Consider spending a day or two in your port of embarkation or debarkation either before or after your cruise. An advantage to arriving a day or two early is that you don’t have to worry if your flight is running late. Plus, many embarkation ports the cities into which most passengers fly in order to board their cruise ship happen to be great places to explore.
As with airfare, each cruise line always has a handful of partner hotels in each port of embarkation that they are willing to book on your behalf, should you choose to. Unless your cruise line is throwing it in gratis, as many luxury lines do, we’d recommend taking a pass on the cruise line’s offer: The properties they sell are usually some of the best in the city, but they’re also typically some of the priciest and the cruise line will display per person rates instead of the normal per room rate that’s typically offered by the hotel. Bottom line: You’ll pay more than you need to if you book your hotel through the cruise line.
Instead, the best rates are likely to be through the hotels themselves, as all of the major chains are now undercutting the rates offered by both the cruise lines and the online travel agencies, with special deals given only to members of their loyalty programs. To suss out how much you should be paying, look at such sites as HotelsCombined.com or Kayak.com both of which search a number of sources. Then, if you find a hotel you like, contact it directly to see if it will undercut what can be found at the online travel agency sites. ( Tip: These super-discounted rates will only be offered to loyalty program members, but that shouldn’t be a big issue, as signing up for these programs is free.)
It’s also worth checking out Airbnb.com , Wimdu.com , HomeAway.com , or FlipKey.com to book either a full apartment or a room within an apartment. Not only are there hundreds of options to choose from in most locations, these local residences usually provide more space, and a more authentic experience of these vibrant locales, often at a fraction of the cost of what a hotel might run you for the evening. Airbnb alone has over 1,500,000 listings in 34,000 cities in 190 countries around the world, so chances are good that your port of embarkation has a rental option or two.