How to save money when booking a luxury cruise

The cost of booking a cruise has nearly doubled compared with pre-pandemic levels. Try these top tips to cut the costs and still enjoy luxury at sea

Booking a cruise ship in the bay, Gialos, Symi, Greece
(Image credit: David C Tomlinson)

If you're thinking of booking a luxury cruise for your next holiday, you can expect to fork out around 43% more than you may have back in 2019, according to Tripadvisor-owned site Cruise Critic. 

Cruises are also rising in popularity, fuelled by younger people, families and even celebrities increasingly looking to enjoy luxury at sea - you won't have missed the news of India’s billionaire Mukesh Ambani, Anant Ambani, hosting his pre-wedding celebration on the Celebrity Ascent ship.

The average luxury cruise costs on average around $4,000 per person for a seven night Caribbean cruise, according to Cruise Critic - but you could end up paying a lot more depending on the cabin type, whether it is all-inclusive and flights to your port if required.  

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While there are many ways to keep holiday costs low, by using the best credit cards when travelling abroad and bagging the best travel insurance deals - these top tips may help you slash the cost of your next holiday at sea without compromising on luxury. 

5 ways to save money when booking a cruise

How to slash the costs of luxury at sea.

1. Use reward credit cards

Just like using the best debit and credit cards to collect air miles, you can also get cruise rewards. The selection isn’t as vast, but here are a couple to consider. 

Amex Platinum Card

The American Express (Amex) Platinum card offers up to $300 in ‘onboard credit’ when you book with one of its cruise partners: Amawaterways, Crystal Yacht Cruises, Oceania, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Silversea or Holland America Line. 

They all differentiate in how the discount is applied. For example, Regent Seven Seas Cruises offers $300 onboard credit excluding the casino, and Oceania includes the same, plus access to its premium wine-tasting event and a bottle of wine from its tasting menu. 

Here’s what you need to know about the Amex Platinum card: 

  • Annual fee - £650
  • Representative APR - 704.6% (variable)
  • Get one point for every £1 spent
  • Perks include access to more than 1,400 airport lounges, worldwide travel insurance and hotel benefits
  • Welcome offer: earn 40,000 points if you spend £6,000 in the first three months of your membership 

To redeem any cruise offers, you will need to book through a Platinum Travel & Dining Concierge. You can call them on 0800 817 8054.

Virgin credit card 

Virgin has its own cruise line, Virgin Voyages. With both of the Virgin Atlantic credit cards (Reward and Reward Plus), you can earn Virgin points and use them towards your next cruise. You will need to spend a minimum of 3,000 Virgin points to put towards a cruise. According to Virgin, 3,000 points saves you £16.50. 

Here’s how the Virgin Atlantic Reward Credit Card works: 

  • No fee 
  • Representative APR - 26.9% (variable)
  • Get 0.75 Virgin Points for every £1 spent on everyday spending. Get 1.5 points for every £1 when spending with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.
  • Benefit from flight upgrades and other perks when you spend £20,000 in a year. 
  • Welcome offer: earn 3,000 in Virgin Points when you use the credit card within 90 days of your membership. 

The Virgin Reward Plus Credit Card has a lot more perks, but at a cost: 

  • £160 annual fee
  • Representative APR - 69.7% (variable)
  • Get 1.5  Virgin Points for every £1 spent on everyday spending. Get 3 points for every £1 when spending with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Holidays.
  • Welcome offer: earn a bonus 18,000 points when you use the credit card within 90 days of your membership. 

These credit cards might only suit those who travel regularly, as they are pricey and the cards come with a host of other travel perks, too. So they would only make sense if you take full advantage of them. If you don’t travel as often or already have another travel credit card, the Virgin Reward Credit Card doesn’t cost anything. The last thing to consider is when you’re looking to book a cruise, as it could take a while to rake in enough points for a big saving. 

2. Best time to book a cruise 

Speaking of timing, the standard travel tip applies for cruises, too – avoid peak travel times such as school holidays and summer. Tony Andrews, managing director of says the best months to set sail are February, October and November. 

Where you can probably bag a better discount is how far in advance you book. Andrews said: “If you have your heart set on a specific ship, itinerary or cabin, then booking early will give you a higher chance to obtain lower prices. In fact, early bird prices can be up to 50% less.”

3. Book activities in advance – or explore yourself 

The great thing about going on a cruise is you get to see more than one place. But, if you’re not careful, you could spend more than you intended. When you stop off at different ports, you’re going to want to explore places – for example, a five-night Western Caribbean Cruise by Caribbean Cruises starts in Miami, Florida, and stops at Haiti and Jamaica. As you can imagine, the longer you go, the more destinations you will see – two more nights on the Western Caribbean Cruise adds Bahamas to the itinerary. 

The cruise lines might push you to book their excursions for each port. Not only will this be pricey, but probably exhausting too. So, there’s nothing to say you can’t go off and explore yourself – and this comes at no extra cost. Plus, if you are going on a Caribbean cruise, you might just want to relax on the beach. So, if you fancy it, it’s worth opting for a couple of excursions, but you can save money by doing your own thing. 

Alternatively, if you think you will want to go on most, if not all guided tours, Andrews advises you book a cruise and tour package. “Booking everything at once – including flights, transfers, hotel stays and guided tours – is often better value than buying all the elements individually,” he added. 

4. Best apps and websites for cruise deals  

Doing your research and hunting for the best deal does pay off. Here are some of the top sites and apps to look at. 


If you’re familiar with Skyscanner (deals on flights), Seascanner is the equivalent for cruises. The site lets you filter your cruise by destination, date, duration of stay and where you would like your cabin located. If you’re not sure about destination or any of the bigger details, you have the option of selecting what type of cruise you want, for example all inclusive, family cruise and even last-minute cruises. You can see ships based on the cruise line you have in mind. These include Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises. 

It’s always worth looking at the deals page on the site, which has a number of special discounts with codes and cruise line offers. At the time of writing, you can book an MSC Cruise with a £75 deposit, and P&O Cruises is offering £450 per person for onboard spending (subject to terms and conditions). Seascanner also has a hidden page called ‘Seascanner Super Six’. This is a collection of six hand-picked cruises each week by the site, which they think offer the best deals. 

My Kind of Cruise

My Kind of Cruise is an app and website showcasing all of the top deals if you want to holiday at sea. It has deals of the week and deals arranged by cruise lines. These include offers on Virgin Voyages, Royal Caribbean, P&O, Princess Cruises and Celebrity Cruises. The best thing to do is download the app and make an account – that way you are notified in real-time and can bag an offer you like quickly. 

5. Go for a repositioning cruise

A repositioning cruise is a ship that moves around as seasons change. For example, it’s likely to stay in the Mediterranean in the summer and then set sail to the Caribbean for the winter months. Andrews said: “When a ship sails from one area to the next, in preparation for the new season, these ‘repositioning’ cruises are still open to book. They will feature a majority of sea days rather than calling at different destinations, but are available at a reduced cost.” 

A few repositioning ships offered by Celebrity Cruises include Hawaii to Sydney, Australia and the UK to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. These depart as early as October 2024. But, you might have to move quickly on these, as most of the basic cabin options are sold out. 

Vaishali Varu
Staff Writer

Vaishali has a background in personal finance and a passion for helping people manage their finances. As a staff writer for MoneyWeek, Vaishali covers the latest news, trends and insights on property, savings and ISAs.

She also has bylines for the U.S. personal finance site and Ideal Home, GoodTo, inews, The Week and the Leicester Mercury

Before joining MoneyWeek, Vaishali worked in marketing and copywriting for small businesses. Away from her desk, Vaishali likes to travel, socialise and cook homely favourites