25 Tips to Save BIG on Your Next Cruise
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[Last updated 4/30/19]
Is it possible to save big on your next cruise? Yes! – and it’s actually pretty easy. Here are 25 of our favorite and best tips to ensure smooth sailing.
*Note that these tips may vary from cruise line to cruise line.
1. Book your cruise through a Travel Agency.
You can frequently find perks, bonuses, and occasionally even lower prices whenever you book through a travel agency or third party (such as Expedia or Priceline) instead of directly with the cruise line. However, some cruise lines even have a place on their site where you can find a local agent.
The majority of a travel agent’s income comes from commissions paid by the cruise lines; however, some travel agents may also charge a nominal service fee (around $15) for their time and effort.
What’s the difference? Cruise line sales representatives only know what they’ve been taught about their own brands; most have not sailed on the cruise ships they’re booking. However, travel agents (cruise specialists) have been onboard many cruise ships and can offer first-hand advice, like which cabins to avoid (because they’re under the main theater or across from a crew-only access door).
2. Save big by cruising during off-peak times.
To secure the best prices for your cruise, consider booking your vacation during off-peak cruise times. A few good times to travel can be in early fall during back to school and in between Thanksgiving and mid-December, as opposed to the busy Spring Break, holidays, and summer cruises.
3. Don’t book travel insurance with the Cruise Line.
It’s very important to have travel insurance! If you don’t have travel insurance and get sick or need treatment during your cruise, you’ll be looking at a very expensive medical bill. But NEVER book travel insurance with the cruise line directly as their policies have minimal coverage and inflated costs.
4. Consider booking early or last minute.
It’s typically best to book a cruise as early as possible to lock in the best price. That said, be sure to keep an eye on the prices, because if the price of the cruise changes or a better promotion pops up, you can change your booking to take advantage of the new pricing or promotion.
Also, if you’re flexible and don’t have a strong preference regarding a specific itinerary, cruise line, or ship OR you can cruise during a location’s off-season OR you are comfortable booking a non-refundable cruise within a month or so from departure, you may be able to find the best deal booking last minute!
5. Take advantage of room service.
Many cruise lines offer complimentary room service to guests, allowing you to order food delivered right to your cabin (a tip is appreciated). Check your cruise line’s policy to verify if they do indeed offer free room service before ordering dinner for the family. Note that soda is not included in room service, so you’ll need to stock up at a beverage station if you need more.
6. Bring your own wine or champagne from home.
Celebrating a special occasion? Although most cruise lines do not allow passengers to bring beer and liquor onboard, they do let you bring one bottle of wine or champagne per person in your carry-on luggage. Also, note that some cruise lines charge a $10-$25 corkage fee for consuming wine in the dining room or restaurants, so consider bringing a corkscrew with you and sipping it in your room.
7. Need extra showers? Use the spa for free.
You can use the showers, saunas, and steam rooms not located in the fancy thermal suites completely free. Plus, showering in the spa can often mean access to more clean towels, nicer toiletries, and bigger shower stalls – it also prevents fights over who gets cabin bathroom access first.
CABIN ORGANIZATION TIPS:
8. Magnetic walls? Bring these!
Most cabins are made of metal, which means the walls are magnetic! It’s a great idea to bring along some heavy-duty magnets so you can hang all your cocktail party invites, alternative dining reservation notices, and daily planners conveniently on the walls and doors. Plus, you can bring a shower curtain along and hang it up with magnets to create an extra changing area.
9. Use the TV to keep gadgets charged.
Staterooms are often limited to only a couple of electrical outlets. However, many TVs on cruise ships have a USB port located on the back which you can use to charge your cell phones, ebook readers, and other small electronics with a lightning cable. If you have a lot of devices to charge:
10. Bring a universal power adapter & power strip.
Often cruise ships have one single European power outlet and a single North American outlet (some cruise ships now offer USB options as well). Make use of the European outlet by bringing a Universal Travel Adapter with you (you’ll be able to use it wherever you travel in the future).
If your cruise line allows, you may also want to pack a power strip (such as this Belkin Travel Power Strip) to keep all your gadgets charged. This highly rated charger and surge protector turns one wall outlet into three outlets and it includes two USB ports!
NOTE – Some cruise lines do not allow you to bring power strips because they pose a fire hazard (Disney is one that does not allow them), so be sure to contact your cruise line to ask before buying one. Also, some cruise lines will have outlets that work fine with your plugs (i.e. Disney Cruise), so check with your cruise line before purchasing a universal power adapter.
FOOD & DINING TIPS:
11. Visit a specialty restaurant on the first night.
If you want to try one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, do this on the very first night of your cruise. Everyone wants to eat in the main dining room on the first night, leaving the specialty restaurants with several open tables (often with special discounts, such as 50% off and a free bottle of wine)! Check your ‘Day 1 itinerary’ for these promotions after embarking.
12. Skip the buffet on the first day.
On embarkation day, most people head straight to the buffet to have lunch and wait for their cabins to open – it can be chaotic and crowded! Many cruise ships have alternative venues open, such as the main dining room or a mini-buffet in the solarium or atrium area. Ask a crew member or check your daily newsletter to find an alternative for a calmer first meal.
13. Order one (or more) entrées your way.
You are not limited to one of each appetizer, entrée, and dessert in the main dining room. You can order two entrees or three desserts if you’d like! You can also order appetizer-sized portions of entrées as starters or order a few appetizers for your main meal. It’s a great way to try new foods!
14. Score free dessert & snacks.
Specialty coffees at the designated coffee shops onboard have an additional fee, but some of the desserts, pastries, sandwiches, and other foods at these venues are often free – just be sure to ask! Plus, there are often designated shops offering all sorts of included desserts and goodies.
15. Get free candy, too!
Have a sweet tooth? Don’t pay for the overpriced boxes of candy on board. Instead, head to the ice cream stand and ask the scooper for a cup of candy toppings of your choice completely free!
16. Buy Wi-Fi packages before you embark…
If you’re planning to use Wi-Fi on your voyage, you can typically get a 10% discount if you book a Wi-Fi package before you get on the ship. You can find these packages as add-ons in your online account. Just login with your cruise line and take a look at the different Wi-Fi packages that they offer.
17. …Or score free Wi-Fi (but you’ll have to be fast).
Rumor has it that some ships’ Wi-Fi will only deduct usage from your account if you’ve been logged onto the Wi-Fi for 30 seconds or more. Although you really can’t do much browsing in that short amount of time, it’s a great way to quickly pull in new emails or send a pre-written email to friends.
18. Access Wi-Fi during off-peak hours.
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi can be extremely slow aboard cruise ships. If you end up purchasing a Wi-Fi plan, use those minutes during a popular show, during peak meal times, late at night, or early in the morning to get the fastest speed compared to other times. Keep in mind that the “off-peak” times may vary by ship and itinerary, so be sure to ask the desk manager for the best times to log-on.
19. Ditch the walkie-talkies.
It’s been a long-used cruise tip to bring walkie-talkies with you to communicate with your cruise mates during the voyage. However, it’s actually pretty affordable to communicate using the cruise line’s app. This feature does cost extra, but that fee is likely less than $10 for a week-long cruise – less than the price of a pair of walkie-talkies that you likely won’t use again.
20. Stay updated with the Shipboard App.
Most cruise lines now have their own app that you can use on board for free. Just connect your phone to the ship’s Wi-Fi network and you’ll be able to use the app without incurring any Wi-Fi charges.
These apps are helpful for checking your onboard account balance, browsing the day’s up-to-date activities, reading up on your next port, checking daily menus, accessing a ship map, or even making dinner reservations. Be sure to download the app before your voyage so that you don’t incur Wi-Fi fees or roaming charges.
MOTION SICKNESS TIPS:
21. Find the best ship location to avoid motion sickness.
If you’re prone to seasickness, consider booking a lower stateroom in the middle of the ship where the motion is much more subdued. If your cabin is elsewhere, head to the most central part of the ship. Also, keep the air on ice-cold, which will further help counteract motion sickness.
22. Feeling queasy? Make note of these remedies.
If you’re feeling sick, room service can bring you fresh green apples and saltine crackers completely free. The green apple remedy (or really any apple) is highly recommended among the crew members for nausea. Also, you may be able to get free seasickness medicines from the purser’s desk.
23. Or…head to the pool.
The pool water will feel refreshing and help cool you off. Plus, it allows you to move with the water in the pool rather than with the ship, which often helps with the imbalance in your inner ear that causes the sea-sickness in the first place! One of the best times to head to the pool is when it’s raining (unless there’s a bad storm) as it’s less crowded and you’ll have fewer lines at the waterslides and the bar.
24. Go to Port Lectures for helpful info.
At the Port Lecture, the lecturer will highlight and show pictures of many of the tours on offer. You can use this information to help you decide which sites you may be able to see on your own or by simply renting an inexpensive rental car for the day. You may even pick up some money-saving coupons to use onshore or other shipboard freebies they use to entice attendance to these lectures.
Plus, there are some very helpful port maps and mini-guides available for every port of call, but for some reason, these maps are typically not distributed to all passengers. Often they’re handed out at the Port Lecture, so look for them there. These maps tend to contain a ton of helpful information like sample taxi fares, ATM locations, and Wi-Fi hot spots you won’t want to miss.
Hip Tip – Although Port Adventures are fun, they’re also pretty expensive. Since you’re usually only at that particular location for one day, there’s enough to do just by exploring and playing at the beach. Your day will usually fly by without the need to pay for any activities.
25. Turn leftover onboard credit into cash.
If you have onboard credit and don’t spend it, you will lose it. Unfortunately, you can’t go to guest relations and ask for this onboard credit in cash, so don’t ever let your credit go to waste!
Here’s what you can do: Just insert your sign & sail card into the slot machine. Add whatever is left of your onboard credit to the slot machine. Now that your funds are loaded as gambling credits, you can simply cash out those casino funds with the casino purser. You’ll have just turned your onboard credit into cold hard cash. Jackpot!
Hip Tip: Be sure to do this while in international waters. The casino will be closed once it nears port, and you’ll have lost the ability to cash out your onboard credit.