Cruises are proving to be an increasingly popular way for retirees and families alike to travel and vacation. At first glance, it may seem like going on a cruise could break the bank, however, Bob Levinstein of CruiseCompete believes this doesn’t have to be the case. He recently spoke to Jim Puplava on the Financial Sense Newshour and shared several tricks you can use to keep costs down while still enjoying the convenience and luxury cruises offer.
See Interested in Cruising? Here Are the Facts for audio.
Levinstein said three of the biggest cruising markets include Europe, Alaska and the Caribbean with the most popular season running from May through September for European trips, while Caribbean cruises have year-round popularity. Many ships will relocate from Europe and Alaska down to the Caribbean and other warmer destinations as the weather gets colder.
If you’re looking to get the best for deal your cruise, especially if you’re departing from a U.S. port, Levinstein suggests avoiding school holidays and breaks. When kids are in school prices are lower than around popular breaks.
“The first couple of weeks in December are great for getting deals on cruises,” Levinstein said. “Especially because people have just gotten through Thanksgiving. The same is true for European and Alaskan cruises. There are a lot of Europeans who take their vacations over those summer months and it's nice to be able to go in May or September to avoid the crowds.”
Safety at Sea
Levinstein has heard concerns from potential cruisers regarding weather. While you can’t exactly predict the weather of your cruise months in advance, safety is a top priority for all ships. He said captains have advance information to anticipate any bad weather and can change the path of the ship if need be.
Aside from weather-related concerns, Levinstein also comes across potential cruisers who worry about outbreaks of illness on board the ship. He said most of the cases you hear about are overblown because of a maritime law that dictates if three percent of passengers and crew on a ship have the same illness, the ship must report it to the CDC.
The most common illness is called norovirus, or the 24-hour flu. If you live in the U.S., Levinstein explained, you catch it roughly once every three years. Generally, passengers bring it on board with them, rather than contract the infection aboard ship.
“You're probably safer on the cruise from illness than you would be at a hotel or in a shopping mall or anywhere else,” Levinstein said. “All the ships have doctors and nurses on board. If we’re talking about the river ships, you're really not that far from a hospital. Wherever you are, it's pretty easy to get off and get you to where you need to be.”
When Should You Book a Cruise?
Cruises that sail for a longer duration or that are higher end tend to book further in advance than shorter cruises, which typically book around their sailing date. River cruises are a popular option for European travel and part of their appeal lies in having only a few hundred passengers aboard. This means these types of cruises should be booked at least a year out.
The mainstream lines, such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian appeal to a more mass-market audience, with a focus on entertainment and kids. High-end options are more concerned with luxury travel and comfort.
Ultimately, when you book and who you book with will determine the price you pay, Levinstein said. He created CruiseCompete, for an easy to way to search for cruises by destination, length, sail date and cruise line. The site also has cruise specials for just about every destination and cruise type. For those interested in cruising, it pays to do your homework and research the best type of cruise for you. “This is a big purchase and you should save as much money as you can,” Levinstein said.