How to Get Insane Deals on Cruises

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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.

But they might be awesome. On a previous cruise I went to Madeira, another Portuguese island in the eastern Atlantic. It was an amazing place and I wouldn’t have seen it without cruising.

Even amongst the places I would have visited otherwise (Barcelona, Monaco and Rome), I have the chance to inexpensively check them out and see if they warrant a longer visit. Rome could go either way, for example. Maybe I’ll find it a little too boring to become a priority (like Barcelona), or maybe I’ll fall in love it like everyone else.

On these long cruises, though, the destinations are really just icing on the cake. I would gladly pay the same price for a cruise that went nowhere at all. That’s because the ship itself is awesome.

The ship is the absolute ideal location to get certain types of work done. If you’ve ever watched one of my videos, you’ve seen the 3D intro I made for them. That’s the product of having two days on a cruise with no internet. I wrote a lot of Life Nomadic on a ship. I plan on jamming my 16 days at sea full of programming, and expect to make far more progress on my new project there than I would have in SF.

The reason a ship is so good is because it’s very easy to block out distractions and maximize time. Internet is expensive enough that you won’t waste time on it, but cheap enough that you can fire off emails or check in code. Transit time to dinner, the gym, or a quiet place to work is a matter of minutes. There is good food available to you twenty four hours a day, all for free. You can focus on what you want to focus on.

And there’s poker. Your opponents are terrible and generally wealthy. I’ve never been on a cruise where I didn’t make hundreds of dollars at the tables, and I wasn’t even a great player.

All that is irrelevant, though, if it’s expensive to get on the ship. But it’s not. My friends and are paying just under $40 per day, including all taxes and fees. That’s not much more than I’m spending on food and tea here in the city.

These transatlantic cruises are the cheapest ones. They just don’t fit too many people’s schedules because they’re so long, and they’re heavy on sea days, which are my favorites, but not as loved by most other people. Even so, a one week round-trip cruise shouldn’t generally cost you more than fifty dollars a day.

There’s a two step process to getting a cheap cruise. First, go to http://www.cruisesheet.com. There you’ll see a list of cruises ordered by price per day. Click Info to get more details and settle on the cruise you want.

Then go to www.cruisecompete.com. This site is amazing. Enter in the cruise that you want to go on, and in the comments, write something like:

Hi! I’m looking for this cruise for under $XX.XX per day, including taxes and OBC. Thanks!

The price you quote should be slightly lower than the cost per day on the hot sheet. If it says $40, maybe shoot for $35. Agents will post quotes even if they can’t beat the price, but putting in a concrete price does seem to motivate them to go low. OBC stands for “On Board Credit”. Certain cruise lines don’t allow discounting, so agents get around this by gifting a certain amount of money to your on board account. You can use this everywhere, usually including the casino. So just get some chips and cash them out immediately. If they don’t allow this (they probably do), use it to pay your tips (generally around $10 a day).

One last thing to know about transatlantics is that they generally come twice a year. In the spring the big ships go to Europe, and in the fall they come back. Plan accordingly, and buy your cabin as soon as you possibly can. Last year I missed out because the one I wanted to go on got too expensive by the time I got my friends on board.

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I’d love suggestions for post topics these days. My brain is pretty focused on programming and poker, and I think I’ve worn those topics pretty thin here.

I’ve been wanting to post on a Saturday for a while because it’s a slow internet day and none of the sites I like are active then.

BTW, my SXSW talk with Jason is on March 13th at 12:30pm. If you’re going to SXSW, please come! More info coming later this week.

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