Cruising Along

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Photo by Diego F. Parra

One thing I wanted to prioritize in this second chapter of my life was to travel more. Cruise number 2 is officially on the books for the end of January 2024. It’s an early 50th birthday trip for myself. This will just be a 4 day cruise for a variety of reasons. We booked a bit later than we did on our last one so payment was due in full by the first week of November. We’re dragging along some semi-reluctant first-time cruisers, and also my eldest son is going and he’s just started a new job. I hated for him to have to use all his vacation days right off the bat. Don’t you feel sorry for me though, my next one will be a longer cruise. A friend and I have basically decided we’re going to make this our annual January/February trip.

Benefits of Cruising

There are so many benefits to cruising. You’re paying for your floating hotel room, restaurants, and transportation. Your basic room cost includes your room, a variety of meals that includes very basic drinks (water, tea, basic coffee, lemonade), pools, shows, a fitness center, and of course beautiful ocean views.

Your choices to upgrade start with your room type. My first cruise and this second one I booked a balcony room. I suspect if I continue to cruise, I will end up trying to downsize into a standard room though since they are considerably cheaper.

You can add a drink package if you like also. We’re getting the cheers package, which includes alcohol, specialty coffees, sodas, shakes, pretty much any drink you can think of. It’s a pricy addition to the cruise price but I like the idea of not having to worry how much I am spending ala carte on each drink otherwise. It’s also great because if I want to try something new/different then it’s not a big deal of I don’t like it, because I can just order something different. You are limited to 15 alcoholic drinks a day but all other drinks are unlimited.

A cheaper option if you’re not a big alcohol drinker is to the Bottomless Bubbles, which will get you unlimited soft drinks and juices.

Most cruises have at least 2 and sometimes more ports depending on the length of your cruise. My first cruise went to Amber Cove in the Dominican Republic and Grand Turks. You will have anywhere from a few hours to most of a day in those stops to explore/hang out, book an excursion, or you can just stay on the ship and enjoy a less crowded environment for the day. One thing to keep in mind is that your food/drinks/activities at the ports will cost you extra. Your drink package is only active on the ship.

Cost-cutting Tips

As I said earlier, I anticipate booking my 3rd cruise soon. We’d like to try a different ship and a longer trip. I’ve not hit the lottery and some unexpected expenses have hit the pocket book so I’m going to look into a standard room which is much cheaper. Although a balcony room is fabulous, you have an entire ship to use as your balcony and most people are primarily in their room just to sleep and get ready for the day.

You can purchase discounted Carnival gift cards if you look around. On my first cruise I bought Carnival gift cards at Target and got them 5% off with my Target debit card. This trip I’m buying them with my new AARP membership and that gets me 10% off the gift cards. You can also get discounted cards for your airline tickets and hotels. My friend has a Southwest credit card that she uses to earn points on her flights.

If I really wanted to cut costs I could also cut out the drink package or drop it down at least to the soft drink package.

Ala Carte Vacations

I really like the ala carte experience that cruising offers. You can start your search by travel dates, locations, or even favorite ships. Choose a room type next and whether you want to include a drink package or one of the specialty restaurants. Decide if you want to book an excursion at your ports or just roam around on your own. Some people even choose to stay on the ship and enjoy the less crowded amenities.

Have you been on a cruise before? If not, is it something you might be interested in?

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