Taking an autumn cruise is a great way to unwind, see the sights with less tourist traffic and potentially save money.
Before you book a fall cruise, check out these tips which can help make your trip as smooth as possible.
Time your booking strategically
Ideally, it pays to be the early bird if you're booking a cruise. Booking six to 12 months in advance gives you time to compare rates and lock in the best deal.
That doesn't mean, however, that you should count out booking a fall cruise at the last minute. Ships often have cancellations or they don't book every cabin, so they may be willing to offer lower rates to fill those spots.
Two tips to remember if you're booking late:
First, choose a less-traveled destination. If you're booking a cruise that everyone wants to go on, rates for last-minute bookings may be higher, not lower.
Second, check airfare rates ahead of time to see how much it'll cost you to get to the cruise-boarding terminal. Saving money on your cruise fare is great but not so much if you have to pay big bucks for a last-minute flight.
Check your rewards credit card for cruise perks or incentives
Using a travel rewards credit card to book a fall cruise is a great way to earn miles toward free travel.
Some travel rewards cards also offer specific travel perks and benefits for cruises. For example, you may be able to redeem your rewards for on-board credits, complimentary room upgrades or discounts on cruise packages. Check to see if your card offers any of these benefits, which could help you save even more on a fall cruise.
Set your itinerary early and plan a schedule that works for you
If you're booking a fall cruise on the fly, take time to work out an itinerary and a schedule so you're making every moment count.
Look at where the ship will be making stops along the cruise route. Check out the various attractions at each port and decide which ones you most want to see.
If you plan to visit any of the stops along the way, think about how long it'll take you to get on and off the ship. Remember to bring along anything you'll need while you're on land, such as a photo ID, cash and your credit card.
Also, review the on-board events and activities to decide what piques your interest. Plan your days so they move at a pace that you're comfortable with and don't try to do everything if your number one goal is relaxing.
Watch out for steep fees
If you're taking a fall cruise and you want to save money, you need to be on the lookout for added fees. That includes fees for things like:
That last one is a biggie because you may be surprised by how much cruise taxes, custom fees and port fees can add on to the total cost of your fare. If you're booking a fall cruise that seems like a great deal, don't forget to factor in these fees so you have a better idea of what the cruise is actually going to cost.
Another cost to plan for: gratuities. Depending on the cruise line you're booking with, gratuities may be built into your fare but in some cases, they're automatically added to your on-board account. And gratuities aren't added on automatically for every service. If you're getting room service, for example, you'd have to tip the steward out of pocket, so make sure there's room in your budget for that.
Remember to keep safety first
Use your in-cabin safe to store valuables, and get to know your steward. Listen to instructions during the muster drill so you know where to go and what to do in case of an emergency. Make sure you're locking your cabin and balcony doors at night and when you're visiting other parts of the ship.
When you stop off at ports, steer clear of areas that are crime-prone. Avoid touring ports alone whenever possible; take a friend along or join up with a larger tour group if you're traveling solo. And if you're leaving the ship while the rest of your party stays on-board, let them know exactly where you're going and when you plan to return.
Saving money and keeping your budget in line matter when booking a fall cruise, but it's equally important to make sure you're staying safe along the way.
Do you have any cruise tips that didn't make our list? Tell us your tips and onboard experiences below.
All content provided in this blog is supplied by Rebecca Lake and is for informational purposes only. Barclays makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
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