How To Book Cheap Cruises, According to Frugal Redditors

Cruise Ship in Caribbean Sea

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Cruise Ship in Caribbean Sea
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Pay in Advance

Gratuities and fees abound on cruises — and not all of them are optional. One Redditor suggests pre-paying these extra charges to make budgeting for your trip easier. Don’t worry about not tipping enough. If the service is exceptional, you can still tip extra later on.

Related: Surprising Facts You Never Knew About Cruise Ships

Passengers walking through Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Account for Transportation Costs

Transportation to and from the port will be costly, especially if you’re traveling abroad. While it may be more boring than a cruise along the French riviera, it’s cheaper to choose an itinerary that begins and ends close to where you live.

Related: Best Cruises for Senior Couples Under $100 a Night

Cruise ship cabin interior

Beware of Room Upgrades

Even after you’ve purchased your ticket, cruise lines will do everything they can to upcharge you. The biggest shakedown? Room upgrades. Make sure to do your research and commit to a room before getting on board. While cheap, most undesirable rooms may not be worth the savings if you cave for an upgrade once you’re on board.

Related: 24 Tips and Tricks for Smooth Sailing on Your Next Cruise

Tourists listening to tour guide on the beach
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Arrange Third-Party Shore Excursions

Shore excursions are also a minefield of potential upcharges. You can avoid them altogether, or organize your own excursions with more affordable third-party companies.

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Dining Room Buffet aboard the luxury abstract cruise ship

Avoid Specialty Dining Options

Remember: Food (often a buffet) is included with your ticket. If you want to save money, don’t be enticed by expensive upgrades, especially since dinner is often quite good in the main dining room, one Redditor writes.

Blonde woman looking a small town from the cruise ship, Maddalena island, Sardinia, Italy.

Book a Longer Cruise

If this is your first time cruising, then you might be tempted to test the waters with a weekend trip. But one commenter says this is a mistake. Not only are weekend trips exhausting, they’re also more expensive per day than trips that are five nights or longer.

Stacked credit cards

Sign Up for a Travel Credit Card

You can offset some of your expenses with a credit card specifically geared toward travel savings. Forbes Advisor even has a list of the best credit cards for cruises.

Vacations To Go website
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Book With Vacations To Go

Don't let the outdated website dissuade you. Multiple Redditors recommend booking with Vacations To Go, which specializes in cheap, last-minute cruise deals. CruiseCompete, another discounter, also comes up often in Reddit threads.

Caribbean cruise
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Don’t Cruise With Carnival

Despite Carnival's reputation as a low-cost cruise line, Redditors say that it’s worth paying a bit extra for Norwegian, which has a better “cost-to-enjoyment” ratio. “Carnival might offer some of the best prices, but they might not offer the kind of experience or atmosphere that you're looking for,” one comment reads.

Couple relaxing and drinking wine on deck chairs in an over water bungalow.

Sneak in Drinks

While we don’t condone any serious rule breaking, some Redditors suggested sneaking alcohol aboard to avoid the astronomical drink prices. The practice is so common that vendors on Amazon sell entire kits dedicated to rum running. Just keep in mind that some cruise lines will go as far as kicking you off the ship if they discover your contraband.