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Five Faves: Cut Costs, Not Corners! – Five smart ways to save on your next cruise vacation

Porthole’s Five Faves

Cut Costs, Not Corners!

Five smart ways to save on your next cruise vacation

I don’t know about you, but when I go on a cruise vacation I’m always looking for the best ways to save money. Personally, I’d rather spend money eating at specialty restaurants, drinking extraordinary amounts of beer, and participating in shore excursions, rather than paying $110 for car service from Miami Airport to PortMiami.

During my travels, I’ve discovered ways to make traveling cheaper, so consider these five money-saving tips for your next cruise:


I was first turned onto Uber in Seattle after an Alaska cruise, and I’ve been hooked every since. This peer-to-peer car service is operated 100 percent through your smartphone. Just download the Uber app, set up an account, and when you’re ready to be picked up, just click “request Uber” — and they’ll come to you! There’s also a fare estimator that will tell you how much you can expect to pay… and you’re not expected to tip. Cash does not exchange hands. It’s all linked to your PayPal account or credit/debit card.

How it helped me: In Seattle, the flat rate to the airport from city center was $50. Uber was only $23.


This service gives budget travelers a break on spending an exorbitant amount of money on pre-cruise hotels. AirBNB is found both in app form and online. You can browse through different cities to see what housing is available. You’ll find everything from condos, homes, rooms, and shared living spaces. Each listing has user reviews of the property and the transactions are done online.

How it helped me: Last year, I was in Miami Beach for a conference during spring break. The cheapest hotel close to the Miami Beach Convention Center was $299. For $129, I got a one-bedroom condo one mile south of the convention center.


Texting at sea can leave you going for broke; at least it did me, until I came across WhatsApp. This free texting app allows you to send text messages over the Internet (on WiFi) to anyone who has WhatsApp installed. (Think Facebook Messaging.) What I like best about WhatsApp is that it populates your address book so you know everyone who has the app. You can also tell your friends to download it and set notifications to pop up, just like texts.

How it helped me: I’ve used WhatsApp in the Caribbean, Central America, and Europe, all with no problem. If you need to stay in touch, it’s a lot cheaper than texting home with your service provider.


Another favorite app of mine, GateGuru, lets you check out the WiFi situation at various airports. But it’s not limited to just Wi-Fi hotspots. It provides information about dining, shops, terminal layouts, and flight information. My favorite feature is the Tips section because it’s all crowd-sourced from everyday travelers.

How it helped me: Recently I was at the Miami Airport and for years the Wi-Fi there was $4.95 per 30 minutes. I jumped on GateGuru and saw Miami International now has free Wi-Fi! Welcome to the 21st century, MIA.

Bottle Service

Sneaking alcohol onto your cruise isn’t always the best policy — You can be denied boarding if caught. Instead, look at the bottle service that’s available in your cabin. Sometimes it’s worth it, other times you’re better off pre-purchasing drink coupons or packages and using them on board.

How it helped me: Holland America Line has very reasonable bottle service. On a recent sailing, I ordered a bottle of whiskey, four mixers, and an ice bucket for $34. My neighbors and I enjoyed a fabulous sailaway party for less.

Always keep your eyes open for new ways to solve old problems. With a little pre-planning and research, you really can have a five-star vacation at discounted prices.


— Doug Parker,


What are your favorite frugal tips for cruisers? Let us know in the comments below!

Now in its 25th year, Porthole Cruise and Travel Magazine is published bi-monthly and available worldwide through digital subscription. It offers the latest news in cruise and travel, with in-depth features on voyages, new ships, the best destinations, readers' picks, onboard cuisine, entertainment, and more!