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How to Budget for a Cruise Vacation

How to Budget for a Cruise Vacation

  1. Find the Best Deals and Discounts
  2. Estimate the Total Cost
  3. Create a Savings Plan
  4. Cut Back and Save
  5. Set Up a Savings Account
  6. Automate Your Savings
  7. Consider EasyPay
  8. Opt for Budget-Friendly Beverage Packages
  9. Save on Shore Excursions
  10. Do Some Duty-Free Shopping


For anyone who dreams of visiting exotic and enticing destinations while enjoying the pleasure and convenience of a cruise, now’s the time to make that dream come true. The key step in making the daydream a reality is figuring out how to budget for a cruise. Kick-start the planning process by browsing the best deals to your destination of choice, whether it’s the Caribbean, Hawaii, Alaska or another incredible region of the world. Figure out how much money you need to save and make a plan to reach the goal, and you will be setting sail before you know it.

Find the Best Deals and Discounts

Anyone planning a cruise wants the best deal, so start planning by visiting the Carnival website and browsing itineraries and fares. Give yourself about six months before you want to travel so you can review your options without rushing to make a decision. You’ll often see seasonal sales and limited-time offers, such as free room upgrades and reduced deposits, along with deals for specific destinations such as Mexico or The Bahamas. There are also discounts if you’re a senior or member of the military as well as discounts if you travel from certain stateside departure ports, like Galveston, Jacksonville, San Diego, or Los Angeles. Remember you can take better advantage of deals if you’re flexible, for example you’d prefer to depart from Fort Lauderdale but for great savings you could go from Miami instead.

couple drinking champaign from their stateroom balcony

Make a Cruise Budgeting Plan

1. Estimate the Total Cost

If you’ve picked your cruise and know the price, you still need to estimate for the total cost before working on your budget plan. To the basic fare per person, plus additional taxes, fees and port expenses, add an estimated total cost for the following onboard expenses, many of which are optional: gratuities, specialty dining and entertainment, arcade games, internet, spa treatments, and sundries such as sunscreen. Also think about potential expenses while visiting ports, such as snacks and souvenirs. When you come up with the total expected cost, consider adding another 10 percent for unexpected and spontaneous expenses.

2. Create a Savings Plan

Now that you have settled on a price range for your dream cruise, it’s time to create savings plan. Decide on when you want to go on the cruise and calculate how many months (or paychecks) you have between now and the time your cruise sets sail. Divide your total expected cruise cost by the number of months you have to save, and the result will be your monthly savings goal.

3. Cut Back and Save

Review your typical monthly expenses and identify those that are essential (such as bills) and those that are not. Look at the non-essential expenses and decide which could be reduced or eliminated, and those dollars redirected toward your cruise. Examples include coffees and lunches, which are cheaper to prepare at home, and cable television packages, which you might negotiate or downgrade.

4. Set Up a Savings Account

Setting up a new savings account specifically for your cruise is as easy as going online or stopping by your bank. Most financial institutions will let you give the account an inspiring name, such as “Mexico Money” or “Fun in the Sun Fund.” Keeping your cruise budget separate from your other accounts makes it easier to focus on your savings goals, and it’s fun to watch the balance go up month after month as your vacation gets closer.

5. Automate Your Savings

Set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your cruise savings account for the exact amount you need to save every month. Schedule it to occur immediately after you get paid, so the money will get moved before you even think about spending it elsewhere. Automating is also a sensible option for anyone who might forget to make a monthly transfer manually.

Consider EasyPay

Another way to automate your cruise budget is by selecting Carnival’s EasyPay option when you book (available on select sailings). If you book at least 5 to 6 months ahead, just pay the deposit and the remaining balance will be split into easy, automatic monthly payments. EasyPay is free and comes with no interest or additional fees.

Earn FunPoints® to Save

Speaking of additional fees, with a Carnival® Mastercard®, you won’t incur any annual or foreign transaction fees. Having a Carnival Mastercard is another great way to help budget for your cruise vacation by taking advantage of incredible FunPoints.

To keep your budget healthy while cruising, book shore excursions with your card in advance on and receive a reFUNd.

In terms of budgeting for a cruise vacation, Carnival Mastercard helps you save for fun before, during and after your cruise vacation. Learn more.

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Opt for Budget-Friendly Beverage Packages

Most cruise passengers plan to buy at least some drinks that are not included in the cruise fare. The cost can soon add up when you buy these a la carte, but beverage packages offer significant savings. Cruise-goers 21 and older can opt for the CHEERS! program, a flat daily rate for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including name-brand spirits, wine by the glass, frozen cocktails, milkshakes, energy drinks, specialty teas and coffees, bottled water, and more. The Bottomless Bubbles package covers soda, juices and other soft drinks. You can buy these packages onboard, but will save even more by pre-purchasing them.

friends having a drink on a cruise deck during the sunset 

Save on Shore Excursions

Booking shore excursions as part of your cruise package means you’ll know exactly how much you’re paying before you set sail instead of guessing how much you might spend on activities, tours and transportation on a whim. This makes budgeting much easier, plus you can be confident about having professional guides who will guarantee that you get back to the ship on time.

4 friends going down the flying dutchman in st maarten

Do Some Duty-Free Shopping

Ideally your cruise budget has room in it for souvenir and gift shopping at your destination. Remember that many items sold onboard boast duty-free prices. Also, certain cruise destinations in the Caribbean and elsewhere present opportunities for duty-free shopping while in port.

woman buying a straw bag as a souvenir

Note: Onboard activities, shore excursions, and dining options may vary by ship and destination.