Cruises is a great pay-on-price option. Our friends Jill and Vivienne at Wave Journey have river cruised extensively in Europe and say it’s a wonderfully relaxing way to travel and easy on the budget.

Look for older ships. The newest ships always carry a premium price and there are plenty of wonderful older vessels that can offer similar experiences at lower prices.

HOlland America food

Some ships offer dining upgrades or drink packages that make your trip more affordable.

If you’re a cruiser and you’ve got other budget-saving tips you’d like to share with RFT readers, let us know. Cheers, friends, and happy cruising. – Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor



Bobbie Hasselbring, RFT Editor

RFT co-founder Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. An award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook, Bobbie is editor-in-chief at realfoodtraveler.com.