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Tips for Cruising From a Professional Travel Guide

tips for cruising on the cheap and good deals

by Kileen Prather

I have to say that cruising is my favorite type of vacation. Since I am a tour manager and I am in hotels over one hundred nights a year, when I go on vacation, I like to unpack once but keep moving. And, that’s exactly what a cruise ship does.

My brothers and I take at least one cruise a year. (Although, lately I have done cruises for my job, too.)

Living in Texas in the winter, we have been able to go on cruises pretty reasonably, since we don't have to fly and we can book last minute. There are great deals to be had if you book in the last 45-60 days. And, we have learned a lot along the way.

[Here are some of Tina's cruise tips.]

Get an Outside Cabin

To me, an inside cabin is the least desirable. Some people say you don't spend that much time in your room, which is true. But, I hate the closed-in feeling in an inside cabin. A balcony, of course, is great, but for the price, a room with a picture window is fine. You get a good view and don't have that closed-in feeling. I have never done a porthole but I suppose it would be better than an inside cabin.

There are Great Cruise Deals Online

I have done a lot of research on the internet and there are many good sites, but my two "musts" are:

  • VacationsToGo.com: This is my favorite site for booking great last-minute deals.
  • CruiseCritic.com: At Cruise Critic, you will find invaluable information about ports you will be visiting, as well as cheaper vendors and safe things you can do to avoid those expensive shore excursions.

Consider a Taxi for a City Tour

One thing we have learned, especially on Caribbean cruises, is to skip the cruise ship’s city tours and go by taxi. If you use the taxis at the terminal, they have to have a special license to be able to come into the terminal area and, therefore, are very safe. The taxi drivers may negotiate their fares, however when you get in the terminal, go to the information booth and ask what a local "city tour" will run.  Then, you can compare options.

If you have read your ship bulletin and checked the Cruise Critic site, you should know the places you want to visit ahead of time. Then, go talk to the taxi driver. Never get in the taxi until you have negotiated your fare. And, the taxis have the same rate for 1-4 people. So... we find another couple on shipboard who wants to share a taxi with us. That way we split the cost and there is always safety in numbers.

How We Save Money

On our last cruise, we stopped at five ports. Every city tour ran $60-65 on the ship. In a taxi, it was $40, which ended up costing us $10 each (for 4 of us), plus a small tip. At the end of the cruise, we had spent $65 each on all five city tours; that’s an average of $13 per city.

Another time, in South America, we went to see the penguins in a national park in the region. The ship wanted $130 each. We went with another couple (she spoke fluent Spanish, which was very helpful) and we paid $25 each, plus a $5 tip each, for a total of $30! The cost to get into the national park was extra but we spent less than $50 per person.

Do Your Homework Beforehand

I can't stress enough how important it is to do your homework. You don't want your vacation ruined because you didn't do your homework.

If the shore excursion is more than an hour away from the ship, think about spending the extra money to take the cruise ship’s excursion. If you take a taxi and you are out in the country somewhere, and the taxi breaks down, you may not be able to get back to the ship on time. At the very least, ask the taxi driver if he is carrying a spare tire.

On our penguin adventure, we felt pretty secure since there were so many taxis and buses running up and down that highway. Plus, we went early in the morning so we had wiggle room getting back to the ship. It can get very expensive having to take a flight to the next port of call to catch the ship you missed by not being back on time.

(Note: The ship will wait for passengers who are on official excursions booked through the ship, but the ship will not wait for passengers who have set up excursions on their own, so plan accordingly.)

More About Kileen Prather:

To read in depth about the Seattle area, check out Kileen's book, Journey Beckons. You can buy it at Kileen Prather.com.

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Originally published on AfterFiftyLiving.com by Kileen Prather. Posted here with permission from Kileen Prather.

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Having been a Tour Manager for the last fourteen years and being in thirty-five to forty states a year, there are not too many places Kileen Prather hasn’t visited in the U.S. She loves traveling and meeting so many wonderful people from all over. Kileen likes to share her favorite places and different means of travel whether going by car, boat, train or motorcoach (bus).

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