Rick Steves' Tips For Planning A Budget-Friendly Cruise Through The Mediterranean

A cruise on the Mediterranean sea might not be the first image that comes to mind when you think of a budget-friendly destination. But even though you'll be passing through some of the world's most iconic places, a cost-effective trip may be more accessible than you think. TV host, guidebook author, and European travel expert Rick Steves has a few tips to help you save money on a Mediterranean cruise via his blog Rick Steves' Europe.

His first tip is to stay in the loop about all the charges you're racking up, rather than looking at the bill at the end of the vacation. While it may seem like only a little here, a little there, all of the amenities on your bucket list cruise can quickly add up, from gift shop purchases to that extra drink at dinner. Set a daily limit for how much you want to spend, the same way you'd budget on land. Little changes can make a big difference. For example, rather than shopping on the ship, you can save your purchases for the port areas. After you disembark, be sure to venture away from the tourist zones for the best deals. You'd be surprised by how walking just a few blocks away from the "tourist traps" can keep your wallet fuller for longer.

Skip shore excursions for solo adventures

Shore excursions are a great way to mix up cruise activities and get a taste of each new destination. There's nothing more convenient than getting whisked away to snorkel in the Mediterranean or traverse around Roman ruins, without having to lift a finger. With that said, many of these tours cost a pretty penny. Shore excursions are another expense where it's easy to go over the limit. Instead, consider saving the money by venturing out on your own.

Before you get off the ship, take some time to do some research on Google, social media threads, trip review sites, or Rick Steves' Mediterranean Cruise Ports Guidebook. Pick a handful of activities to do solo and figure out how to get there. Many cruise stops are easy to navigate, like Barcelona, Nice, and Venice, says Steves on his blog. The must-see landmarks are accessible by taking a shuttle bus, express boat, or pedestrian path. Save your excursion budget for activities that are hard to reach without a little guidance or the sites where you want the extra depth that only a guide can provide.

Take advantage of free amenities

While the specialty restaurants on board may be tempting, the standard dining room is a safer bet for your budget. Ask the server which drinks are included. Avoid branded items that will cost extra, like sodas and fancy bottles of water. If you still want to enjoy your favorite drinks on board, buy them at the store and store them in your room. Ask whether you're allowed to bring your own beer and wine on board, as that's another way to save some cash. Before you head to the port for the day, eat an extra large breakfast and snag a few fruits or snacks to keep in your day bag, says Steves on his blog.

Beyond food, get creative with free activities. Cruise ships are designed to entertain you, so there will be no shortage of fun things to do onboard. Skim the daily schedule and fill up your time with bingo, art, swimming, fitness, shows, lectures, and dancing to some live music. Instead of the arcade, see if there's a collection of board games somewhere. At night, rather than winding down with a paid movie, see what titles you can discover at the ship's library. Of course, while you can always find more ways to save a little cash here and there, don't let budgeting spoil all the fun. Be mindful of your spending, but do splurge when appropriate. After all, you are on vacation. And, as they say, when in Rome...