6 Secret “Weapons” Smart Cruisers Use To Save Money

6 Secret “Weapons” Smart Cruisers Use To Save Money And Transform Their Cruise

Based on the messages I get every week I know one of my favourite “secret weapons” is already saving passengers hundreds of dollars, pounds, or Euros. And even if you know that one, I’m positive the five others will make your cruise dollars go further, and should transform every cruise you go on in the future. Just as they did on my recent Ooosterdam cruise, as I will explain.

My first set of “secret weapons” are all things I use to save or use money better. Starting with a quick word about the one I have told some about.

Smart Cruisers Secret Weapon #1: Tracking

All smart cruisers track their fares using an easy-to-use method. You can save big money this way, I got back $1,800 off an Azamara cruise last year when they cut fares below what I had paid.

After you book, fares change based on demand. If the ship is filling up, fares go up and it isn’t, fares go down. If the price falls, I always ask the line for the lower fare, extra on-board credit, or an upgrade. Most times I get it.

My secret – and simple – weapon to track my fares is using Cruisewatch.com, Cruiseline.com or CruiseCritic.com. I have an article on how to set these up on my website, so check that out. It could be return hundreds of dollars, pounds, or Euros to you.

I did that for this cruise and saw fares went up versus what I paid, so nothing back this time.

But, another secret weapon helped me tackle another big cost on this cruise, and not only make savings but have a way better time and experience.

I was on a 14-night Holland America Oosterdam cruise around South America. Before joining the ship, I looked at the excursions and realised that they would easily have added up to $1,500 to the trip per person, as they range from $100 to $200 each. Here’s what I did instead of booking organised tours.

Smart Cruisers Secret Weapon #2: Busy Ports

First, I looked at CruiseTimetables.com. Like for every trip, I inputted this cruise to see how many ships would be in each port at the same time.

Knowing this helps me decide the best thing to do in every port. Stay on the ship because it’s going to be manically busy? Self-explore because it’s not going to be that crowded? Or find an excursion that helps me avoid the crowds?

On my last cruise in the Caribbean with Regent Seven Seas, it made a huge difference knowing this. For example, I saw in Barbados there would be six mega ships in, and it estimated there would be between 15,000 and 20,000 cruise passengers. I knew that many would head to Harbour Lights beach area. So, I chose an excursion which avoided that.

On my Oosterdam trip, I could see only one small Viking or Saga ship would be in ports at the same time, so self-exploring or any excursions would be fine.

Knowing this, I then used probably one of my favourite weapons of all. It’s also the least attractive looking of all these secret weapons of mine, but boy is it brilliant.

Smart Cruisers Secret Weapon #3: Going-Ons

It’s called WhatsInPort.com and it covers every port of every size. It tells you about where the ship docks, the facilities, watch outs, what to see and do, how to get to the best sights, and even has a map of the port area to download.

I found it a goldmine for my Oosterdam cruise, as other than Ushuaia, I have not been to any of the ports. From this I discovered what I wanted to see, what I needed an excursion for and what I could do myself.

For example, based on their suggestions for Montevideo, I wanted to go to the Carnival Museum and Plaza de la Independencia. They showed one was right by the port and the other walking distance, and so I could do it on my own, avoiding the costly excursion the line offered.

WhatsInPort.com is absolutely one of the best weapons I use to help me get the most from a port.

Smart Cruisers Secret Weapon #4: Alternatives

Once I looked at that site, I checked the cruise line excursions, to see what they were offering.

On my Oosterdam South America trip, WhatsinPort.com made it clear some of the best sights were some distance away.

So, in those ports I looked at what the line offered, but before booking (as some were pricey, like the $350 trip I wanted to do in Punta Arenas Chile to Magdalena Island and Penguin Reserve), I turned to another of my cost saving weapons.

And that is checking what two independent providers I have found reliable over the years offered. One is VentureAshore.com and the other is ShoreExcursionsGroup.com.

I just put in Holland America, selected Oosterdam, and my departure date, and it gave me all the excursions that they offer in each port.

I found more diverse and niche excursions than through Holland America, ranging from an Argentinean cooking class run by a famous local chef in Buenos Aires to a heritage tour in Montevideo targeted at the Jewish community.

As an aside, here’s other secret weapon I use in warmer climates, like that Regent Caribbean trip I mentioned earlier. I love beach and resorts days on warm cruises, and while cruise lines sell these excursions, ResortPass.com has a choice of resorts, and better and fancier ones, at much less cost.

Before more money saving secret weapons of mine, I want to talk about something most cruisers know about but don’t know it’s power. I see smart cruisers use it in a very specific way

Smart Cruisers Secret Weapon #5: Getting Answers

And that is Cruise Critic. I don’t use Cruise Critic for the reviews. I use it for three other things, and again for my Oosterdam trip.

First, it is an incredible way for getting answers to very specific questions about your cruise, ship, or cabin.

I’m often asked questions that are so specific or time-sensitive, it’s impossible to know the answer to.

For example, Lynn, who’s going on a P&O cruise and is deaf, wanted to know about what they do in terms of entertainment and what adjustments they have in the daily program activities for deaf people.

She turned to me as even P&O’s own customer service didn’t know. I suggested she post that question in the Cruise Critic P&O forum, she got amazing information from recent deaf travellers.

Another follower, Dave, wanted to know if some specific aft cabins on Carnival Mardi Gras were any good, or suffered from noise and vibration. Following my suggestion, he got the answer from people just back from recent trips in those cabins by posting it in the Carnival Cruise Critic forum.

I even saw others asking people on board to post daily programs to see what the activities and entertainment is like on Holland America.

Roll Calls

The second thing I use it for is the roll calls. I joined the roll call for this trip, and it’s been packed with tips and more.

For example, people were clubbing together to arrange and share mini-bus transfers to the ship and saving a fortune. This trip required flying to Santiago, but the ship departs from Valparaiso (an hour and a half away). The Holland America transfer was almost over $200 each, I was quoted over $300 by a private transfer company.

Others found some unusual excursions via the Roll Call for specific interests like birdwatching, and they’ve found tours and a guide to go on together.

I’ve seen solo travellers in there connecting and get to know other solos before the trip.

The third way that I use it, which at the time of recording is on pause due to a hangover from Covid restrictions but could be back by time you watch this, is the Meet and Mingles.

On Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle page, I would sign up for the meet up on my cruise which is run in conjunction with the line at the start of a cruise.

I have had some great ones in the past where I’ve met people, and hear others making plans, and getting tips and ideas for ports from people who have been to them before.

Are you ready for another fantastic secret weapon for spending money better on a cruise?

Smart Cruisers Secret Weapon #6: Drinking

This one will cut that big on-board cost: drinks.

I see many passengers buying the drinks packages, as they assume they will save money versus buying drinks on the go. You can be paying up to $60 plus per day per person, and every adult in your cabin must also buy the same drinks package on most lines.

So, on my 14-night Holland America cruise, the Elite Drinks package would add a staggering $1,680 to the bill per couple.

I always use another easy-to-use nifty tool to see whether buying a drinks package on my cruise is a good idea or not.

There are two drinks package calculators that I use, either the one on Cruzely.com or CruiseMummy.co.uk. I input the cruise line, what I think I will drink on average per day, and they tell me whether it’s worth buying a drinks package, which type or not at all.

Even as a non-alcohol drinker, I use these clever secret weapons to check whether it’s worth buying the soft drink or non-alcoholic package.



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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3 Responses

  1. Calvin says:

    I’ve watched your channel for awhile now. I just saw your video on “6 game-changing “cruise weapons””. Im going on my 10th cruise this summer and never even thought about tracking it, but I decided to look this one up following your tips, and there’s an almost 1,000 dollar difference between the prices. I called up the cruise line, and it is under review. Hopefully I will hear some good news. Thanks for the advice.

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