cruise ship out on the water
Illustration by Lauren Wood, The Ohio State University
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cruise ship out on the water
Illustration by Lauren Wood, The Ohio State University

Seeing the world doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank or cutting into your financial aid.

College is the perfect time to travel and see the world. The importance of new experiences and exposure to different cultures is paramount. Trying new foods and connecting with friendly people all over the world enriches the lives of those who choose to travel outside of their own country. But if you don’t have a lot of experience with travel, venturing out on your own may seem daunting. How do you know what hotel to stay at or if you’ll like the food? Many colleges offer educational travel opportunities with short-term travel experiences or semesters abroad, but to many people, the cost can be prohibitive. One amazing way to dip your toe into the world of travel while still keeping within your comfort zone is by taking a cruise. Cruising may seem like the hobby of older generations, but plenty of young people travel every year aboard cruise ships across the globe.

If you are juggling school, jobs and other obligations, cruise lines have you covered. Many offer quick getaways over the weekend with a short stop in a new place. Most cruise lines have ports all over the world, so there are tons of different getaways to choose from — getting to the port is your only challenge. There are quick trips to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and even Europe. These quick trips can be themed or just simply provide opportunities for you to kick back and relax!

If you can’t decide on which country to visit, longer cruises will give you the opportunity to visit multiple countries over the span of a week or longer. They cover places all over the world, so you can enjoy a sunny beach in December or an ice-cold glacier hike in the summer. Most cruise lines offer excursions sure to spark the interest of any traveler. Want to get up close with animals? Try a sloth encounter in Honduras or spotting killer whales along the Alaskan coast. Do you love history? Trek the Mayan ruins in Mexico or learn the history of the Panama Canal while in the Panama Canal. Are you just trying to get away from the stress? Maybe wine tasting in Italy or a private beach club in the Caribbean is more your style. All of these excursions, of course, cost extra money, but even the thriftiest adventurer will find something to do after disembarking the boat.

One of the best features of cruise ships is going to be the endless amounts of food. From fancy sit-down style dinners to all-you-can-eat buffets, cruising takes the stress off your wallet as you indulge in whatever your heart can think of. It might sound like a nightmare for picky eaters but there is something for everyone. There’s no shame in only eating chicken tenders or macaroni and cheese, and cruise lines are sure to offer these familiar staples. More adventurous foodies will love the variety there is to eat on board, and almost all of it is already included. Expand your palette with things like escargot, baked Alaska and even a night of endless lobster tails. Most ships will also have specialty dining for an added fee but even then, the bargain prices usually include an all-you-can-eat option.

Many prospective cruisers might wonder what there is to do on a boat while in between ports, and the answer is anything. The last thing a cruise director wants is a boatload of bored passengers. Some boats have giant theaters with Broadway-style music shows, and others might include acrobatic high divers or ice-skating performances. Even the smallest cruise ship is sure to have live music playing in all different styles. There are more laid-back activities like trivia or bingo and many ships even have casinos. Hit the gym right before you hit the dessert buffet or spend your afternoon soaking up the sun on the many lounge chairs scattered across every deck. If you’re willing to spend some extra money you can relax in the spa, sport a new hairstyle or touch up your nails with a manicure. Most ships will have things to do all day and night and you will not find a moment of boredom.

So how can you experience these all-inclusive vacations without breaking the bank? There are tons of different ways to spend less and experience more. The first tip is to never travel alone. It costs extra for one person in a cabin that sleeps two so always bring a buddy; splitting room costs will save you even more. If you have way too many traveling companions, organizing a group cruise often means someone is sailing for free. It’s a lot of work so only the most motivated are going to want to follow that tip.

Next, book super early … or super late. Booking early will give you a low price right off the bat and if the price of your cruise goes down, you can ask them to lower your price, too. But also booking late to fill in canceled cabins will allow you to pick up a cruise for the absolute cheapest price. That leads to the next point — be flexible. Choosing cruises that are super popular will be more expensive but searching the cruise line website without having picked a destination will leave your cheapest options wide open. This next tip may seem counterintuitive, but stay loyal to one cruise line. Most cruise lines will offer their loyal customers further discounts for returning to their ships. Once you take your first cruise, expect to receive regular emails with low-priced offers on future cruises.

There is no time like now to set out and see the world. College is one of the best times for amazing experiences in new lands. Graduation looms closer than you might think and after that will be all about jobs, family or even more education. Take the time now to see the world and try new things. Cruising is just one of the many ways for students to find affordable opportunities.

Writer Profile

Megan Miller

Arizona State University
English/History

Megan has lived her whole life in Southern California where she enjoys all the local attractions, especially the beaches. She enjoys reading, writing and cooking. She is obsessed with her dog, Moose.

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