Sadly, every vacation must come to an end. We recently got off the Celebrity Reflection and, while I’ve done over two dozen cruises in my lifetime, I rarely come off the ship without a few thoughts of “I’m glad I did it this way” or “I wish I had done it that way.” In the past, I’ve listed a few ideas that I thought might be helpful. Here are a few more.
The Suites May Be A Good Value
There used to be only a few types of cabins on cruises: Inside, Outside, Balcony and Standard Suites. You could opt for more space or less, and everything else was pretty much the same.
Now? The new Celebrity Edge has eight different types of suites alone, not to mention the mix of Aqua Class, Concierge, standard, etc. And some of them get pretty pricey.
The “lower-end” suites, however, may not be that much more than the popular balcony cabin, particularly if it’s not a popular time of year. And in order to justify those prices, the cruise lines offer some pretty interesting perks. For example, suites on Celebrity cruises offer the following:
- $150-300/cabin in onboard credits
- Free premium drink package. Get even the good stuff for free. Normally, about $60/person/week.
- Prepaid gratuities. Tips are added at the end and are $12-15/person. On a seven-night cruise, that adds up.
- Free internet access. It’ll be slow, but it’ll be free. Internet packages on ships are not cheap.
- Other benefits, such as a private lounge, a butler, reserved seating at entertainment, etc.
- A better credit from your travel agent.*
The upgrade doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re paying out of pocket for the extras anyway, you might as well look into a suite.
Can You Go in The Low-Demand Periods? Good.
Pricing for cruises works much like pricing for airlines. They have a revenue management department and software that are responsible for measuring supply and demand. Using these data, the they determine the appropriate price for the cruise.
There are periods when it is easy to fill cabins and times when it isn’t. The old philosophy with cruise lines used to be to fill the last cabin at any price, since you would make up the price difference with onboard sales. In the past few years, however, the parent companies began to try something new. Since they generated fewer onboard sales from those in the cheapest cabins (i.e., the people searching for value), they began to maximize the price that they could get per cabin. If they sailed with a few empty, so be it.
That fact doesn’t change, however, the basics of supply and demand. For example, cruises over Christmas week are always full, since families travel together. The ship always feels the most full during these periods because so many cabins have four people in them, not just two. But if you can go two weeks later, the price will be half of what it is during Christmas vacation.
Want to see expensive? Look for a cabin on any Disney cruise that spans the holidays. Then go to the bank to get a second mortgage.
Do Everything Early
Reservations are good and lines are no fun. Here’s a cheap way to add a couple of hours to your cruise: Do as much as you can ahead of time, or as soon as you get on the ship. Get to the port an hour before they tell you to and you’ll be among the first to board. Booking a shore excursion? Do it ahead of time. Want to eat at one of the many specialty restaurants on-board? If you can’t do it beforehand, make a reservation as soon as you get on the ship. You’re not going to be doing much those first few hours, anyway. You might as well make them useful.
On the way back, get a copy of your bill two nights before you disembark. They’ll likely drop one in your mailbox the night before you get off, but if there’s a mistake, the line at passenger services will be 25 people long.
Even if you’re not naturally a planner, it’s good to do so on a cruise.
There Are Plenty Of Healthy Choices for Meals
I remember going on cruises 30 years ago, when the main dining rooms had excellent food and the midnight buffet had those little puff pastries. The puff pastries are still available, as are grills, pizza and various other forms of dangerous choices.
But the cruise lines have also stepped up their game on the healthy side, as well. For the most part, it’s a “do-it-yourself” process. They’ll have “healthy” items market on the menu in the dining rooms, but it’s the cruise line that determines what good-for-you actually means. But on the deck and at the buffet, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the offerings. The salad bar has more choices than ever, while the fruit is fresh. The ship that I was just on had a cook-to-order stir-fry station. And dishes elsewhere can be tailored to your tastes. Want an egg-white omelette with broccoli and tomato? No problem. The options may not be limitless, but at least they’re there. And the puff pastries were never that good, anyway.
If you’ve made it this far, you deserve something truly interesting. So check out this video of Royal Caribbean’s Ultimate Family Suite.
*You are using a travel agent, right? It costs you nothing and they generally have access to deals that you don’t. If you don’t have a good travel agent, I’ll loan you mine. Nope, I don’t get any referral fees from her. It’s all just part of the service around here.
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