Monday, February 22

Planning a Frugal Cruise

I’ve said many times that being a miser doesn’t mean living a miserable life. Personally, I no longer feel any excitement from the acquisition of material things. I have everything I need and have no desire to bring new clutter into my life – only the absolute necessities are welcomed into my home. What I do get excited about is having experiences. Still, the frugal miser in me aims to eke out the most "experience" my dollar can buy.

The last time I went on a cruise was to celebrate my graduation from college. Three of us agreed to share a room on this 7 day adventure. It was my first time to visit another country besides Canada and also the first time in a long time to be technologically detached from society. I could have used my mobile phone or the Internet café on the ship, but the cost was prohibitive. There’s something to say about getting away for an entire week without contact with the rest of the world. Under these circumstances you can truly relax.

On May 22nd, my partner and I will cruise the Western Caribbean for 5 days. My goal is to keep the total cost of this adventure under $1,000. I paid $775 for the cruise itself, which doesn’t leave me much for anything else. I selected the absolute cheapest cabin available, which was an interior room with bunk beds instead of two standard twin-size beds. I can’t see us spending much time in our room, but even if we do the room is 160 square feet (plenty space for me) and includes satellite TV, a luxury I don’t have at home.

One side benefit: I paid for the cruise with my Discover Card, which is offering 5% cash back on cruises through March. That’s just shy of $40, which I will probably redeem for a restaurant gift card.

So, how do I plan to spend $225 or less on food, travel, souvenirs, and excursions?

  • I plan to earn a free flight credit by dedicating all purchases to my Southwest VISA credit card and converting all my Hilton Honors points to Southwest credits. I am 12 credits shy of a free flight but can earn 6 credits by converting my Hilton Honors points. I also should receive 2 credits from my current statement on my credit card. That leaves 4 credits left to earn, which is $4,800 if I earn them by using my VISA. I may buy some gift cards or prepay something (maybe Homeowner’s Insurance?) to get these credits.
  • I I earned a Companion Pass last year (I was quite the frequent flyer at my last job), so my partner flies for free with me.
  • If we fly into Tampa (our cruise departs from there) a day early, I will book a free room with Best Western.
  • Of course, food on the ship is included. For food en route to/from Tampa, I will have a couple of gift cards.
Essentially, I should have about $200 to use onboard the ship or during our excursions. On my last cruise we booked our excursions directly as the cruise line significantly marks up the excursions booked directly through it.

Is spending $1,000 for a week’s vacation frugal? Well, I could certainly spend less than that for a trip to the beach. Instead, I would rather splurge a little. Otherwise, what’s the point of living? Besides, this gives me the chance to embark on a new adventure: I have roughly 90 days where I can try to squeeze some expenses or juice some new income to cover the cost of the vacation.

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