I love cruising! I have personally been on three cruises now, two of them with Royal Caribbean, and one with Celebrity. Cruising is by far my favorite way to travel! When you are on a cruise ship, you are on a floating city with all the food, drinks, and entertainment you could want! Here’s the thing though. That “all-inclusive” price you paid to book your cruise doesn’t exactly include everything. Cruises also typically come with a hefty price tag. So I thought it would be nice if I shared some tips with you on how to save money before booking your cruise and once you board. Here are 16 tips to help you spend your money wisely while cruising.
Finding The Best Price For Your Cruise
Many of the people I’ve met on the cruises I’ve been on have told me they did not pay full price when booking their cruise. A wonderful woman we met on our last cruise recommended PriceLine and Cruiseonly when looking for your next cruise. These sites offer some fantastic discounts. A woman I met on my second cruise, told me she had booked her two week cruise with Norwegian for around $200 because she waited until 2 weeks before the boat was scheduled to leave to book her trip. If you can wait to plan a vacation, I recommend doing this to save you a HUGE amount of money. Now I have not personally used either of the above sites for booking a cruise. Let me know if you have experience using them!
Picking Your Room
It’s no secret that the more money you spend, the nicer your room will be. However, when you are on a cruise ship you are on a floating resort. Ask yourself how much time are you going to be spending in your room? Do you really need that peephole called a window that will let you see the same water you could see from an upper deck? I would recommend saving the money you would have spent on a suite, or a balcony and putting it back into experiences at the places you will be visiting instead.
On this last cruise I just went on, we decided to only bring carry-on luggage so as to avoid extra luggage fees during our flight. We knew we wouldn’t be able to bring full-size bottles of bug spray and sunscreen with us so we had to spend some time finding smaller bottles of these items. Once you are on the boat or in a tourist destination, the prices of these items is going to be much higher. On Royal Caribbean’s private island, Coco-Cay, the price of sunscreen was literally $24!!!! No joke! Make sure to buy these items and any additional necessities you may need prior to traveling. You will save a lot of money if you do!
Bring A Camera
Before you are even on board the ship, there are going to be professional photographers everywhere asking to take your picture. Yes it’s great to feel like a celebrity and to get your picture taken in front of all these awesome backgrounds. However, once you see the photo lounge your jaw will drop at the price. The cost for one picture usually starts at $19.95. Just for one picture! I strongly recommend bringing your own camera or borrowing one from a friend and taking your own photos to avoid this extra cost.
Bring An Empty Water Bottle
It wasn’t until my third cruise, that my husband recommended we bring an empty water bottle with us to us on the islands. The cool part about bringing an EMPTY water bottle with you, is that the airplane won’t make you throw it away before passing through security. So having an empty water bottle handy allows you to fill up your water bottle from a fountain instead of purchasing a bottle of water at the airport, on the boat, or at one of your destinations.
Before boarding you have the option to pay your gratuities ahead of time. I recommend doing this, so that you don’t have to worry about another expense at the end of your cruise. Keep in mind though when you are ordering drinks or extra items, gratuity is usually added to the check automatically. While I recommend being generous and fair with your tips, I also don’t want you to tip without realizing you already had.
Turn Your Phone Off
While cruising, odds are you are not going to have cell service. If you do, you will most likely be hit with roaming charges with your next bill. I suggest avoiding any potential charges and fees altogether and either put your phone into “airplane mode” if you plan on using it to take pictures or simply turn it off.
This is very similar to your smart phone, but you will most likely not have access to WIFI while on board. Many cruises offer the internet, but streaming services can be over $20 per day! I would recommend enjoying your vacation away from social media and the internet. You may find it’s kind of peaceful!
Keep in mind, that while your cruise is “all-inclusive” it does not include sodas or alcohol. If you would like to not have to purchase these drinks individually I would recommend taking advantage of one of the beverage packages the cruise offers. Now I will warn you these packages are expensive, so I would recommend figuring out how many drinks you would have to drink to make these packages worth-while. One of the alcohol drink packages I was considering getting during our last cruise would have required me to drink 8 drinks a day to break even at a cost of $11 per drink. Crazy right? So I decided to just purchase my 2-3 drinks a day instead to save some money.
Every cruise ship offers excursion options for you to choose from when in port. Often times these excursions are a bit pricey, but they also have advantages. The advantage to booking excursions directly through your cruise ship is that they are required to wait on you if your transportation is late or if something happens to where you can’t be back in time. The advantage of booking an excursion once you’re on the island, is that you can often find the same deal but for a much cheaper cost. However, if you decide to purchase an excursion outside of the cruise, you have to be really careful. There are scammers and companies that will take your money or are not concerned with making sure you get back to the ship on time. I’ve personally used excursions through the cruise and on the island and I have had great experiences every time.
Spas, Shops & Specialty Restaurants
Most cruise ships will have a spa and a few specialty restaurants on board. Many of these activities will be deeply discounted when a ship is docked, to entice you to stay on board and spend money. The shops are going to have huge sales on the last day of your cruise, and the specialty restaurants will have planned discount times so just be sure to ask ahead of time when making a reservation.
Avoid Impulse Purchases
When you are on a cruise, you will notice there are tons of opportunities for you to spend your hard-earned money. There are shops, a casino, contests and games (like Bingo), specialty restaurants, room service, a spa, and so many others. Now I realize you are on vacation, so it’s perfectly fine if you want to do these things. My recommendation would be to budget for these activities if you really want to play Bingo or try your hand in the casino. But make sure you stick to that budget, and don’t go over it.
You will most likely find a laundry service on board your cruise. Let’s be reasonable though. A cruise is usually no longer than 2 weeks and typically averages 5-7 days. Pack an extra outfit or two in case something gets dirty, and save your dollars instead of using this very expensive laundry service. I also recommend bringing a Tide White Pen so you can try to avoid any stains on your nice clothes.
If you are a parent and decide to bring your children on the cruise with you, you will find that many of the ships offer fantastic youth programs that have free planned activities for your older children to participate in. Now if you want, there are child care services available but they are usually an added expense. I would recommend either spending the time together as a family, or letting your child participate in the free activities if they are old enough to participate.
Avoid Fitness Classes
Most cruise ships have a gym that is free to use which is great if you want to try and work off some of the food or beverages you may consume while on board. These gyms also typically offer fitness classes, metabolic testing, weight loss wraps, etc. Unfortunately, all of these things cost extra so I would recommend just sticking to the free work out equipment during your cruise.
There are so many beautiful items you can purchase on a cruise ship. However, you are more than likely going to be able to find something cheaper at one of the islands or destinations you are visiting. Try to get away from the touristy section where your ship is docked and really dive into some of the local shops in the area. Or better yet, let your pictures and videos be your souvenir!
I hope these 16 tips help you to save money while planning your cruise and spend your money more wisely once on board. Just remember to also take time to enjoy your vacation and know that it’s okay to spend money on those activities you love in order to make memories for the future. I hope you have a wonderful time and I can’t wait to hear where your cruising adventures take you!