From the moment my children were born, I have wanted to go on a vacation that stretches over Christmas Day. The thought of my kids opening gifts somewhere new has always sounded alluring to me, and we have two full weeks of school off over the holiday, so why not?
Though family obligations and logistics have previously stood in my way, I decided early on that 2018 was going to be the year I made this dream come true. So, in a few weeks, we’ll pack the kids up for a ten-night Caribbean cruise that departs before Christmas and returns home right before New Year’s. So far, I have zero regrets.
Read More: The Best Time of Year to Go on a Cruise
How We Saved a Bundle on a Christmas Cruise
Since the holidays are by far the most expensive time to travel each year, my husband and I had to get crafty to find a vacation that was reasonably priced. Since cruising includes your lodging, multiple shore excursions and all your food in one price, we wound up deciding that a cruise would be the best option.
Here’s how we scored a cheap cruise this year — and how you can do the same.
We Booked a Discount Cruise Line
If your goal is saving money, it’s crucial to book a cruise line with affordable pricing. We opted to book our Christmas cruise with MSC Cruises, since kids ages 11 and under cruise free on select itineraries, and since their prices are extremely affordable when compared to other cruise lines.
Our 10-night cruise on the MSC Divina leaves from Miami and stops in St. Maarten, Antigua, Guadalupe, the British Virgin Islands and St. Kitts at a total cost of $2,579. That’s one heck of a deal when you consider what’s included: meals, drinks, a cabin for four, a supervised kids’ club, all kinds of entertainment and transportation to five different Caribbean islands.
We Got Free Drinks
Our cruise also came with MSC’s “Drinks on Us” deal that includes unlimited consumption from a selection of beers, spirits and house wines. Though my husband and I aren’t huge drinkers, we have been known to tip back a few each evening with dinner when we travel. The availability of this package solidified MSC Cruises as the best choice for us since it will help us save even more.
We Chose an Inside Cabin
Although I would have loved to book a suite or balcony cabin for our holiday cruise, the price of roomier cabins with better views was something I couldn’t stomach over the holidays. Since we won’t be in our cabin a lot, we opted to book an inside room with a double bed and two pull-down beds for the kids.
Booking an interior cabin means we won’t get spectacular views of the sea as we move from island to island, but I didn’t mind, as this option let us reduce our vacation cost by at least 30 percent.
We Matched for Better Status
MSC Cruises offers a loyalty program that can help you save money and secure special benefits. The best part is, they will match the status you have with certain hotel brands at comparable levels.
Since I have Diamond status with the Hilton Honors program, I was able to match to MSC’s highest status tier: Black status. This not only afforded me the 5 percent off all cruises all MSC Voyager’s Club members get, but we also get a complimentary fruit basket, a complimentary thermal session in the onboard spa, priority disembarkation, a free dinner for two at a specialty restaurant, an exclusive Black Card party and plenty of other perks.
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We Paid with Credit Card Rewards
Finally, my husband and I used some flexible travel credit to offset part of the cost of our cruise. We opted to use the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, as this card doles out double the points for each dollar you spend. Since you can redeem points from this card for any travel purchase at a rate of one cent per point, it provided the perfect way to cover part of our cruise and save even more.
We made this work by using our card for regular purchases and paying it off each month to avoid paying interest. It doesn’t make sense to pursue credit card rewards if you’re also racking up debt.
The Bottom Line
If you’re angling for an inexpensive cruise in the near future, don’t forget about all the different ways you can save. Choose your cruise line and cabin carefully, but also make sure to look for special discounts. Most of the time, the best travel deals are hidden in plain sight.
Click through to learn the most and least affordable places to spend your holiday vacation.
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