Imagine it now: the wind in your hair while out on the starboard deck, looking out at the ocean through a circular window, a new adventure daily at your port of call. Yes, a cruise vacation can be awesome — but it doesn't have to be expensive. A family friend, known to my parents and me as Earth's greatest travel hacker, filled me on a fact that made my jaw drop: you can take a cruise vacation for $200. This friend is a longtime cruise-lover who finalized plans for a weeks' vacation at the last minute, and in so doing, stumbled upon the wonderful world of cruise sales. He requested anonymity to protect his future bookings, but I've been granted permission to share his wisdom with the world. By following these five rules, you too can book a cruise for just about the cost of a new pair of Nikes.
- Do Not Be an Early Bird
To stay in business, cruise lines need to make money. For that to happen, some people need to book in advance and pay full fares. But when you can, it pays to procrastinate. Similar to late-booking hotel sites like LastMinute that offer deeply discounted rates on same-day stays, cruise operators can offer deep discounts just before the date of departure. If you're flexible, you can turned a planned staycation into an adventure at sea.
- Remember That Airfare Is Separate
The discounted cruise package is always separate from the cost of getting to the ship. You may be fortunate to live near an embarkation point, especially if you live in Florida. Otherwise, you need to pay to get to the boat.
- Learn to Love Different Embarkation Points
Getting a great deal requires lots of flexibility, including the city from which you depart. Cheap fares aren't available on every cruise, so you have to travel to where the deals are.
- Get in With the Cruise Operator
Cruise deals are often listed on the operator's own website. Briana Chisham, coordinator of public relations for Princess Cruises, directed me to Princess's own website where they list their last-minute, deeply discounted rates. If you're a frequent cruiser, you may be able to get an additional perk, like an onboard ship credit, which makes the cost of your vacation even lower. Cruise operators like to give perks to loyal customers.
- Save a Little Extra For Taxes, Fees, and Port Expenses
A recent search of published rates showed a short Princess cruise from Los Angeles to Vancouver departing April 26, 2015. Taxes, fees, and port expenses — a routine add-on to all cruise fares — came to an extra $55, which brings the cruise's total cost to $204, or just about the price of a new pair of Nike Flyknit Air Max sneakers.