Do your research on which is the best cruise deal for you.

If you have ever taken a cruise before, or even just glanced at a cruise holiday online, you may have ended up on one of those pesky mailing lists advertising what are normally dubbed “sale of the century” or “best ever offer yet”. Whilst quite normally they are quite good value deals, there are some key things to consider when looking at those pesky emails, especially when it comes to some of the mysterious and confusing jargon used.


The loyal to Royal crowd (That’s the loyal to Royal Caribbean crowd, not a crack team of die-hard monarchists) will most likely know of this. It seems to be an endless promotion for Royal Caribbean right now, the “Buy One Get One Half Off” incentive is a tricky one to crack.

Pricing is based around full fare pricing (so no stacking discounts on top of each other) and on having two guests in the stateroom, with the second guest receiving half price on the fare component – not the taxes & port fees which can make up most of your fare these days.

Breaking it down like that shows that the pricing isn’t actually that amazing (it works out to be less than 25% off, dependant on the taxes charged for your voyage). Keep in mind too that with Royal Caribbean, you can’t ask for a reprice so once you lock into the higher ‘BOGOHO’ pricing, you’re stuck, even if you cancel and try to re-book straight away. This is definitely not advisable as if you try this, you won’t be able to reclaim your original discount.

Group travel perks available on Crystal Cruises
Cruisers enjoy the perks of a Celebrity Cruises “Pick Your Perk” drinks package

Pick Your Perk / Drinks On Us / Free Beverage Packages

First off, it’s worth noting and clarifying these type of offers are generally the best “value” offer you can aspire to – if you enjoying drinking. The simple trick to see if this type of deal is good value is to calculate the price of the drinks package and multiply it by the number of days you’re going to be onboard.

If your drinks package is worth more than the fare you’re preparing to pay, you should book it on the spot. If you don’t drink, calculate the value of the options the cruise line may offer you instead of a drinks package. For example, being offered free gratuities isn’t a great of a deal instead of the drinks package, so look around to see what other value you’re receiving.

‘Fly Free’ Offers

Flying for free is something you typically see on river cruises and it’s a benefit that is making something of a resurgence with ocean cruising nowadays too.

If you can “customise” an airfare being offered to take advantage of extending your holiday or to make a stopover without incurring a dramatic surcharge, these can be exceptionally good value, especially if you are flying to a river cruise in Europe’s peak season of June/July/August, when airfares can be at record highs.

However, ocean cruising offers including air can be more restrictive and may limit you to very selected dates or even selected flights, which if they don’t suit your schedule can result in you wasting them. When booking your free flight, keep in mind our handy guide on what to consider when booking your flights.

A Qantas A380 flying over the Overseas Passenger Terminal and Sydney Harbour one sunny day
Take the time to study the value associated with free flights to join your cruise.

Onboard Credit

We recently discussed how booking a cruise deal which comes with onboard credit can be good value and the ways in which you can spend it. While they can present value for money, especially if your favoured cruise line operates in U.S. dollars, we recommend double checking the fine print to make sure any onboard credit you receive but don’t use is fully refundable, otherwise at the end of the cruise your cruise line may keep it all, not returning even a penny back to you.

Free Shore Excursions

Generally more restricted to upscale lines such as Holland America and Oceania Cruises, free shore excursions are a great carrot that the cruise line may dangle in front of you in order to earn your custom. Be aware though on how your cruise line operates these offers.

Some will give you an onboard credit as part of a certain fare that can only be used on shore excursions, while other cruise lines may require you to choose from one or two excursions in each port. Keep in mind also that ship excursions can be dramatically expensive, so if the idea of having to supplement whatever credit amount the cruise line gives you with your own money in order to afford a more desirable shore excursion doesn’t appeal, then maybe this offer isn’t for you.

If you are considering this option, make sure that you extensively review the tour options on your cruise line’s website before booking the offer.

What’s the best cruise deal you have ever received? Let us know in the comments below.