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Cyclone Season Cruising in Australia and the South Pacific: What You Need to Know
Cyclone Season Cruising in Australia and the South Pacific: What You Need to Know
How to Cruise When You're Almost Broke
Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Vista (Photo: Cruise Critic)

How to Cruise When You're Almost Broke

How to Cruise When You're Almost Broke
Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Vista (Photo: Cruise Critic)
Gina Kramer
Contributor
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Let's be honest. We've all had those moments of travel envy, when everyone except us seems to be on holiday and we think, "Hmm, wish I was there!" You work so hard, but still can't afford that cruise you vowed to take as part of your "travel more" New Year's resolution.

Luckily, your chances of hitting the high seas sometime soon are better than you think.

You can cruise for less than £500 per couple -- as long as you don't have your heart set on a weeklong cruise or "luxuries" such as a balcony cabin or shore excursions. After all, beggars can't be choosers. If you're low on cash and desperate for a quick getaway, follow these guidelines on how to cruise when you're totally broke.


Beach at Grand Turk Port

Let's be honest. We've all had those moments of travel envy, when everyone except us seems to be on holiday and we think, "Gee, it must be nice!" You bust your buns but still can't afford that cruise you vowed to take as part of your "travel more" New Year's resolution.

Luckily, your chances of hitting the high seas sometime soon are better than you think.

You can cruise for less than $600 per couple -- as long as you don't have your heart set on a weeklong cruise or "luxuries" such as a balcony cabin or shore excursions. After all, beggars can't be choosers. If you're low on cash and desperate for a quick getaway, follow these guidelines on how to cruise when you're totally broke.

Learn how to hunt for deals.

If the best cruise deals were easy to find, everyone would snatch them up. Dedicate a little extra time and effort to sign up for e-newsletters and search for cruises where you'd least expect them, such as wholesalers like TravelZoo or online marketplaces like Groupon. Travel agents also make excellent resources, as they have access to exclusive deals and can even add in a bonus treat such as a bottle of bubbly or onboard credit to save you money once you're on the ship. Members of the military (active, retired or discharged) also are entitled to special rates.

Broaden your search options with these seven unusual places to book a cruise.

Sail close to home.

Cheap cruises prevail close to home, particularly in the South Pacific and New Zealand, and are accessible from local homeports. Domestic flights are obviously cheaper than international ones, and you can save even more money if you live within driving distance of a homeport and can skip flying altogether. The South Pacific is the top spot for major deals due to the large quantity of ships heading there, particularly during peak cruise season.

Learn more about driving versus flying to your cruise.

Pacific Aria under the bridge

Look at budget-friendly cruise lines.

Carnival Cruise Line, P&O Cruises Australia and Royal Caribbean are the most popular mainstream cruise lines for a reason. They offer the widest variety of affordable cruise options and dominate Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Additionally, these cruise lines' ships are loaded with free activities such as mini-golf, outdoor movies, swimming pools and surf simulators. Note: Cruise fares typically depend on a ship's sail date, age and desirability, so some ships within the same fleet will be more affordable than others.

Find out which cruise lines offer what, in this list of the 12 best "free" things to do on a cruise.

Go during peak cyclone season.

No, we're not crazy. Peak cyclone season, which runs from November to April, is one of the cheapest times of the year to cruise the South Pacific -- especially February and March when the kids are back at school. The reason: You might not get to visit the ports you initially thought you would. When a storm pops up on the radar and looks like it's heading toward a ship's path, the captain will alter the itinerary to avoid it. You never need to worry about sailing into a cyclone. On the bright side, most early-summer and mid-autumn cruises follow their planned itinerary with sunny (or at least, not stormy) weather.

Bottom line: You can save big bucks if you're content with unexpected surprises. Check out more reasons why you might want to cruise during cyclone season, a few potential downsides to be mindful of and tips if you decide to give it a whirl (no pun intended).

Will you cruise during cyclone season? We break down the reasons you should.

Breakers Bar on Norwegian Sky

Don't bet on seven days.

It is possible to snag a good deal on a weeklong cruise, but in most cases, you'll find that short cruises (three- to five-night itineraries) are the bigger money savers. (Some have been known to drop to less than $70 per person, per night.) Bear in mind: These cruises tend to have more of a party atmosphere because they attract a younger crowd and lots of bachelor/hen’s parties and other celebratory groups. P&O Australia has taken short cruises a step further with themed short breaks such as food and wine, music and comedy cruises.

Book an inside cabin.

Inside cabins are ideal for cruisers on a tight budget. They're the lowest and most affordable category you can book, simply because they lack a view and come with bare-bones features. As with any ship, however, not all inside cabins are created equal. While some might be akin to dark closets with a bed and bathroom, others strive to make you feel a little less claustrophobic. (Some even have secret windows!) If you don't spend that much time in your cabin, you're not missing out on much.

Choose wisely, from our breakdown of the nine best cruise ship inside cabins … and three to avoid.

Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Vista

Eat only in free dining venues.

Most cruise ships feature a main dining room (sometimes multiple dining rooms), buffet and a few casual eateries -- all in which you can eat for free. Main dining rooms are a universal favourite for dinner, thanks to their rotating menus and myriad options, which typically include designated vegetarian dishes. (Other special dietary requests can be accommodated with advance notice.) The food is pretty average, as it is in the buffet, but some free alternative dining venues such as Dragon Lady and Angelo’s on P&O Australia and the excellent Dive-In burger bar on Holland America -- as well as free room service on a number of lines -- add excellent value to your cruise fare.

Who does free cruise dining best -- Royal Caribbean, Carnival or Norwegian?

Fill up on free drinks.

Free drinks are one of many ways you can save on booze at sea. Find out if your cruise line hosts a captain's cocktail party. On certain lines, servers at these celebratory soirees will make the rounds with trays of complimentary wine or Champagne. Art auctions also serve free drinks, even if you're only there to look. Additionally, a number of lines offer BOGO (buy one get one) deals and other drink specials listed in the ship's daily planner. Considering specialty cocktails average around $12, you can save a significant amount by taking advantage of these specials throughout your cruise. Be sure to check the fine print for locations and happy hour times.

Save while you sip with these 15 ways to get free (or cheaper) drinks on a cruise.

Beach at Grand Turk Port

Hit the beach.

As if someone needed to tell you! The beach is one of many free ways to have fun in port -- and if you're in the South Pacific or New Zealand, options abound. In most cases, you can easily access a beach by foot or shuttle bus. If you have a few bucks to spare, we suggest taking a cab to another nearby beach with fewer crowds and a more authentic island vibe. Just make sure you keep an eye on the clock; sunshine and pina coladas have been known to foreshadow embarrassing cases of cruisers bolting down the pier toward their ships with minutes to spare before the gangway gets pulled inside.

Need some inspiration? We list nine free activities to do in a cruise port.

Save as a group.

Fares are generally lower for third and fourth passengers booked in the same cabin, but sometimes, cruise lines will offer deals in which third and fourth passengers sail at significantly discounted rates -- or even free. This can be a steal if you're travelling with kids or as a group who's comfortable being in the same room together. Just remember you're still responsible for port fees, which can add up to about $200 each.

What's your free cruise perk really worth? We help you decide if that shiny promo is a bang or a bust.

Updated April 24, 2020

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