Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guest Post: Nichole's Money Saving Cruise Tips

**I am away on my 5 year wedding Anniversary cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico. While I am gone I have asked some fabulous Ladies that are my Blogging friends to guest post for me about their past cruises. Enjoy and please show them some Love! ~Crystal**

Hello to all you Thrifty and Frugal readers' out there! I'm Nichole and I blog over at Life as a Newlywed (aka Newlywed Nichole). While I am insanely jealous of Crystal and her vacation right now, she was nice enough to ask me to guest post for her today, so I must oblige!
{The obligatory self portrait of hubs and I on day one of our cruise}
I have been on two cruises myself now. The first on my honeymoon and another one this past March for my (and my husband's!) one year wedding anniversary. I wouldn't call myself a cruising expert by any means but I do have some experience with two trips under my belt, and so I thought I would share some tips today!
{View of our ship docked in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands}
Since Crystal blogs about deals, I thought I would share some of the ways we have saved money while cruising. Cruises are a great way to get the most bang for your buck when going on vacay. You get to visit some ah-mazing places, and most of your trip is inclusive (except for booze, which I'll cover in a sec) while you're on-board. I mean, how can you beat that?! I also like cruises because they give you a "sneak peek" at a destination in case you'd like to go back another time. For example, this past March, hubs and I visited Ocho Rios, Jamaica and I fell in love with the place. Now, I am dying to go back and stay on the island another time (sooner, rather than later if I am lucky!) for a few days instead of hours (since most of the time while cruising you're only in one spot for so long) and take it all in.
{Taking a catamaran (called Cool Runnings) to Dunn's River Falls}
Everyone is different, but the earlier you book; the better. I have only ever sailed on Carnival (so far) but they have a great incentive when you book early called the Early Saver. You get the best supposed price and if for some reason the rate goes down, you can contact them and get a credit for what you have over-paid on. Plus, you don't have to pay the entire trip up-front! If you book several months in advance, you can make payments on your cruise so you're not panicking and/or thinking you can't afford to go. If you didn't know this little tidbit, most folks think you have to pay up front for everything!
The spouse and I love a good drink and it can get expensive fast if you don't plan ahead. But on Carnival (and I'm sure other big cruise lines?) each guest can bring on one bottle (750ml) of champagne or wine on-board at check-in. Personally my husband doesn't like either so I get two for myself; cha-ching!
{My fave Reisling chilling for the night!}
I also strongly recommend pre-paying for your drinks. You can call or order pre-paid drink coupons online and they will be delivered to your state room (or dinner table the first night, depending on the ship). Its not a real deal (as in you're not getting a discount for pre paying) but if you pay ahead while you have the money, you aren't as likely to go broke and cry when you get that final bill at the end of your trip. We did this in March and saved so much money!
{Pre-Paid Bar Credits (accepted throughout the entire ship)}
 {Which paid for this mini martini tasting...YUM}
 ...and this Miami Vice drink (plus many more drinks!)
The Bon Voyage service on Carnival also does offer full sized bottles of alcohol that can be delivered to your room (you have to order before your cruise, however). Those prices are absolutely higher than your normal liquor store, BUT if you plan to drink a lot, you will (probably) save money.
One thing people always rave about is the food on cruises, right?! It is true that you can pretty much eat all day, everyday if you wish! I personally prefer the food in the dining room to that in the buffet but everyone is different. The portions in the dining room aren't huge but you can always ask for two of something and not feel greedy. A) you paid for an all inclusive, meals included trip B)it is a great way to try a dish you may not eat at home. For example, my husband wanted to try escargot (read: snails. Ew) since it was offered as an appetizer in the dining room. Not knowing if he'd enjoy it (I mean, it is  snails after all!) he also ordered a side salad to start. Turns out he did enjoy the escargot but he probably would never had tried it at home when he would have had to pay for it (though you are paying for food on the cruise, but you get my point), and so its also a great way to experiment!
I personally like cruises because really you can do a whole lot of whatever YOU want. From hanging by the pool to napping. Eating, going to the gym and hitting a comedy show or two, cruises have a lot to offer for not a ton of moola (once you break it all down). Plus, hello they are just FUN!
{Nassau, Bahamas 2011 (Honeymoon)}
I blog mostly about my life as a new wife and some random things in general, but I am always looking for the next best deal out there, so feel free to stop by and say hello over at my blog!
Thanks to Crystal for asking me to guest post! We all hope you're enjoying your cruise!

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