Cruises: 7 great ways to save

2013-01-11 08:29
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Cruising is probably one of the holidays you've toyed with taking but have never actually got down to booking. Here are seven ways to save money if you do decide to go for it.

1. Start planning and book early
Most cruise lines offer what is known as early-bird cruising specials, that usually involve reductions of as much as 50%. But you really need to start looking 6 to 12 months in advance. Planning your trip this far in advance should also give you buying power when it comes to flights and hotel bookings if you're not based in the port of departure.  It is also a good idea to keep an eye on the cost of the cruise – if fares go down; you might be able to negotiate a lower rate too.

2. Take a risk and play the waiting game
No, we’re not entirely batty. If you’re more spontaneous in nature and aren’t too fussy when it comes to cabin choice then you may want to consider booking  90 days before you want to sail to take advantage of the last-minute deals offered by most cruise liners. As with our above suggestion, this affects your ability to book flights and accommodation to the port – so best you keep this in mind to avoid any disappointments. Now might the best time to mention the Queen Mary II is headed to Cape Town shores as part of it's World Cruise in April.

3. It doesn’t hurt to ask for a discount
Asking the right questions can most certainly work in your favour, especially if you’re a repeat customer. If you're 60 or older, don't be shy about asking for a senior citizen discount. If it’s your first time booking a cruise you might not be aware that prices are often based on double occupancy, a third or fourth person in your cabin should get a 30 to 60 percent discount.

4 .Don‘t rule out talking directly to an agent
Many online sites like Expedia allow you to tailor your own cruise. But don’t rule out talking to directly to an agent. Not only do some of them have access to reserved inventory that can be sold to you for a special rate but as mentioned above – if necessary they can negotiate any rate changes for you directly should the overall advertised cost of the cruise have gone down.

5. Splash out in a group
More and more families are spread across the globe, which makes a cruise an ideal possibility for a family reunion. Did you know that the larger your group the bigger your chances of shaving a sizable amount off your overall cost. Speak to an agent who can help you with securing a block of cabins, but do allow enough time for the booking to ensure this is possible.

6. Understand the extras
The trend of unbundling to display the lowest price to you the consumer can be annoying, especially if you’re not aware of what’s included. Meals are a big part of cruising but best you clarify upfront what activities, food, drinks, and sundries will be added to your fare to avoid any last minute bill shockers. Generally you should expect to pay for drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic and things like massages.

7. Take the bridging gap
Sailing when most folks stay home could see you securing a modest bargain — maybe 10 percent off typical high-season rates which is still something. If you're departing from South Africa, the Mediterranean is popular from May - October,while world cruises to or from Cape Town take place from Jan - April, as mentioned earlier the QM2 will be docking in April. Take a look at these seasons for some of the other popular cruise routes.

Caribbean
High Season: Late June - August; Christmas and New Year's weeks; February - mid-April
Low Season: Late April - May; September - early January (excluding holiday weeks)

Europe River Cruises
High Season: April - October
Low Season: March; Late November - December

Mediterranean
High Season: May - September
Low/Shoulder Season: October - April

Northern Europe

High Season: June - August
Low/Shoulder Season: May and September

Tahiti/South Pacific

High Season: May - October
Low/Shoulder Season: November - April

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