7 ways to cruise for less this winter

This winter, a relaxing cruise to the sunny Caribbean, amazing Asia or even Europe, could be the perfect getaway for those of us who prefer to chase the sun. With the Australian dollar still high, overseas cruises are more affordable than ever. But if you are new to cruising there are some catches that can put a big dent in your travel budget if you're not careful. Here are our top cost-saving cruise tips to get you ready to sail away money savvy:

1) Early-bird specials & last minute deals

Cruise companies are often looking to sell out any remaining cabins at discount rates in the last few weeks before departure so if you find yourself in need of a last-minute holiday, jump online and check out which cruises are departing soon and have last minute deals.

Early bird specials often give you discounts of up to 40% if you book and pay in advance. You can also score sweeteners such as on-board credit, cabin upgrades and specials for kids, so if you are booking in advance ask for some freebies.

2)  B.Y.O

While most cruises include three standard meals a day, the cost of extras, including snacks and beverages can add up significantly, especially if you're taking the kids.

Check your cruise liner’s BYO policy, as this can often save you a lot of money. While you can expect to pay at least $30 for a bottle of red on board and corkage is standard in restaurants, you can enjoy your glass of wine for free in your cabin or the kids can chomp on a muesli bar between meals rather than a $8 ice-cream.

3) Stock up on essentials

Clothes, medication, batteries and personal items can cost twice as much on-board so be well stocked before you board. Also, if you are taking a longer cruise, use the on-board laundromat, instead of having items laundered as this will save you cash.

4) Match the best destination and duration to your budget

You don't have to go on an epic 21 day cruise, shorter cruises can be a great way to save money for families, particularly those with restless kids. Possible destinations include the Whitsundays, New Zealand or the Pacific Islands, with deals available for under $600 pp. Kids often even travel free! 

5) Book your own excursions

Organising your own port-of-call activities gives you flexibility and allows you to choose what you want to do. Cruise companies will often only market their partners to you, so there are often better deals to be found on-shore. Drop into the tourist office or information centre to ask for local rates.

6) Stay off line

It can be hard to switch off the mobile or close the laptop but you're on holidays afterall. Wi-fi can be a significant added cost when on a cruise so it is best to only use it sparingly. Online travel site Trekaroo suggests using walkie-talkies to communicate on-board with friends and family as wi-fi charges can be as much as 70 cents per minute.

7) Shop around for Travel Insurance

Before you accept the first price for insurance from the cruise liner or travel agent shop around. Often travel agent insurance can include a hefty commission. A quick insurance search on Mozo shows that prices can vary substantially. For example, a family of 4 cruising in the Pacific Islands for 10 days can get basic cruise cover from as little as $52.86 for unlimited medical, and comprehensive cover from $112.

Purchasing the right insurance cover is essential for any holiday, and can protect from bad weather and illness. Some policies may not cover cruises, so be sure to read the fine print.