I just got back from a cruise to the Western Caribbean. And though, for my boyfriend and I it was a pricey and luxurious break from our lives, we did a lot but didn’t spend too much.
CRUISE (Food, room and on-ship FREE activities)= $1600
Excursions (1 in Cozumel, 1 in Grand Cayman) =$250
On board expenses (Massage, gratuities(have to be paid), 1 all-inclusive drink package, Makeup/massage oil)= $850
Flights= $300 (roughly)
Hotel= $0 (we stayed with my sister’s in Orlando and they drove us to the airport)
Shopping on the islands= $120
TOTAL= $3120 for two people and 9 days of fun, or $1560 a person or $173.34 per person per day
Now you may look at that and freak. Which for us, this is a lot of money, but we did extra luxury things that we don’t usually do and it was in fact worth it! Because both of us were able to refresh our batteries after what has been, at times, a hard year due to the loss of my grandma, and working hard.
Anyway, here are ways that we saved money, even though we did a ton!
- Book a deal. Wait for cruise prices to go down so they can fill rooms, we booked about 8 months ahead giving us $175 on board credit that paid for my spa treatments and 1 day of tips per person. We used priceline and I just got an offer that we can book any cruise in the future with no money down for already booking with them. Also, with Royal Caribbean if you have sailed once and you go again you get Gold Status that with enough times turns to silver and diamond.
- Buy the package. If you will drink more than 3 drinks (alcoholic) a day, then get the drink package. I don’t drink much, get me one and I’m happy. Yet my boyfriend enjoys drinking when he can, and when you don’t have to drive, get out of bed at 4am (his usual time). Meaning the package was worth the money for him to have margaritas, beer, wine and the like for $55/day. He then tipped on top of that a dollar or two a drink.
- Bring the necessities. Bring all you need from home, such as deodorant, ibuprofen, nail clippers etc. Because the mark up on these goods on the ship is INSANE! We made the mistake of forgetting a few things and paid a lot for basics. It won’t probably break the bank, but you will cringe at $12 for 24 Advil.
- Eat the food (don’t pay extra). The awesome part about Royal Caribbean is that all of their food is great! You have options too. Traditional sit-down 3-course meals (more if you want it), buffets, and snacks are all over the place. You can even get room service for no extra charge most hours of the day, including breakfast in bed. Yet if you want something different there are other restaurant and drink options such as Starbucks, Italian, Mexican and a fine Steakhouse. Also: for allergy sufferers they will make every effort to make sure your vacation is AMAZING, I even got a private tour of the kitchen!
- Barter. When shopping in many parts of the world it is common to barter on goods. Meaning they say a price, you make a counter offer, they say another price and you try to agree. Know it is okay to walk away if it is more than you want to spend. Also, take note of places that have prices on tags on items usually are set on that price. However, there is no harm in asking. DO NOT pay the full price they first give you, because you will get ripped off. OR pay that price, but you better get some extra goodies.
- Don’t get taken. Jamaica was the only place we REALLY experienced this. Where a local attached himself to us and “showed us around” and then demanded $20/30 dollars from us while he showed us where his friend’s sold stuff and talked us into buying things. I usually can walk by and say no, but my boyfriend didn’t feel right ignoring them. So DALTA took us around town. As a better tip, stay in the “designated shopping” in Falmouth, Jamaica just to avoid unwanted problems.
- Take the freebies! One cool aspects of Caribbean cruises is that a lot of people sail in order to go shopping for luxury items like jewelry and watches. Which, if you want a nice price for a good piece, you should go for it. Yet the other little perk is that you can get some free items from different stores just for coming by with a flyer. We took advantage of a charm bracelet from Diamonds International for my boyfriend’s daughter, which included free charms from different ports and from the cruise ship. It made for a fun souvenir that an 8-year-old will LOVE and if she breaks, loses, or dislikes it we are not out anything. Also, other jewelry shops, like EFFY will give away free gemstone pendants etc. So keep an eye out for flyers, coupons and if your cruise offers a “shopping expert” to get more information from.
- Go back to the ship. For lunch and other needs, if you aren’t too far away or if you aren’t on an excursion, then head back to the ship for food in between. It’s usually no problem and often you’ll be done with shopping and exploring.
- Pack lunch. Depending on the port it’s pretty easy to bring a few things with you such as bananas, nuts etc. Granola bars are a good idea as well. This way you spend less time worrying about food and if you have allergies like me, this is even less to worry about.
~Rebecca Lee Robinson