My wife and I have always dreamed of taking an Hawaiian cruise, but when we added up the cost of the cruise, airfare, and excursions, it ended up being in the ballpark of $7-8,000, way more than we could afford. Last week, we were able to take a seven night cruise around the Hawaiian islands on Norwegian’s Pride of America, here is how we saved thousands and made our dream possible.
When taking a cruise to Hawaii, there are five things to budget for: cruise, airfare, excursions, pre-cruise hotel, and transportation. While the first three are the largest expenses, you can save money on all of them without compromising your experience and cheating yourself out of seeing what Hawaii has to offer. Here is how we saved money in each area and made an unaffordable dream a reality.
Airfare – Airfare to Honolulu can be a major expense, especially to those who live on the East Coast. When I priced airfare from our home airport in Cincinnati, flights were $1,200 each. We have done Caribbean cruises for far less than that. But the Caribbean isn’t Hawaii so we had to figure out how to get affordable flights to Honolulu.
We each signed up for the Delta American Express card when they were offering 60,000 Skymiles for new applications. All you had to do was spend $1,000 on each card within the first three months to receive the bonus miles, that is easy to do when you put all of your daily living expenses on it. With the 60,000 Skymiles, were we able to book flights to Honolulu for free, all we had to do was pay the $11.20 September 11 Security Fee. Savings $2,377.60
Cruise – This is one area of the trip that is hard to save a lot of money on because the cruise line’s set the prices for cruises and agencies aren’t allowed to discount. Since we have an extremely flexible schedule, we booked the cheapest week over the course of two months that we wanted to travel. We also booked a guarantee balcony stateroom to save money. Savings by booking the cheapest week and guarantee stateroom: $1,200 ($3,577.60 total so far)
Excursions – Cruise excursions in Hawaii aren’t cheap with an average of $95-180 per person per excursion). We wanted the full Hawaii experience and quickly realized that you could easily spend $1,500 – $2,000 on excursions without even trying. With six days in port and all but one port being an industrial port, booking excursions is a must.
We opted to use Roberts Hawaii for excursions and rent a car two days to explore on our own. Roberts Hawaii offers multi port packages (3 tour combo $128.80, 4 tour combo $145.20, 5 tour combo $150) for a fraction of the cost of the excursions offered by the cruise line. We found the excursions to be of great quality, and we were even on the same boat ride (Wailua River Cruise and & Grotto) as the passengers who paid 3 times as much to book through the cruise line. We choose the 3 port combo package for $257.60 total for two and rented a car for the day on Maui and Kauai. The excursion to Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls is not to be missed.
By renting a car ($70 total per day), we were able to drive around the island visiting the hot spots like Haleakala Crater, coffee plantations, fabulous beaches, and Waimea Canyon (also not to be missed). If we booked all of the excursions we participated in through the cruise line, it would have cost us $1,450. We spent a total of $398 on excursions through Roberts and rental cars and felt we got the full Hawaii experience. I can’t recommend Roberts Hawaii enough, they were awesome. Savings: $1,052 ($4,829.60 total)
Pre-cruise hotel – When booking a pre-cruise hotel in Honolulu, staying near Waikiki beach gives you easy walking access to tons of restaurants, shopping, and local attractions. We booked a hotel (Holiday Inn Beachcomer) directly across the street from the beach and was right in the middle of everything, couldn’t ask for a better location. Since we were only staying one night, we felt it wasn’t worth the cost of paying the premium for a beachfront hotel. Savings $100 (Total $4,929.60)
Transportation – While you aren’t going to spend a ton of money on transportation, you do have to get to the hotel, cruise, and back to the airport. By using Uber when possible, we were able to not only save a little bit of money, but travel in vehicles that are much nicer than a standard cab. Savings $25 (Total $4,954.60)
In these five areas, we were able to save $4,954.60 and make an unaffordable dream a reality.