Going on an international cruise was something I always wanted to do, but it was difficult trying to get friends and family to go due to work schedules, personal lives, not having passports, or lack of funds; these things always got in the way. I know things happen, and unfortunately not everything will work out, but after many years I finally decided I was tired of waiting for that right moment where everyone could go. So, I booked not only my first cruise but my first solo cruise.
When I started researching different international cruises, I found tons of great deals for groups of two or more, but not many for solo travelers. It seems all cruise lines charge double for solo travelers; I started to feel a little discouraged at this point. I was on a budget and looking for a great deal. After countless hours of research, I came across an amazing deal on Expedia for the exact itinerary I was looking at on the Holland America site for around $1000 less—a 7-day (roundtrip) cruise to four international ports in the Caribbean—with an average of $100 a night not including taxes and fees and leaving in a little over a month; I couldn’t believe it.
After I purchased my cruise ticket, I realized if I could find this amazing deal for a solo cruise, then I could find other ways to make my cruise more budget friendly.
Book last minute.
I booked my cruise a little over a month before the ship was to set sail; this is last minute booking—for me, at least—when it comes to travel transportation. Over the next few weeks I would check Expedia and the Holland America website to see if the price of my cruise would go down in price (it didn’t). However, there were tons of other cruises setting sail to various destinations leaving around the same time (the discounts I came across on both sites were amazing). Fun Fact: Cruise lines don’t like to set sail with empty cabins; therefore, as time gets closer for a ship to set sail they reduce their prices. A pretty good incentive for waiting until the last minute, don’t you think?
Onboard Ship Credit
When looking for a cruise, find one that offers an onboard ship credit (you can use this towards anything on your cruise); I received $100 ship credit when I booked my cruise. I’ve seen some cruises offer up to $1000. Though it does depend on the number of days of your cruise, it's a great way to save money on things you may want to purchase while onboard, nonetheless.
When you finally get to the port, you have the options of either staying on the ship, exploring the port on your own, or booking excursions. Staying on the ship is going to be the best option for a budget traveler, as pretty much everything you have access to is included in your initial bill. Exploring the port on your own allows you complete control of what you do and see. So, if you just want to walk around, not spend any money, and just take in the sights, you can do that! Excursions are extra tours you can pay for, either through the cruise line or a private company on shore; not all excursions are expensive. I found several that were only $19.99. The cheapest route is usually going through a private company.
Food & Drinks
Many cruise ships allow you to bring pre-packaged snacks (chips, granola bars, etc.), a case of water, and a bottle of wine on board. You can leave and come back on the ship as many times as you want when at the port, which allows you to eat lunch and dinner aboard, considering it’s already included in your initial bill. So, if you decided to have lunch on the ship and then dinner on shore, you save money. By choosing which destinations you prefer to eat at, you save money, or simply eat all your meals onboard the ship! I did eat most of my meals onboard, but one of my excursions included dinner, so that’s always an option. Look for an excursion that offers lunch or dinner—having fun and trying local cuisine: it’s a win-win.
I know it can be difficult not to spend money while traveling—believe me I get it—but having a budget and a plan on what to do with your money will save you in the long run. Decide what you want to do at each port before you go, and stick to it. Your wallet will thank you later.