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Tips for taking an Alaska cruise on a budget

04 Aug 2022
Jenna DeLaurentis

If you’re dreaming of visiting the gorgeous landscapes and fjords of Alaska on a Royal Caribbean cruise but you’re on a tight budget, you’ll be happy to learn that there are plenty of ways to save money on an Alaska cruise.

Flexibility is key when planning an Alaska cruise on a budget. If you don’t mind visiting one port over another, the departure port, the month you sail, or the type of cabin you book, you can easily find a way to visit the Last Frontier without breaking the bank.

From choosing to cruise in shoulder season to booking the cheapest stateroom, here are our top tips for taking an Alaska cruise on a budget.

Sail during the off-season

More often than not, the best way to save money on an Alaska cruise is to sail during the shoulder season. Alaska’s cruise season runs from late April through September each year, with the busiest season in June, July, and August.

Booking a cruise in the shoulder season months of April, May, and September can often lead to fantastic discounts compared to sailing in the middle of summer. An Alaska cruise in May, for example, can sometimes be half the price of cruising in July.

Related: When is the best time to cruise to Alaska?

There are, of course, pros and cons to sailing during the off-season compared to peak season. While you’ll encounter fewer crowds and lower prices in shoulder season, you might also experience rougher seas, more rain, less daylight, and colder temperatures.

It’s never a good idea to book a cruise based solely on price, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before heading to Alaska in shoulder season:

Book an interior cabin

One of the best ways to save money not just on an Alaska cruise, but any cruise, is to book an interior stateroom. Interior staterooms can be priced hundreds of dollars cheaper per person than ocean view or balcony cabins, making for great savings for those on a budget.

Related: Why you should book a cruise ship inside room

Royal Caribbean’s interior staterooms offer most of the same amenities as higher-category cabins. You’ll find everything you need to keep comfortable in an interior cabin, with a comfy bed, couch or chair, television, vanity, dresser, closet, and private bathroom.

While interior cabins may not come with a private balcony, there are plenty of public areas onboard to watch Alaska’s scenery pass by during your sailing.

If you want to save even more money on an Alaska cruise, book a guarantee interior cabin. While you won’t be able to pick the exact location of your room when booking a guarantee interior cabin, you can save a bit more money on your cruise fare.

Related: Should I book a guarantee stateroom on a cruise?

Buy lightly-used winter weather gear

Packing for an Alaska cruise involves more research and planning than packing for a summer cruise to warm weather destinations. From water-resistant clothing to base layers, jackets, sweaters, and pants, there’s a lot to remember to ensure you remain warm and comfortable throughout your time in Alaska.

Before breaking the bank on new outfits, head to local thrift stores or check websites like Facebook Marketplace and eBay for lightly-used clothing. You can often find nice name brand clothing at a fraction of the price of buying new, which is extremely helpful for those on tight budgets.

Related: What should you bring on an Alaska cruise?

Do free or cheap activities in port

Once you’ve booked an Alaska cruise and begin searching for shore excursions, you might have sticker shock. Alaska excursions are often quite expensive, with many tours costing well over $100. Some tours, like helicopter excursions, might cost over $400!

Instead of booking shore excursions in each Alaska cruise port, do some research on what activities are available at little to no extra cost in each town.

All Alaska cruise ports have a walkable town center, where you’ll find landmarks, a scenic waterfront, restaurants, museums, shops, hiking trails, and more. Many of these activities come with no extra cost yet still provide an insightful look into Alaska’s history, nature, and culture.

Read through our guides on what to do in Alaska cruise ports to plan your budget-friendly days off the ship:

Consider your departure port

When browsing Royal Caribbean’s website for cruises to Alaska, you’ll find sailings departing from both Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia.

If you have to fly to the cruise departure port, it’s a good idea to check for typical flight prices and schedules to both Seattle and Vancouver before booking one cruise over another.

You don’t want to book an Alaska cruise departing from Vancouver because it is $100 cheaper per person only to find out that flying to Vancouver will cost $300 more per person than flying to Seattle!

This is extremely important if you’re considering booking a more port-intensive, one-way cruise to Alaska. These often come with cheaper prices, but you’ll have to factor in the cost of one-way flights to or from Vancouver and Anchorage, Alaska.

Do a little research on travel costs and flight schedules prior to booking your cruise to avoid any unexpected costs later on.

Related: How much does an Alaska cruise cost?

Skip specialty dining and drink packages

While Royal Caribbean ships offer incredible specialty dining venues, with everything from hibachi to Italian and a steakhouse, there are more than enough complimentary dining venues to choose from on a cruise. You can easily save $100-200 by dining only at complimentary venues, like the Main Dining Room and Windjammer, instead of specialty restaurants.

Related: Food on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Additionally, consider not purchasing a beverage package when cruising to Alaska on a budget. Royal Caribbean’s deluxe beverage packages can be priced as high as $80+ per person, per day, and this can drastically increase the price of a 7-night Alaska cruise.

Instead of buying a drink package, opt to enjoy a few drinks in port each day at historic saloons. Not only will drinks be cheaper on land compared to on the ship, but you’ll get a taste of Alaska’s local culture in the process.

Book your cruise far in advance

While it’s possible to find a last-minute cruise deal to Alaska, this is usually the exception and not the norm. Therefore, once you know you want to visit Alaska, book the cruise as soon as possible.

Royal Caribbean usually releases Alaska cruise itineraries in November for the season to come in two years. This is when you’ll often find the lowest prices on cruise fare.

Related: How far in advance to book an Alaska cruise

Even if you book an Alaska cruise for $2000, for example, and the price later lowers to $1500, you can reprice your cruise and save the $500 provided it is before the sailing’s final payment date. To reprice your cruise, call Royal Caribbean or speak to your travel agent to receive the price difference.

Long story short: there’s no harm in booking a cruise earlier rather than later so you’re able to lock-in the lowest price!

Don’t miss out because of a tight budget

Our last tip for taking an Alaska cruise on a budget is to not be too strict with yourself while onboard and in port. An Alaska cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime vacation for many cruisers, and there are certain aspects of the vacation where you may want to splurge.

If visiting Mendenhall Glacier is on your bucket list, don’t skip visiting just to save a few dollars. Likewise, if tasting freshly-caught salmon while in port is important to you, budget $20 for a meal instead of heading back to the ship for lunch.

While keeping to your budget is important, don’t restrict yourself too much that you end up regretting not trying something later on.

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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