I went on my first cruise ten years ago. All I really knew about them at the time was that they were the most interesting things pictured on the back of cornflakes boxes, and that a girl I had a crush on found one for $199. Sold.
Since then I've been on ten cruises or so, half of them two week transatlantic runs, which are by far my favorites. Later on I'll write more about why I love these cruises, but the gist is that they're the Perfect Work Environment.
In the decade that I've been cruising, my technique for finding good deals has evolved beyond crushing on girls who might find a good deal. The best trick in the book used to be a site called Cruise Hot Sheet. At any given time it had a listing of most of the cheapest cruises available.
Then two weeks ago it became empty. No deals. I already have a cruise booked for November, so I'm not really in the market, but I like to keep an eye on prices out of curiosity. Every time I went to Cruise Hot Sheet, only to be greeted with an empty page, I was annoyed.
So, of course, I started thinking: "You know... I could build this site and make it even better..."
By the next day I had all of the cruise data loaded in. The day after that I built the front end display, bought a domain, and called it Cruise Sheet. Since then I've tinkered with it for a few minutes here and there and made it really flexible and decent looking. I've also connected it to two places to buy cruises, Cruise DIrect and CruiseCompete, both of which had affiliate programs.
Cruise Direct has generally some of the best prices on the internet, but Cruise Compete is a magical beast in its own category altogether. There you can have agents from all cruise agencies bid on your cruise request, which always yields the best price available anywhere. Cruise Sheet is the only cruise aggregator that I'm aware of, and the only one to connect automatically to Cruise Compete (which is a somewhat clumsy process to do manually).
Both Cruise Direct and Cruise Compete have affiliate programs, so maybe I'll make a little bit of money on this. I want to do cool things like make historic price graphs, generate maps that show the routes, etc., but I can't really justify that sort of work unless people are actively using it.
Anyway-- check it out. Cruises are probably WAY cheaper than you think they are. Cruise Sheet has lots of them for ~$30 per day or less. Also, please help me get the word out. A lot of people are probably disappointed that Cruise Hot Sheet is down, and I'd love for them to start using this instead.
As a side note, this is why I love programming so much. Once you get proficient at it, you feel like you have Real Ultimate Power, because you can will things into existence with just a few half days of work. Even if Cruise Sheet never makes a dollar, I have the exact cruise-finding tool that I want, and that's pretty cool.
For those interested, I wrote it in PHP and used MySQL for the database and Bootstrap 3.0 to build the UI.
Heading to China today! Finally a chance to take more blog photos!
In the last post, where I wrote about how much I like working from cruise ships, I mentioned that I could share my method for booking really cheap cruises. I'm going to do that here, and share some other relevant cruise tips.
Getting Cheap Cruises
First, start at Cruise Sheet. There used to be a site called Cruise Hot Sheet that had similar information, but it stopped working, so I built Cruise Sheet.
The best cruises to look for are repositioning cruises. They are the most interesting, have the most sea days, and tend to be very inexpensive. In the fall there are a lot of repositioning cruises from Europe to the US, and in the spring those same ships reposition back to Europe.
I love San Francisco so much that every time I return here from a trip, I resolve to stay for a while and enjoy the city. That never happens. Next week I'm going to Tahoe, then Vegas the following weekend, and then to Austin for SXSW the week after that. Cabo or Hawaii follows in early March, but in late April comes the most exciting upcoming trip: a sixteen day cruise to Rome.
Cruises are full of old people. As best I can tell, that's because young people haven't figured out how awesome and cheap they can be. In fact, I can easily say that of all the travel I've done, cruises probably represent the best bang for the buck.
Before I tell you how to get them cheap, let me tell you why cruises, especially long duration one-way cruises are amazing.
One of my favorite aspects of cruises is that they can take you to places you may not otherwise visit. For example, the cruise my friends and I are taking stops in the Azores, Seville (Spain), Valencia (Spain), Barcelona, Monte Carlo, and Rome. Without cruising, I probably would never make it to the Azores, and those southern Spanish cities are unlikely as well. They're just too remote and too expensive to come up at the top of my list when choosing a trip.