8 Tips for Cruising on a Budget

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St. Thomas, USVI

Nowadays when it comes to vacationing it seems almost impossible to get away without throwing away your entire pit of savings. Recently, my family and I have really enjoyed cruising because you get to see many different places, there’s always something to do, and there always seems to be something to do that appeals to each of us.

The only problem with cruising is somehow no matter what we do, we always end up with some sort of ridiculous bill at the end. I would say that is the biggest downfall to a cruise vacation, for what going in can seem very budget friendly (if you can find a cruise special for under 300 and flights for 200 or can drive to port you could potentially go on a 5-7 day getaway for around 500 per person).

That being said, as I stated earlier, cruises always have a magical way to get you to fork over ridiculous amounts of cash. More recently it seems as though around every corner on the boat there is some sort of costly temptation whether it be drinks, excursions, gift shop, sweet shops, or specialty dining.

Because of this, I have compiled a list of ways to enjoy your cruise and not break the bank and or potentially not spend any additional money.

1. Look for Cruise Specials

Okay so this one is obvious, and often times this isn’t really an option for everyone because most of the time the sailing date is often at a weird time. However, if you find yourself with a flexible schedule, you may be able to find a cruise that may cost $500+ during a summer month for $200-$300 per person in January. If are traveling with let’s say a family of five, saving $200 per person could save you $1000 in the long run.

2. Find a Departure port within driving distance

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Charleston, South Carolina

Once again, this option may not really work for everyone. If you are departing from a city in the middle of the USA it may just not really be possible to make the drive to a port city. That being said, I know I would personally be willing to drive max 10 hours away, so in that situation I would actually have a lot of options. Although you would still have to pay for gas tolls etc. that would probably maximally come to about $200 total. Once again, if you think about a family of five going on vacation and you get a flight for anywhere from $200 to $500 per person, you could potentially save yourself anywhere from $800 to $2300 dollars.

3. Fly out of a major airport

So this is for those who driving really isn’t an option to. You can save a lot of money on flights if you simply just fly from the nearest major airport to you. Living near Philadelphia I kind of luck out that within two hours I have several major airports. However, let’s say you live in Rochester New York, I can almost guarantee you that if you that if you look to fly out of the local airport it is going to cost you. Instead be open to flying out of other airports such as Buffalo, Syracuse, Toronto, or even the Niagara Falls Airport for flights with discount airlines such as Spirit or Allegiant. If you are willing to drive around two hours to an airport you could save a significant penny.

4. Look for cruise ports that won’t require you to book an excursion

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San Juan, Puerto Rico

This a really big one considering excursions can range anywhere from like $30 per person to $200+ per person. That being said I have done excursions that were worth every single penny– but that is not the point. The point of this is sticking to a budget. A couple of ports I would recommend would be Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos; Isla Roatan, Honduras; Havana, Cuba; Nassau, Bahamas; Catalina Island, California; San Juan, Puerto Rico, Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic; or any time the cruise ship mentions going to their private island. These ports have either had a beach or the city right there so you can just get off the boat and immediately be right where you want to be and explore without having to spend an extra dollar.

5. Be careful at the bar

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Charleston, South Carolina

Okay I’ll be honest this one can be tough. Obviously the most cost effective solution is to not drink but as most of us are cruising for vacation, this really isn’t an option. I have seen drinks at the bars on boat range anywhere from around $7 to $11+. If you choose to pay for drinks as you go you could save $100+ just by getting one of the less expensive drinks on the menu. Another option the cruise is going to tempt you with is going to be to buy a drink package. Basically, you would pay around $55 dollars a day and you get like 10 or 15 drinks a day included. I would definitely recommend this if you plan on getting at least 7 drinks a throughout the course of the day or if you enjoy really fancy drinks such as martinis.

If you plan on going on a vacation where you are going to be drinking quite a bit, cruise lines such as Norwegian now have some cruises where all the alcohol is included. So you literally just walk up to the bar and they give you whatever you like. Or anytime a server comes by with a tray of drinks you can try whatever you would like to try. This is also nice because if you get a drink you don’t like you don’t have to feel so bad about not finishing it.

6. Eat On-Board when you are at port

The best thing about the cruise is that you literally have unlimited food within an arm’s reach ALL THE TIME and…. IT’S FREE! So if you want to save a chunk of money on your days at port simply eat on the boat right before you go, explore– maybe get a small snack, drink, or a local favorite, get back on the boat and then fill up on all that good free food again. Going back to my family of five scenario, let’s say for everyone to get lunch at port it costs $100. If you go to three different ports you could save yourself a good $300 dollars.

That being said, I do understand that some places you go there are food you are going to want to try. However, if you opt for a couple small snacks, this little trick will still save you a lot of money!

7. Only allow select members of your group spending privileges

This one more pertains to families, but when you are on the boat your room key becomes your form of payment. When you book your cruise you will have the option to choose who in your party has the ability to make charges on their card. My next tip will kind of get into this more but the boat is going to have a lot of ways where it is easy to swipe your card and pay for something stupid and if only one or two people have access to making charges, it is a lot easier to control what, when, and how money is spent.

8. Avoid all the ‘extras’

This one could probably be the most difficult. Like I stated in the beginning, every corner on the boat there is some sort of option to spend extra money. This can include but is not limited to shopping, specialty dining, a sweet shop, arcade, a casino, and even classes. Long story short, if you want to save a good amount of money I would just straight up avoid all the above because I can tell you from experience you really aren’t missing much.

So if you are planning your next vacation but finding yourself on a rather tight budget, cruising could be a really great option for you! By following the tips listed above you can make sure you actually stick to that budget.

Got any other suggestions or think I’ve made a mistake? Leave it in the comments?

Need help planning your next vacation??  Leave me comment!

xoxo

 

05.31.16 Two more days exploring Chiang Mai

Before I even begin, I’m going to apologize in advance because this is about to be another long one… so once again, kudos to those who actually read until the end.

Waking up on Monday was an absolute blessing because it was the first day I actually slept through the entire night and woke up pleasantly around 7. After waking up I went downstairs to the lobby where I had wifi to catch up on what was happening with my family and friends, as well as write a bit. After looking at my computer time, I had a mini freak out because I thought it was 9:30 and I only had 30 minutes to eat breakfast and grab my stuff until we were picked up. I sped over to the morning buffet area to eat quickly when I looked at my phone and realized it was only actually just about 9:00 am. I had made the mistake of not adjusting my computer time for the new time zone so when I thought it was 9:30, that was the time it was in Philadelphia.

IMG_3742.jpgAfter a quick laugh, my friend and I decided we would take a quick walk to the market to see what sort of treat we could find. We ended up coming across a fruit stand that sold coconuts for 25 baht. After giving the old lady who spoke no English the best symbols I could to ask if she could cut the top off so we could drink, she all the sudden nods her head, pulls out a literal machete and then points to the coconuts for us to pick one out.

First of all, I was completely caught off guard my the at least 80-year old Thai women sitting in front of me casually holding a machete and second, how could I resist—how often do you get to spend your morning sipping fresh coconut water from the coconut for less than a dollar? When you go the Caribbean it costs at least 5 dollars, which I always thought was a good bargain.

So I picked out my coconut and then for about the next minute watch this lady gracefully stab at a coconut until a straw good be stuck in… how cool!

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After we walked back it was just about 10 o’clock and time to drive up the mountain that has been making my heart happy ever since I arrived: Doi Suthep. Today we had the privilege of being able to not only be on top of the mountain and see the view of the city from above the clouds, but also visit the temple up there, which is one of the most famous in Chiang Mai.
IMG_2918Up the mountain we went in our trusty red cab truck holding on to the railing tightly during every tight turn the car had to make. Once we reached the top we got in line to take the cable car to the top instead of the crazy amount of stairs. As per usual with everything in this country, the temple blew me away, and honestly I found myself more jaw dropped and lost for words than before. This temple was gold contrasted by whites, yellows, orange, and reds. If this wasn’t enough beauty all you had to do was look out at the incredible view. Absolutely out of this world. After seeing the main temple area, we ventured around the other areas in the temple.IMG_2947

We ended up finding the place where the stairs led. This was super neat because the side of the stair resembled a green snake, IMG_3039which I like because it was green. It was also beautiful because of how high up we were, all the fog was at the bottom, so it quite literally looked like we were sitting on a temple in cloud. It was honestly one of the most amazing feelings I have experienced because it shows how incredible and beautiful the world we live in is. We are so lucky.

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Once our whole group gathered again at the top, we went back to where the cable car was for our decent to where the shops and restaurants were. We had about another 30 minutes until our van would drive us back down the mountain. During our time exploring this area, I was able to finally try one of the local fruits, Rambutan which was a spiky exterior but a super sweet, delicious interior, with a similar flavor and texture to a lychee.IMG_3017

After eating nearly half the bag I bought, we started down the mountain. I am not one to usually get car sick but after driving about half was down I found myself looking at my phone every minute seeing how long it has been and how much longer to go. I had death stared the front window keeping my gaze steady, because any time I shifted it I found the nausea kicking in even more.IMG_3045
Once we reached the bottom I was feeling a little better but after feeling completely nauseated I wasn’t really hungry anymore; however, it was time for lunch.
At the restaurant selected for us, we were told we were going to be trying Chiang IMG_3080Mai traditional food. Unfortunately what was chosen for us did not have a lot of vegetarian options; however, fortunately I wasn’t very hungry so it wasn’t really a problem.

After lunch I had become tired and was excited for the nap I was about to take; however right then was when David told us we were going to a Thai market where they were going to give us the word for a fruit in Thai and we were going to have to bring it back and then all of us would sample each others fruit so we could all try a little bit of Thai local fruits. After that, he told us we had an hour to find our fruit. An hour? I thought.. the fruit stand was right across the road how can it take more than 15 minutes?

IMG_3056It only really took my group 10 minutes to find everything. My word was ‘mangkoot’ which ended up being mangosteen, and also my favorite. After we were finished, I had no idea what to possibly do with another 50 minutes because I had no need to shop any more.. I wanted to sleep. We ended up roaming aimlessly until it was time to meet back up and head back to the hotel where we sampled all the fruit.

Another highlight from my fruit sampling experience was the mango. This was the best mango I have ever tasted (yes mom, better than the Florida mango). After we were set free, I finally got to have my well-deserved nap. After about 30 minutes I was good to go again and headed to the market with my friends for dinner, and a roam to Thae Phae gate area. For dinner I tried a fish and wonton soup with noodles, which was fantastic, like everything else I have tried here!!

During our roam to the Thae Phae gate area, we passed a McDonalds which I found interesting because Ronald McDonald in the front was positioned in a way where he was giving the Thai greeting ‘the Wai’ in which you basically hold your hand in prayer position and then bow your head. I also decided that at least one time before I go, I need to try Thai McDonalds, because there was a whole bunch of different things they offered which I thought would be interesting to see how they differ.

After spending a little bit of time hanging out, we eventually made our way back to the Chiang Mai gate area, where we each grabbed another noodle soup dish. In my seafood and noodle soup this time, I was surprised to find a cooked whole shrimp hanging out inside with its poor little head on. I pulled it out of my soup and quickly removed the head and tail before my vegetarian brain could convince me to not eat it.

IMG_3087After finishing up our meals we walked back to the hotel and had another great night of sleep.

The next morning (Tuesday), we were getting picked up between 8 and 8:30 because we had a Thai cooking class set up for us in the countryside. We drove about 40 minutes north of the old city to a market where our guide showed us essentials of Thai cooking, as well as the staples of every dish. After, he gave us about 10 minutes to look around for ourselves.

IMG_3108During this time, I found myself in the section where you could by your raw meat, which basically resembled a butcher. Every part of the animal you could imagine could be bought here to bring home and be cooked, including the head. There was also a section where a man was killing the fish. The only way I knew they were still alive at first was because one of the fish’s tail was still flapping around on the table. The even funnier thing is that even though I am a vegetarian, I have numerous pictures on my phone and a few videos. As well, I ironically found myself smiling ear to ear and kind of laughing and I really don’t know why.

We eventually all met up again and then drove about another 20 minutes into the countryside where our cooking class was. Our guide was absolutely hilarious and if you ever find yourself at Asia Scenic cooking school in Chiang Mai, request Anthony. Our class started out with a tour of the farm in the area where all the vegetables were grown and picked fresh for their classes. After, we got to choose which dishes we wanted to make from each category, for a total of 6 dishes.

I don’t need to get into too much detail, but the most hilarious part was that any time the guy wanted to know how spicy we wanted our dished to be (how many chilies we wanted) he would ask what our sexy number is: more spicy more sexy. Apparently I am not very sexy at all.

I am happy to say that I now know how to make pad thai, spring rolls, red curry, mango with sticky rice, tom yum soup, and a clear noodle salad. One of the coolest part was now that I know how to make the dishes, I know how they are basically being prepared for me and what is going into them. Another cool part about the day was in the beginning we had to eat this small welcome dish that included a spicy, sweet, creamy, salty, and sour element: all of the flavors consumed at once supposed to bring good luck.

This was the most fun I had so far because I was laughing out loud every other minute and found myself smiling the whole time. During the ride home I was about ten more minutes of a drive away from falling fast asleep in the van. Once we got back to the hotel, we sat by the pool for a bit, but once again the sun had moved to a spot where we wouldn’t be hit by the time we got out, so we wouldn’t be able to get a tan.

Instead I went back to my room and took a nap, which turned in to me sleeping until about 6 am. It was probably good though because I was well rested for my first day of classes, which I will write about tomorrow after the first week of classes is over.

Being able to spend these first four and a half days exploring has been awesome and has really helped me get acclimated to the region and better oriented for when we explore on our own.

To most of the people reading this, have a wonderful day, everyone else, have a great night!

Xx Hannah