10 Ways to Save Money On Board a Cruiseship

April 1, 2008 | By | 7 Replies More
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Cruise ShipYou’ll need these money saving tips while on board your next cruise because we all know the cruise reservation price is just the beginning! The cruise lines are hoping you’ll spend twice your initial expenditure on fine wines, pool side drinks, shore excursions, at the gift shop and in the casino. It’s all about finding ways to help you spend your money on impulse purchases. Here are ten common sense strategies to keep more money in your pocket and not there’s.

#1 Drink Passes – Most cruise lines will offer to sell you drink passes when you go through the check in process (both for soft drinks and/or cocktails). Now, if you’re traveling with children who will be downing sodas and Shirley Temples all day long, the soda pass is probably a no brainer. For everyone else consider your drink consumption carefully and do the math. So with that in mind, I usually wait until I’m on board and see how much my cocktails of choice actually cost and then make my decision at leisure. Typically any waiter or bartender can also sell you a drink pass. You can also save money by taking advantage of free cocktail receptions on the ship. There will always be a Captain’s welcome party, an art preview reception, etc. Forget the shots with dessert – they’re just trying to pad your bill!

#2 Wine and Cocktails – We bring some wine and vodka with us. Many cruise lines allow you to bring wine on board – and I believe in don’t ask don’t tell. I find neoprene bottle pouches make great packing for bottles in the middle of the suitcase and take up no space when empty. I also bring along or buy a thermal travel mug to fill with orange juice at the breakfast buffet (to go with that vodka), or ice tea or whatever. If you’re a beer drinker, you may find it’s less expensive to order a six pack from room service (store in your mini fridge) rather than purchasing bottled beer at the bar. Bring along a zip up coozie for the bottle if you want to tote it around.

#3 Shore Excursions – Do your homework, there’s no excuse for paying too much. You’ll find descriptions and prices for shore excursions on your cruiseline’s website as well as in the final documents. Visit online shore excursion websites to comparison shop. Give these a try: ShoreTrips.com, Viator.com, PortTrips.com, Port Promotions. Alternatively make some friends on board and team up for private excursions. Some cruise lines host a meeting for folks who are members of CruiseCritic.com. When members get together they all compare notes about shore excursions and team up for private excursions. Just be sure that when you go off on your own, return to the ship early so there’s no danger of missing it’s departure – being back on the ship by departure time is entirely your responsibility and they WILL leave without you, so always plan accordingly.

#4 Shopping – Wander through the cruise ship gift shop and take note of the price points. You may find that items on the ship are less expensive than in port tourist shops – smoked salmon in Alaska for example. Read the daily news brief and look for gift shop promotional sales. If you are on a repositioning cruise, you may find that the cruise ship is changing their gift shop stock. For instance when returning from Europe to the Caribbean, all the Europe branded items will be put on sale.

#4 Casino – Suffice to say, the odds of winning on a cruise ship are dramatically less than in an onshore casino. Plan on loosing a predetermined sum of money or don’t go in. If you want to spend some time in the fun casino atmosphere, but not risk loosing your hard earned funds, participate in the group card game lessons.

#6 Technology – Resist the temptation of using your cell phone on the ship. You will likely be paying $3 a minute or more. Look for the fine print in your cabin about pricing. Wait until you get across the gangplank to power up and make your calls. Most cruise lines offer an internet access package – usually costing about $250-$300 for the length of the cruise. Do you really need to read your email that badly while on vacation??? If you want to check it just once or twice, visit an internet cafe (or public library) while in port and you’ll pay far less than on the ship.

#7 Photos – Put your disposable or digital camera in your pocket and snap away all through the ship. Pass it to your waiter and shipmates and ask them to take your picture. Make a deal with each other in advance that you will purchase no picture from the ship’s photo gallery unless you BOTH look wonderful. When leaving and reboarding the ship, we breeze right by those silly photo ops with mascot characters – plleeease!

#8 Dining – One recent trend is to have specialty restaurants on board that require advanced reservations and additional cost. Now, I feel I’ve paid enough for the cruise and the dining room food had better be really good, or I won’t be back with that cruise line again. So for me, paying extra for a fancy Italian meal or steak dinner (which can’t be cooked on open flame) just doesn’t have maximum appeal. My recommendation is to wait until mid-week and see what the reviews are like by your fellow passengers and then make your decision.

Learn to take full advantage of room service which is included free of charge. Put in a standing order for a wake up pot of coffee, order a cheese tray for enjoying the sunset on your balcony, or a late lunch to be waiting for you when you return from your shore excursion.

#9 Spa – Watch for Spa treatment promotions to be announced for days at sea. Many times you can get reduced rate treatments during mid-day hours when most passengers are ashore on shore excursions. Don’t be afraid to ask at the desk if the treatment you want is reduced at a certain time during your cruise. AND don’t buy those spa products – they are just taking advantage of your relaxed and vulnerable state. Many ships now offer teeth whitening as a spa service – so if you’ve always been wanting to have it done, check the cost at home and see if the shipboard service is a bargain.

#10 Art – just say no. Enjoy the art preview cocktail hour, but keep your hand down during the auction unless you have seriously blank walls at home you’re trying to fill. If you think you might want to purchase an art piece, it would probably be worth a stop at the internet cafe to do a quick scan of EBay and see what a similar piece would sell for off the ship. It’s important to remember that on top of the auction price you will pay a 15% buyers premium AND shipping. Then remember, if you get it home and it doesn’t look right – there’s no simple way for a return. Refer to my first bit of advice!

With a little advance planning you can have a truly memorable cruise without being faced with a huge bill at the end. Happy Sailing, and please share some tips with us about how you’ve saved money while cruising.

Category: Alaska Travel Tips, Caribbean Travel Tips, Cruises, Europe Travel Tips, How To, Mexico Travel Tips