No cruise line can truly be called “the cheapest” because it all depends on what is included in the fare. You can certainly find a cruise for £500 pp for a week, but once you factor in drinks, crew gratuities, wi-fi, flights or port parking and excursions, you will find that your costs start to increase.
If you like drinks on board, look for an all-inclusive line such as Marella Cruises (tui.co.uk/cruise); Marella also flies from various regional airports, so your trip is covered. Or check out promotions from various specialist travel agents such as Cruise1st.co.uk or Iglucruise.com; MSC Cruises, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) are often featured. Look for deals that include drink packages, crew gratuities and wi-fi, as well as excursions, specialty restaurants and cabin upgrades. But before you get sucked into the price, always check if flights are included.
Visiting Palm Beach, Aruba, can be cheaper from June to October
In which months are cruises the cheapest?
The cheapest are in the off-season and off-season months, which vary depending on where you want to go. From June to October is the time to look for bargains in the Caribbean, for example. That’s because it’s hurricane season, so less popular, but that doesn’t mean the weather will be stormy all the time; more like a short, strong shower every day.
If hurricanes develop, cruise ships are unlikely to pass through them. You can skip ports to avoid storms. Statistically, the islands in the far east of the Caribbean, such as Barbados and Saint Lucia, tend to be less affected by hurricanes, as are those in the far south, for example Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. But there are no guarantees.
● The best family cruise lines
● The most beautiful river cruises in the world
In Europe, the off-season months are cheaper. So look at March and April in the Mediterranean (when the sea is cool for swimming) and at the end of October or November. If you want to see the Norwegian fjords, early spring, so around April, and autumn, including September and October, will be cheaper than peak summer.
The Alaska cruise season runs from May to September, with June and July being the most popular months. Take a cruise in September and you will undoubtedly get rain, but you can also see the Northern Lights.
Cruises are also cheaper if you book at the very last minute. If you’re flexible about exactly when and where you’re going, and with which line, you can get a good deal.
How can I save money on cruise excursions?
Do your research and figure out which ports you can explore independently, keeping in mind that if you’re disembarking on your own, it’s your responsibility to get back to the ship before it leaves. Ships will only wait if one of the cruise line excursions is delayed. But there are plenty of ports where it’s easy to do your own thing at a fraction of the cost of an official tour.
Use public transport to get around Barcelona
And how about going ashore?
Is there a hop on hop off tourist bus? Often these will be dropped off and picked up near or at the cruise port and they are a nice and easy way to see the sights.
Can you use local public transport or walk? Barcelona, for example, is easy to explore independently. The same goes for Venice, Valletta, Mykonos, Santorini, Bergen and Stockholm.
At other ports you are moored some distance from the main attraction and it may be prudent to book an excursion rather than relying on public transport. Rome, for example, is an hour’s drive from the port of Civitavecchia. Bangkok is an hour and a half from Laem Chabang wharf. The nearest port to Florence is Livorno, over an hour’s drive away.
If you prefer a guided tour, see if you can discount the cruise line’s offer. Venture Ashore (ventureashore.com) offers independent excursions to 111 ports, scheduled around cruise ship calls. They guarantee to get you back to your ship on time – and if the ship misses port for any reason, you don’t pay.
Alternatively, you can book a cruise that includes shore excursions. Silversea, Regent and Viking (admittedly all luxury lines) do, as do most river cruise operators.
How do I get a deal on a luxury cruise line?
Try a repositioning cruise. This is when cruise ships move from one sailing area, such as the Caribbean, to another, such as the Mediterranean, over the seasons. Repositioning cruises are less popular as they have fewer stops; you could sail from Fort Lauderdale to Malaga, for example, with a stopover in the Caribbean and a day in the Azores and the Canary Islands. The Positive Side ? Long days at sea to enjoy all-inclusive luxury and fine dining on your ship – and perhaps a spa treatment, too – with prices often half of what you’d pay for a more port-intensive cruise.
Sign up for our Times Travel newsletter and follow us on Instagram and Twitter