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How to go on a luxury cruise without breaking the bank: Tips and tricks

Four ways to get your dream ocean getaway without paying full price.

How to go on a luxury cruise without breaking the bank: Tips and tricks

(Illustration: Lars Leetaru © The New York Times)

A luxury cruise usually comes with luxury pricing, but there are ways to save money on your next onboard getaway, said Judy Perl, a cruise specialist and the founder of Judy Perl Worldwide Travel.

“You can get a lot more for your money if you know what to look for when picking an itinerary,” she said.

Here, she offers some tips to get the most bang for your buck the next time you book a cruise.

LOOK FOR 'POSITIONING CRUISES'

In the cruise industry, “positioning cruises” (sometimes referred to as “repositioning cruises”) are ones where a ship relocates from one region to the next. According to Perl, these itineraries are generally lower-priced because they’re often one-way tickets from one location to another, and they often occur during the off season or shoulder seasons.

Examples of these cruises include a trans-Atlantic crossing from Miami to Lisbon in time for the Mediterranean sailing season, a coastal cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver in time for Alaska’s season and one from New York to St Thomas in time for the Caribbean season.

“Even the priciest cruise lines offer deals on these sailings, compared with what their other itineraries cost,” Perl said. Virtually every cruise line offers positioning cruises, and many even allow you to search specifically for them on their websites.

LOOK FOR HIGH-END ROOMS ON BUDGET-FRIENDLY SHIPS

Spring for top category staterooms on lower-priced ships, Perl said. “Most cruise lines have dedicated staff and areas on ships which are only for guests who book these rooms,” she said. “You’ll get a large room or suite and outstanding amenities and service.”

For example, many cruise lines offer “ship within a ship” areas with restricted access, and amenities only available to passengers staying in that part of the ship. Those amenities can include early boarding, butler or laundry services, a private restaurant, pool, or even dedicated spa access - those perks can be pricey, but if you get them on a budget-friendly ship, you can enjoy a high-end experience overall for less than if you’d booked the same cabin type on a pricier ship or cruise line.

CONSIDER A 'GUARANTEE' CABIN

Some cruises offer the option to book a “guarantee”, which means that you’re guaranteed to have a room in the class you select (for example, a balcony cabin or an inside cabin) but don’t have an official cabin assignment until just before your trip.

“By definition, you will either be assigned a cabin in the category you are guaranteed in or higher,” Perl said. “You would be surprised how often upgrades occur, which are worth hundreds and even thousands of dollars.”

SPRING FOR THE ALL-INCLUSIVE ONBOARD PACKAGE

Do your research before booking a cruise that seems more attractively priced, compared with others you’re interested in, Perl said, because that price may not include amenities you’re looking forward to. Drinks, meals in the ship’s specialty restaurants, Wi-Fi or gratuities may all be on you, when you could have saved by booking an all-inclusive package.

Booking an all-inclusive cruise that includes all these extras (and an open bar, too) and sometimes, even shore excursions (especially on river cruises), will almost certainly save you money and give you flexibility, especially if you’re not the type to track every dollar you spend on vacation.

“An all-inclusive cruise may have a higher cost, but you’ll end up saving money overall and won’t be nickel-and-dimed throughout your trip,” Perl said.

By Shivani Vora © The New York Times 2018

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