We sailed to the Bahamas on the Navigator of the Seas in February 2020 (right before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly stopped all cruise travel!)
Here’s how we spent only $307 out-of-pocket:
- We were very flexible when planning our trip
- Before even planning our cruise, we signed up for two credit cards that offered a large signup bonus of points that could be used for travel expenses (Saved $1670!)
- We booked our cruise through a cash back portal and got money back (Saved $110!)
1. Be Flexible
This is one of our best money saving tips: the more flexible you are when planning a vacation, the more likely you are to save. Some examples of how we applied this on our cruise:
- Rather than picking a destination or specific cruise, we looked for the best deals then chose from those options.
- We used Priceline.com to search for the cheapest cruises during the time period we were looking at. We did have a specific week in mind (our school’s winter break), but we didn’t specify where we wanted to leave from or where we wanted to go.
- We compared lots of flights, looking at all airports within ~6 hrs driving distance (Google Flights makes this easy!). We ended up driving to an airport 6 hours away from home and adding in a little vacation in Washington, D.C., before our flight to Miami for our cruise!
2. Use Credit Card Points to Save Money
There are several credit cards that offer points that can be used on travel expenses, including cruises. This article from The Points Guy does a good job explaining the various credit cards that can be used to pay for a cruise.
We highly recommend that you earn points well before you start thinking about your next trip. We had previously each signed up for a Barclay Arrival credit card, so by the time we started considering a cruise, we already had the points to pay for over $1600 of our cruise!
We also used airline miles for our flights to and from the cruise port and hotel points for the nights before and after our cruise.
3. Use a Cash Back Portal
Cash back portals are a good idea if you do much online shopping, and they are very easy to use. It may not seem like a big deal to save 5% on a purchase, but it adds up!
A cash back portal is a website that offers you cash back when you shop online if you navigate to the online store from a link on their site. It is that simple, and the cash back earned through them is in on top of any cash back you may earn for using your credit card.
We use TopCashBack and Rakuten (full disclosure–these are referral links; we will get a small commission and you will get the same great deals if you sign up through our link.) Booking a cruise on Priceline.com through a cash back portal will currently give you 5% cash back.
If you are willing to spend time researching and booking your cruise with these ideas, you can save hundreds of dollars, and a cruise can be a really affordable travel option for your family.
Also keep in mind that planning your own excursions is another way to save big on your cruise!