Have you ever experienced arriving home content with how your cruising vacation went and then saw the horrific post-cruise bill and bank statements? If you have endured this, don't worry, millions of other disappointed cruisers have too.
After years of cruising on the high seas, I have compiled a list of the 51 most effective tricks to hopefully avoid spending an obsessive amount of money on your future cruise.
Avoid Spa Treatments
One of the highest cost services on cruise ships is located in the ship's spa. If you are looking to indulge, consider booking a spa cabin. In these staterooms, you will have plenty of spa treatments included, saving you the inflated cost of all the extras.
Bring Spare Batteries
If you have a camera that requires batteries or a charging cable for your phone, make sure to bring a couple extra on your cruise. Buying new equipment onboard or in port can add up quickly.
Opt for the Meal Package
Pre-purchased packages for the exclusive dining venues prior to departure often are cheaper when booked in advance. If you are planning on dining in some of the specialty restaurants, keep an eye out for the cruise line's packages online a couple of months before boarding.
Acquire Foreign Currency
While most ports will accept US dollars or credit cards, it always pays to have actual cash on hand. Do not wait too long to sort out your pesos or Euros to avoid unnecessarily high commissions onboard.
Packing light can save you loads of money on baggage fees. Both your airline and cruise lines can have baggage fees for excessive luggage. Make sure to check out your traveling company's policies to best prepare for your voyage.
Bring a Personal First Aid Kit
Believe it or not, one of the most expensive items on a ship is bandages. Therefore, be sure to bring a medical kit stocked with all the essential medications, bandages, and other pieces so you can rely on yourself to respond to minor injuries and ailments.
Check What's Included
Make sure to check the fine print in your cruise confirmation to be clear on what your cruising package includes and covers. You will save yourself money and unexpected letdowns down the line.
Pack the Essentials
Be sure to stock up on all the necessary essentials before heading to the airport. Utilizing a packing list may help, but remembering simple items such as toothbrushes, aftershaves, sunscreen, toothpaste, etc. can save you money from expensive purchases onboard.
Worry-free Drinking with a Package
Booking a beverage package before departing on your voyage can save you from spending money on board. Even if you only enjoy soft drinks, all those trips to the bar add up, and quickly at that. To save yourself from a crazy bill at the end of your cruise, research the drink packages offered on your cruise.
Stick to the Main Dining Room
If you are not particularly looking to pay extra for specialty dining, don't worry, you are not forced to. While eating at the buffet and main dining room may sound boring, the food at these venues is generally pretty tasty and more importantly, free.
Look Out for Free Drinks
Most cruise lines offer some free refreshments if you know where to look. Keep an eye out for free coffee, tea, water, lemonade, iced tea, flavored waters, juices, and even hot chocolate!
Beware of the Mini Fridge/Bar
Cruise lines are not stupid. They know if they put refreshingly cold beverages in staterooms, some passengers will find themselves opening a soda or liquor bottle at some point. To avoid this extra charge, I suggest politely asking your room steward to clear them out of sight.
Bring Your Own Wine
Most cruise lines will allow you to bring a couple of wine bottles from your personal collection when boarding. Whether for a quiet drink in your cabin or a toast at dinner, it is way cheaper to bring your own wine than paying a premium for the wine onboard.
Watch for Daily Drink Specials
If you opted out of the pricey drink packages but still would like to have an alcoholic beverage now and then, watch out for the daily drink specials. Treat yourself to something unique and save a couple of bucks by asking the bartender for the drink special of the day.
Purchase a Beverage Package on the First Day
If you forgot to book your beverage package before you left on vacation, don't worry, you still have a chance to save on the first day of your voyage. These beverage packages are typically offered at a discounted price on embarkation day of the cruise.
Keep an Eye Out for Free Drinks
If you are looking for free entertainment onboard, check out events like art auctions. You are not required to bid or purchase anything and there will be plenty of free bubbly and wine to go around.
Buy a Bottle of Wine
If you forgot to bring your favorite wine with you but still want to enjoy a glass at dinner, go ahead and purchase the bottle. It can often be cheaper than buying multiple glasses throughout your cruise. Don't worry, you will not be required to finish the bottle in one sitting. Just ask your waiter to cork the bottle until the next time you would like a glass.
Enjoy Some Steam in the Sauna
While each cruise line is different, many offer the onboard sauna service of the spa free to all passengers. If you are worried about spending too much in the spa, this is a perfect (and free!) way to relax and unwind after a long day exploring a port.
Take Cruise Selfies
Do not be tempted into paying for the cruise line's "professional" photos onboard. If you have a half-decent phone, you can take quality photos yourself. Plus, you can keep retaking the pictures to your liking without an added charge. Alternatively, ask a fellow passenger to snap your photo of you and your cruise companions.
Bring Laundry Detergent
If you end up needing to do laundry on board, you are not going to want to pay for the excessive price of your steward to clean your clothes. Thankfully, most cruise ships have a self-service laundry room, so bring some laundry detergent and clean your clothes onboard if necessary.
Grab Lunch Onboard
While it may be tempting to get lunch before boarding from ports, you have a great free lunch waiting for you onboard. As a surefire way to save on filling your tummy, make sure to be back on the cruise ship on time for the lunch hour.
Avoid the Casino
From the second you start your vacation, cruise ship employees will be boasting various gambling opportunities. While tempting, the roulette wheel and slot machines should be avoided at all costs if you are wanting to save your money.
Pack in a Carry-on
Lighten your load for both the airplane and the cruise ship by packing less. If you do not think you will have enough outfits, be sure to bring some detergent to take advantage of the free, self-service laundry room.
Say Goodbye to Your Phone
Making phone calls onboard can add up real fast. Turn your phone on airplane mode for the duration of your vacation to avoid an excessive bill when you arrive home. You will want to avoid paying huge data premiums while you are away from home.
Use the Library
Instead of purchasing books and increasing the weight of your luggage, utilize the free library checkout system on your ship. Save money at the bookstore in port and check out one of the hundreds of books offered in the library.
Ask About Free Medication
If you forgot to pack Ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications, it doesn't hurt to ask the front desk if they offer any free medication. Do not let simple seasickness ruin your trip and ask the cruise ship employees to get back to enjoying your vacation.
Don't Excessively Tip
When you are on vacation, especially as a celebration, it can be tempting to be overly generous when it comes to tipping waiters, Uber drivers, and your favorite bar staff members. By all means, tip your service members a fair amount, but do not try and overdo it.
Watch for Free Classes
If you are a die-hard athlete or in the midst of a diet, it can be tempting to opt for the costly personal trainer to continue what you began at home. Try to resist the urge to get a personal trainer and private classes and instead, take advantage of the often free fitness center classes onboard.
An easy way to both have fun and save money in port is making friends. Fellow passengers are also looking to watch their wallets, so partnering up for a shared excursion will cut back costs. Shared taxis and activities won't end up being as bad as you thought once you receive the much smaller bill at the end of the day.
Purchase Souvenirs in Port
Cruise lines often sell souvenirs for the ports you have or are scheduled to visit. Make sure to check out the souvenirs on land as these are offered at a fraction of the price. Plus, you will be contributing to the local economy in these ports.
Stick to a Budget
If you are tight on cash, it might be wise to devise a budget before you leave on vacation. Try to write out a budget and keep track of your purchases day by day.
Delayed Onboard Purchases
Avoid making any major onboard purchases until the last day. Often, cruise lines will offer items in their shops at a discounted price. If you have been eying an item the entire voyage, the last day is the time to buy it.
Future Cruise Credits
If you are an avid cruiser, it may be wise to ask if you can purchase future cruise deposits while onboard. Your next cruise may be the last thing on your mind, but this is the perfect time to receive significant savings of future cruises if you are planning to sail with the same cruise line.
Opt-out of the Sailaway Drink
Cruise lines always try to capitalize on what some may call the most exciting part of the cruise, sailing away. Avoid shelling out money for these beverages and say no to the souvenir glasses. While it may sound exciting at the time, you will quickly disregard this glass a couple of days later.
Pre-Book Your Shore Excursions
Before departing on your voyage, make sure to check out your cruise line's list of shore excursions. Most cruise lines offer a 20% discount for reserving these tours in advance on their website. You can always book when onboard, but why do that if you can save 20%?
Private Port Activities
If you feel comfortable booking your shore excursions without the cruise line, I highly suggest researching and booking with local companies at your ports. Make sure to check the reliability and reputation of the tours before booking. If done correctly, you can save hundreds of dollars.
Purchase Travel Insurance
While at first, you may think travel insurance is an added cost, I cannot imagine going on a cruise without it. It is best to be covered financially when something goes wrong. Whether your flight gets bumped or you get carried away while in port and miss boarding, you will want travel insurance to cushion the coming fees.
If you have a port where you do not want to get off-board, do not worry, you are not forced to. An easy way to save your money is by staying onboard. Once the crowd gets off, you will have more room to roam and check out all the amenities.
That completes my tricks on how to save when on your cruise. Take your time and enjoy your vacation on the high sea, never spending more than necessary.