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2 hours ago, Lovetocruise2002 said:

As many people here know, I am a teacher and my cruising schedule is pretty much dictated by the school calendar.  My contract with board does not allow time off for vacations other than those designated times over the holidays.  Hubby's schedule is 100% flexible but that doesn't help as I am the planner and mine is not.  Because of this, we unfortunately fall into the category that @twangster mentioned, we pay a premium to cruise because we can only go during the high season.  

My strategy is to book early.  We take at least two cruises each year.  One over the summer, and one over March Break.  I book these two as soon as itineraries get released (often that is almost two years out).  From that point, I watch prices and often re-price multiple times before we pay final payment at 90 days out.  We have saved thousands this way.  I usually book direct with Royal (because I know exactly what I am looking for) and then I transfer to an agent for further savings.  

Because we can only take a limited amount of cruises each year, we do splurge a bit when we cruise.  We like our suites and the benefits that come with it.  The mentality that, "We can take this money and take more cruises," does not apply too much to us because we cannot take more even if we tried.  So that makes us unapologetic suite snobs.  Last but not least, this is the home of "YOLO Book It!" so we have totally run with that motto over the last few years! 😉

I'm in the same boat on timing, which is school calendars. We normally cruise end of March during spring break and again in late June right after school gets done for the year. We also live in Minnesota, so in addition to paying high cruise fares we also deal w/ crazy airfares as well.

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Cruising is awesome and this is an interesting read seeing how,everyone does it. I,wish we had started cruising earlier in life, my wife just couldn't get me on a cruise, but,once I cruised, like most I am hooked. I retired 10 years ago a little before,retirement age, I got a part time job at,the airport and that helps with flights. If you are in California, you have a long pricy trip to,even get to most Royal cruise ports, we met a couple from California on a cruise and have become good friends, we have visited them 4 times and they have come to visit us 3 times and they say the cost flying east is expensive. We use the Royal card for points and I but away a few dollars every week toward a cruise, book early and extend your payments out, we just booked our 21st cruise for January, we tend to take one shorter quick, cheaper,cruise in September and longer cruise in January or February to,get us out of the Midwest cold winters. We also,tend to stay in interior or,pramade rooms and that saves a lot compared to a suite or even a balcony, we just sleep in the room, I see no need to,pay up for a room I am rarely in. Enjoy your cruise.

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Here are my two cents:  Due to finances, we started out looking for the cheapest, easiest cruises we could find. Inside cabin and even did bunks with my wife once!! Had a great time as we were never in our cabins but to sleep and shower. Over the years with increased income and available time we pick and choose what type of cruise and cabin we want based on the purpose of the trip. Is the cruise mainly for port visits or just to chill? Just want a 3-4 day getaway to combine with a pre-city visit experience(ex. FLL and then cruise) or an extended getaway? Alone or with family and friends. Cultural? Went to Europe so did B2B to  make more cost effective(if paying $$$ for flight why not stay longer in Europe). We have never gotten drink packages or specialty restaurants ever as we chose to put $ to excursions or to save for another day(cruise). That is just a personal choice. Always purchase when inventory is first released as I have found that is usually the lowest price. Pre book excursions or packages if wanted. Conclusion: We have run the gamut and have enjoyed things by making the best of any experience. No right answer, lots of personal choices. I would rather go on the cheap than not go at all.

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Like several of the others here, I have kids in school (one college, one high school), so if we want to do a full family cruise we're limited to the pricier times. But because one of our kids is now an adult and able to drive the other one around, we've been able to do a couple of cruises during the school year that are just the two of us, getaway-style trips that let us reconnect and have some "us" time we don't normally get.

I'm in IT and lucky enough to get 4 weeks of vacation each year; it'll be 5 weeks in 2028, assuming I'm still with my current employer at that time and not "right-sized" out like one of the other posters here, as I'll be 58 at that point. My wife works part-time and has no set benefits or any paid time off, so she's basically clear to go on vacation whenever we work out a schedule; she just has to give her employer advance notice.

Our biggest holdback on cruising more than once a year right now is our finances; we got hit with some major medical bills over the last 4 years that I'm still paying off, and that's seriously hampered not just our cruising budget, but a lot of the rest of our day-to-day. The good news is that in about 6 or 8 more months, I'm going to have three of the four bills paid off, along with the car we had to buy for my wife when her last one finally gave up the ghost, and that will eliminate a huge amount of monthly expenses that can then go into rebuilding savings and restoring a vacation budget that can pay for 2, maybe even 3 cruises a year. While we prefer balconies, I'm not above staying in an inside cabin if that saves me the money to go on a great itinerary.

In three more years, our oldest will be done with college while the younger one is starting, and we'll effectively be empty-nesters. I'm guessing at that point, combined with the restored savings and cash flow, we'll be stepping up our cruising game as I get closer to retirement.

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Like @Lovetocruise2002, my wife is also a school teacher and I'm a CPA, so we are entirely restricted to cruising in the high premium summer season between late June and early August. We had a 9 year gap between our first cruise on Freedom of the Seas in 2007 and our second on Anthem of the Seas in 2016.  However, since then, we have gotten hooked (the wife says I'm addicted) and have been on 3 cruises, including a B2B on Harmony of the Seas in 2018, in the last 3 years and have two scheduled for 2020.  We are fortunate that we are now empty nesters and also have the means to afford going on cruises, but as a CPA, I'm still very conscious of how much we spend on vacations and am always trying to make sure we don't overspend. We try to book as early as possible and scour the website regularly for any deals. Also, we both feel like the ship is our vacation destination, so we are able to keep our costs down by not doing a lot of excursions.  When we do decide to try an excursion, we search the cruise planner for sales/deals on extras that we would like and we only buy them when we feel they are at a price-point we feel is worth it to us. On our last cruise on Navigator of the Seas, we won our royal-up bid for a JS and got the drink package for the first time ever, and we loved it.  Now, i'm fighting an internal battle between my inner cost-conscious CPA and my new found desire to just say YOLO when it comes to cruising.

maybe the wife is right - i need help.....

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Took my first Royal cruise this year. When the decision was made to do this overtime became my life. All extra pay went into a separate account opened just for vacation. This helped motivate me to keep working 7 days a week for 6 months a few weekends off due to exhaustion. But having a separate bank account just for vacation was very helpful. I don't get anywhere near what many others get for vacation time. So when we vacation it's the best we can afford at the time. Next year we are doing the group cruise and Alaska cruise. Being final payment is months a way it allows for us to save for months. The nice thing is if you stay below Grand suite (maybe wrong) you only need a small deposit. The further out you can plan a cruise the more time you have to pay, thus you can get multiple cruises booked at the lowest fare. Since supply and demand really is a factor in cruising. 

 

Use a travel agent because if there's a problem the t/a can help and do the leg work. MEI is a sponsor for this blog but use whatever agent you are comfortable with. If you are willing to keep checking the price of your cruise you can try Costco travel they give a portion of the commission back to you in the form of Costco gift card. But you don't get a dedicated t/a you ARE the t/a so to speak. As I found out the hard way. 

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Great topic, and I think a lot of the responses are interesting to look at.  I certainly get this question a lot, and there are definitely a few factors or decisions that factor greatly into one's ability to cruise a lot.

1. Living in Florida (or near an embarkation port). No cost to fly saves soooo much money, and opens up a great deal of cruising opportunities.

2. Choosing to cruise over other vacations: In my opinion, cruising a lot means forgoing other types of vacations/trips that may otherwise eat into your time off.

3. For those that cruise more than twice a year, I think finding deals is a major component as well. If you cruise 1-2 times a year, I think you can afford to pick from almost any sailing out there and be able to afford it.  Once you start using up fingers on your hand to count the number of cruises in a year, you have to start playing the "find a deal" game.

Did I mention living in Florida really helps?

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We struggle with it. We have enough vacation time to do it (I get 3 weeks, and my husband gets 5), however being in central Canada, flights kill us. I think that we've resigned ourselves to one every two years until we have more time to B2B.  We have a vacation account that we funnel money into every paycheque, and in the summer we camp as a vacation, so we can use our money to cruise when we can.

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On 11/8/2019 at 11:28 AM, TJ! said:

I've been on this board for several months now after I booked (and officially paid in full) my very first cruise! Sailing in Jan,2020 on Symphony of the Seas OVC.

After interacting and receiving so many positive feedback/advice/suggestions from this blog I'm already addicted to cruising before it even started.

I see A LOT of fellow experienced cruiser with so many cruises under their belt and some with 20+ cruises already lined up for the future. (Back to back cruises as well)

I want to also be part of the cruising lifestyle and was curious if there is a better way or something i'm missing in order to afford so many cruises.

The question (I apologize ahead of time if it's too personal):

Fellow cruisers who have sailed countless of times and have even more cruises booked ahead in the future, how do you afford it?

How did you manage to take time off from work?

Are most retired therefore enjoying their life on cruises?

Is there bulk booking for a significant discount or something similar I'm not aware of?

Any tips and advice to integrate cruising as part of a lifestyle when it comes to finance?

Sorry if this is too personal, I'm just extremely curious and eager to follow the same lifestyle.

Thank you in advance!

Believe me, I understand your questions. My wife and I took our first cruise when I retired....and loved it. We intended to plan more cruises but thanks to the stock market crash of 2008, we had to settle in to a low budget lifestyle....not complaining, we have been blessed in other ways. We talked about cruises and travel sometimes but the money just wasn't there.....but we held out hope. 

Thanks to agent orange exposure in Vietnam and a resulting VA disability, we were finally able to change our lifestyle drastically and began cruising. We recently went on a Hawaiian cruise (Pride of America, NCL) and we have a birthday/Christmas cruise on RCL next month, and a Greek Isles cruise out of Rome (RCL) next June. We are now talking about an Alaska cruise next August.

One year ago we did not imagine this kind of lifestyle change. So....things change, sometimes for the good, sometimes not. Like Forrest Gump said...."Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know just what you're going to get".

So....we are just taking it as it comes and always thankful. 

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9 hours ago, SpeedNoodles said:

No, I'm police dispatch/911.  Our PDs have very little mandated OT. We've been grossly understaffed (by 30% for the last 4  years).

My hats off to you. That’s one job I could never do. Wild that there is little mandated OT for your LEOs. It’s unbelievable, and unsustainable up here. 

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I fell in love with this "addiction" in 2016 after raising our son an paying off his student loans and a work accident that left me with a synthetic neck..  My wife is 48 and I'm 47.. Every extra dime that comes into our household goes to feed this cruising addiction we have.. While raising our son We couldn't afford to take a cruise.. and honestly I didn't have the desire.. 

This is the only vacation that you cannot do wrong.. Ill bust my ass 60-70 hours a week to pay for Jean and I to take a break and let us be ourselves..  We've seen Alaska, Cuba, and the western and eastern Caribbean itineraries. We're looking forward to the Southern Caribbean next year..

 

Ill bust my ass to make it work for us, I don't care if I have to work 70 hours a week to let my wife have one week of pleasure to be herself.. 😉
 

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Interesting topic, I enjoyed reading everyone's background and learning about yall

I'm in the 1-2 cruise/year category because I live in Washington state and Airfare is my biggest enemy, but there are still strategies I have used to spend only what I want. When I was younger and didn't make as much I would book cruises out of the less desirable cruise ports and cheaper sailing season. The first couple cruises I went on, I probably spent less than $100 per 7 day cruise for 2 people(not including gratuities). I was just happy to be on vacation and would  only drink the free ice tea and lemonade, walk or find cheap transport to a free beach on port days ect... We actually had just as great of a time cruising that way.

I have a higher income now, but I also have 3 young children. Airfare is still our biggest enemy, if we lived in Florida we would easily be cruising twice as much.  I only like to take off 2 weeks a year for vacation, but I am not going to go when everyone else on earth is going. We pull our kids out of school(even though the school hates it) usually in February when we are sick of the wet winter weather and the rates are cheaper. We spend more onboard these days, but we still avoid paying a lot on booze,food and extras. We also book 1 cruise a year as far out as possible and stalk changes in pricing like a obsessed maniac even though booking so far out is usually the best deal. I'm an Electrical Forman who builds schools and my work is feast or famine so I try and keep money in the budget for a last minute cruise as well for when I finish a project. Schools are build on a fast paced schedule and I am usually super stressed out trying to get the job done. I have to keep a reward trip in my mind to keep my sanity. Also this blog keeps my eye on the prize when work gets stressful.

92 days until Liberty 

?? days until Alaska?

469 until Symphony

Happy Cruising

 

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My wife and I are still fairly new to cruising - we did one and have another booked.

We’ve known each other for 12 years, married the past 2. We started traveling internationally once we got married. We did Sandals Royal Caribbean (isn’t that a coincidence!) in Jamaica for our honeymoon and Sandals Royal Bahamaian for our 1-year anniversary.

These were fun but also started to get real expensive. Flights from NY airports only went to certain islands on certain days. Since then, we’ve bought a house and got ourselves a dog. So we decided to give cruising a try and went on Anthem to Bermuda last summer. We feel like it was a good value. It definitely was a good time but we had to shift mindsets of transitioning from adults-only all inclusive to a family-style cruise.

I am a high school science teacher and my wife works for a non-profit, working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). We are able to pay for vacations because we each hold other part time jobs. In addition to teaching high school, I work as an adjunct professor at night, I am a union rep, I work at the local library as a librarian assistant during the summer and I proctor SAT exams on weekends. My wife does some side work as a respite provider as well.

We live in south jersey so Cape Liberty is only an hour and a half away. My wife can take time off of work with relative ease but for me, my overall work schedule doesn’t allow for me to take a week off at any given point during the school year. So our “sweet spot” of value and time has been and probably will always be the last week of August. It’s in the middle of hurricane season so prices are a little lower. I presume since most of the country’s school districts and colleges are back in session, that’s another reason why prices are lower. Luckily for us in the northeast, schools (including the college I teach at) doesn’t start until after Labor Day.

We both feel that the extra time working is well worth the one week of rest and relaxation. After the Bahamas cruise, we want to do NE/Canada and then the Caribbean (San Juan, Labadee, etc.) - both from Cape Liberty. After that, we’ll see!

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On 11/9/2019 at 5:33 AM, Dan Curtis said:

Cruising is awesome and this is an interesting read seeing how,everyone does it. I,wish we had started cruising earlier in life, my wife just couldn't get me on a cruise, but,once I cruised, like most I am hooked. I retired 10 years ago a little before,retirement age, I got a part time job at,the airport and that helps with flights. If you are in California, you have a long pricy trip to,even get to most Royal cruise ports, we met a couple from California on a cruise and have become good friends, we have visited them 4 times and they have come to visit us 3 times and they say the cost flying east is expensive. We use the Royal card for points and I but away a few dollars every week toward a cruise, book early and extend your payments out, we just booked our 21st cruise for January, we tend to take one shorter quick, cheaper,cruise in September and longer cruise in January or February to,get us out of the Midwest cold winters. We also,tend to stay in interior or,pramade rooms and that saves a lot compared to a suite or even a balcony, we just sleep in the room, I see no need to,pay up for a room I am rarely in. Enjoy your cruise.

That is just so wholesome how you can meet great people and stay connected with them even after the journey has ended.

I'm hoping to meet a couple similar to us that we can do the same as you!

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On 11/9/2019 at 5:04 PM, rtread said:

Believe me, I understand your questions. My wife and I took our first cruise when I retired....and loved it. We intended to plan more cruises but thanks to the stock market crash of 2008, we had to settle in to a low budget lifestyle....not complaining, we have been blessed in other ways. We talked about cruises and travel sometimes but the money just wasn't there.....but we held out hope. 

Thanks to agent orange exposure in Vietnam and a resulting VA disability, we were finally able to change our lifestyle drastically and began cruising. We recently went on a Hawaiian cruise (Pride of America, NCL) and we have a birthday/Christmas cruise on RCL next month, and a Greek Isles cruise out of Rome (RCL) next June. We are now talking about an Alaska cruise next August.

One year ago we did not imagine this kind of lifestyle change. So....things change, sometimes for the good, sometimes not. Like Forrest Gump said...."Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know just what you're going to get".

So....we are just taking it as it comes and always thankful. 

Love this. Seemed like just a rollercoaster of events and emotions, glad you're here now though!

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I receive a little over 5 weeks vacation and the wife has a job that allows flexible time off (single person office in a seasonal business). In the past the workaholic in me never took time off until the kids were out of college, married and gone. Now the wife and I enjoy 3 cruises (sometimes 4) in a year as we enjoy being "unplugged" from the world. We do not go for the expensive accommodations as we are rarely in them and make sure we take advantage of all the freebie or discounted items on the ship. We closely monitor the shore excursions and have favorites we like to visit. These are some with the cruise line and some via 3rd party depending on the location. Typical bill at the end of our cruises is about $200 for the occasional drink and specials (shore excursions not included). After cruising for a while we also receive "special" offers in the mail and usually arrange our schedule to match these discounted dates. On top of that we use a travel agent who usually gives us On Board Credit so it reduces the end bill. The other benefit is we are within driving distance of two ports so we save the expense of flying unless we find a super discounted air fare (last year to LAX $325 round trip for both of us).

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I started backpacking in the 70s...think of an adventure?? yep, that was me. Mammy trucks in West Africa, dodgy old Russian planes, a Taiwanese junk in the Sea of China, a day designed by Salvador Dali on a bus in China in the early 90’s, crawling through the tombs of nobles under people’s houses in Luxor’s west bank - I had some really fun decades of travel adventures. 

I never owned much (except for where I’ve lived), I studied long, worked hard & saved like crazy, but took long breaks to travel. If I can buy what I need second-hand, that lifelong habit never left me - that really nice Talbots dress that I’ll be wearing on my next cruise, I got it on eBay.

My body simply won’t co-operate anymore.
I can’t risk getting dengue again, that last one put me in hospital. I can’t walk/hike everywhere anymore, I now need a mobility device. Over the last 10 years, cruising has become an easier way to travel for us. Now my focus is spending time with family and, luckily, the grandkids are more taken with cruising than ‘exploring’ unfamiliar places and eating weird food.

Short extended-family cruises, mixed with longer b2b cruises (book-ended by some independent destination travel) is what our next 10 years of travel will be looking like.

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5 minutes ago, CrznTxn said:

I receive a little over 5 weeks vacation and the wife has a job that allows flexible time off (single person office in a seasonal business). In the past the workaholic in me never took time off until the kids were out of college, married and gone. Now the wife and I enjoy 3 cruises (sometimes 4) in a year as we enjoy being "unplugged" from the world. We do not go for the expensive accommodations as we are rarely in them and make sure we take advantage of all the freebie or discounted items on the ship. We closely monitor the shore excursions and have favorites we like to visit. These are some with the cruise line and some via 3rd party depending on the location. Typical bill at the end of our cruises is about $200 for the occasional drink and specials (shore excursions not included). After cruising for a while we also receive "special" offers in the mail and usually arrange our schedule to match these discounted dates. On top of that we use a travel agent who usually gives us On Board Credit so it reduces the end bill. The other benefit is we are within driving distance of two ports so we save the expense of flying unless we find a super discounted air fare (last year to LAX $325 round trip for both of us).

I avoid LAX with all my existence! We were lucky to get flights out of ONT or john wayne.

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