Plan a Cruise Using These 36 Money-Saving Travel Tips

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Wondering how to plan a cruise? Here are some must-know cruise tips that can save you money!

woman standing outside on cruise ship

We’re all a-boat these helpful cruise tips! 

Want to save money on your next cruise vacation? It’s actually easier than you think. You can save a considerable amount when you take the time to properly plan a cruise. To make saving easier for you, we’ve rounded up a whopping 36 of our favorite helpful hacks, cruise tips, Disney cruise tips, and more to ensure smooth sailing and help keep more money in your wallet!

*Note that these tips may vary between various cruise lines.

How To Book A Cruise Tips:

1. When you plan a cruise, book through a Travel Agency.

a couple aboard a cruise ship in 2024

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 (or cruise specialists) likely have been on board 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. Consider booking excursions with local agencies.

family in the ocean with snorkel gear on

Booking excursions through your cruise can get pretty pricey. If you’re looking to save some money on fun adventures while you’re off the ship, do some research on reputable local excursions, price compare, and decide what you’ll have time for while you’re there.

Disclaimer: As any seasoned cruisegoer would tell you, if your off-shore venture is not directly booked through the cruise then there’s a great chance you won’t be covered. Therefore, if you’re not back in time, you and your group could get left behind and in that case, the potential risk may not be worth the savings at all.

Hip Tip: You can also consider purchasing your excursions through Costco Travel (they offer the same ones for various cruise lines) and prepay your gratuities when you purchase your boarding passes.

3. Don’t book travel insurance with the Cruise Line.

Carnival cruise ship

When it comes to how to plan a trip, 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.

When booking, be sure to specifically ask that they do NOT automatically include it, and look at booking third-party travel insurance companies instead, like RoamRight or Tin Leg.

How to Save Money on a Cruise:

4. When’s the best time to book a cruise? Get the BIGGEST bang for your buck by cruising during off-peak times.

tropical drink on cruise ship

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 between Thanksgiving and mid-December, as opposed to the busy Spring Break, holidays, and summer cruises.

Hip Tip: Make sure to also keep an eye out for deals with expenses or paid perks. If you’re lucky, you can save on drink packages, excursions, and more! As an example, one of our readers booked with Norwegian Cruise Line and scored free drinks, free specialty dining, free internet, and $50 excursion credit per person for their trip in March!

5. Look for cruise deals early or book last minute for BIG savings.

Alaskan Cruise

Typically, the best time to book a cruise is as early as possible if you want 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. A reader also recommended when you book online, to use an incognito tab or erase your cookies, so when you keep searching they may not know to raise the prices.

Also, if you’re flexible and don’t have a strong preference regarding a specific itinerary, cruise line, ship, timeframe, and/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!

6. When you plan a cruise, try to buy discounted Carnival gift cards from Allstate or AARP Rewards.

large cruise ship sailing in the ocean

If you decide to cruise with Carnival, you can buy discounted gift cards from Allstate or AARP Rewards. You can use them to pay for your exciting shore excursions, onboard account, gratuities, in-cabin gifts, internet, etc. One of our readers even said that they saved 10% on their last cruise when using this trick! 👏

Funds can be applied to your account at Guest Services, however, just note that some people have reported a delay when being applied, and could take a couple of days, so make sure you go to Guest Services early during your trip. Other options are to add these cards to your account at the cruise terminal or the ship kiosk.

Cruise Room Tips:

7. Take advantage of room service.

room service cart in cruise ship cabin

Many cruise lines offer complimentary room service to guests, allowing you to order food delivered right to your cabin (of course, 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.

8. Bring your own wine or champagne from home when packing for a cruise.

bottles of wine and champagne which are things to bring when you plan a cruise

Celebrating a special occasion or love toasting to a great trip? If you enjoy an adult beverage, this is one of the cruise tips you’re going to want to know. Although most cruise lines do not allow passengers to bring beer and liquor onboard, some 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.

Hip Tip: If you see yourself going through more bottles than you have people to bring on board, many of our readers suggest going with the available drink packages on your cruise, as they more than pay for themselves with more frequent trips to the bar.

Are prices constantly fluctuating? One of our readers also mentioned he saved hundreds by checking prices and asking for a price adjustment. Some cruise lines like Royal Caribbean will do this.

9. Need extra showers? Use the spa for free.

shower head with water coming out

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.

10. One of our top cruise tips is to plan out where your room is located.

couple sitting on bed in cruise room

Before booking your cabin, pull up the deck plans and make sure you know what’s above and below you (and near you as elevators can get pretty noisy too). If you’re below the galley, be prepared to hear carts rolling across the floor like a bowling alley all night long as they clean up at night and prep for breakfast. As a tip, if it’s an unmarked space, don’t just assume, call and ask what it is before booking just to be sure. As one of our readers recommended, be sure you don’t book a cabin right below a club or restaurant. 😉

Cruise Tips on Cabin Organization:

11. Magnetic walls? Bring these!

hats, paper, umbrellas, and bags hanging on wall

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, daily planners, accessories, bags, and other odds and ends that you’ll want to have handy. As an idea, you can bring a shower curtain along and hang it up with magnets to create an extra changing area.

12. Use the TV to keep gadgets charged.

using a usb charger back of tv to charge smartphone

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.

13. Or bring a universal power adapter & power strip.

black power adapter and cords in wall

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. Plus, 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.

14. Have fun decorating your cruise cabin door!

cruise cabin door

Whether you’re traveling with a partner or family, decorating your cabin door is a blast! It helps make your door stand out so you can spot it from a mile away. Even with something as simple as a press-on porthole, it makes the cruise feel more at home. 😍

This Pinterest board offers some great inspiration. There are also cute peel stickers on Amazon and custom options available on Etsy that we’re loving! You can theme the door based on your destination, a special occasion, or even ocean-themed. 🦀

Cruise Food & Dining Tips:

15. Visit a specialty restaurant on the first night.

A couple dining aboard a cruise ship and playing with breadsticks

When it comes time to plan a cruise, you need to take dining into consideration. 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. It’s one of our top cruise tips!

16. Skip the buffet on the first day.

cruise buffet line with fresh fruits, which you should skip on your first day when you plan a cruise

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.

17. Order one (or more) entrées your way.

Shane dining on crab legs aboard a cruise ship

You are not limited to one of each appetizer, entrée, and dessert in the main dining room. In fact, 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!

18. Score free dessert & snacks.

chocolate covered strawberries on tray

This is one of the cruise tips you’ll want to remember! 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.

19. Get free candy, too! 

colorful assortment of candies

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!

20. Get bottled water delivered to your room.

case of fiji water

Staying hydrated on vacation is important, especially if you’re setting sail to a warm destination. Some cruise lines, like Carnival, will deliver a whole 12-pack of bottled water to your room for less than $5, whereas the large bottles that are typically offered are priced at $3-$4 a piece! And while it may not last you your whole trip, some cruise lines will even allow you to bring your own bottled water, up to a certain quantity.

Hip Tip: Want to get away with more than just water? You could also consider packing your other favorite drinks as one of our readers did. Pack Red Bull cans and juice boxes for the kids into your suitcase and place them in Ziploc bags.

21. Or bring your own reusable water bottle (this is one of our favorite cruise tips).

row of gray white blue and pink various brand water bottles

When you plan a cruise, follow this packing tip! By bringing your own reusable water bottle, you can fill it up at drink stations. Fill up with all the onboard free juice, water, iced tea, or coffee, and take them with you to the shows, the pool, or whoever else you are going. Yup, those drinks are free. 😉

Cruise Wi-Fi Tips:

22. Buy Wi-Fi packages before you embark…

dining area on cruise ship where you can use the wi-fi, our best cruise tips

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 log in with your cruise line and take a look at the different Wi-Fi packages that they offer.

23. Or score free Wi-Fi (but you’ll have to be fast).

hip2save app on phone by pool

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.

24. Access Wi-Fi during off-peak hours.

sunset in background of a cruise ship

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.

25. Ditch the walkie-talkies.

child using 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.

26. Stay updated with the cruise line’s app. 

person using a cruise ship app, something to download when you plan a cruise

Most cruise lines now have their own app that you can use onboard 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 for Cruises:

27. When you plan a cruise, find the best ship location to avoid motion sickness.

interior of cruise ship cabin

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.

28. Feeling queasy? Make note of these remedies.

assortment of green apples

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.

29. Or…head to the pool.

pool and deck area on cruise ship

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 seasickness 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.

Disney Cruise Tips: 

30. When you plan a Disney cruise, look for discounts throughout the year and book early (like WAY early). 

kids standing on pier with disney cruise ship in background

Since discounts are super rare, once you think you might be going on a Disney cruise, keep your eyes open! They typically offer Florida resident discounts for those leaving from Port Canaveral, Miami, or Fort Lauderdale as well as Military discounts, and you may be able to snag kids go FREE tickets if you’ve got a keen eye! Keep in mind that there most likely won’t be any cruises leaving from Miami until about 2025.

Just take it from Hip Sidekick, Liz, herself…

Be sure to look for discounts although they don’t have a ton they do offer Florida resident discounts, Military discounts and last year they even offered kids go free tickets (which saved us about $1000!) And book early. The earlier you book the more you’ll save. – Liz

31. Use gift cards on EVERYTHING.

hand holding up Disney gift card by store display

It can be tricky to save on Disney-anything, but you can save on gift cards. Sam’s Club and Costco regularly offer $5-$10 discounts on Disney gift cards which can be used toward your cruise tickets! 🎟 Once you’re on board, you can also use Disney gift cards to save on drinks, merch, even BINGO according to our Disney cruise expert!

Bookmark this page to find the latest gift card deals!

32. Love a good fireworks show? When you plan a cruise, book a room starboard to avoid the crowds.

fireworks on disney cruise ship

The Disney Cruise line is most known for its spectacular fireworks display – straight from the ship itself! 🤩 Since the pools and other top decks can get pretty crowded, consider booking a room on the starboard side and you may be able to see the show from your balcony!

33. Put your popcorn buckets to good use!

disney popcorn bucket in pile of popcorn

If you collect popcorn buckets from the Disneyland theme parks, you’re in luck! Bring them on your cruise to score refills for just $1.50 whenever you want them. No bucket? No problem! You can grab a collectible one on the ship for ~ $7.50 then get your refills after that!

I loved being able to grab popcorn and go see the shows/watch a movie in the huge theater.– Hip Sidekick, Liz

Miscellaneous Tips to Help You Plan A Cruise:

34. Go to Port Lectures for helpful info.

cruise ship docked at port

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.

35. Turn leftover onboard credit into cash.

person holding out hands with cash and coins

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.

36. Don’t overpack!

packing a carryon bag

It can be tough to plan for a cruise, but refrain from overpacking! Because you’ll likely spend a ton of time in the sun, make sure you bring the classics like hats, bathing suits, and weather-appropriate clothing. Some cruises also have themed or formal dress-up nights, so confirm with your cruise line and pack accordingly!

We love to roll up our clothes to fit as much in our luggage as possible. Note that this doesn’t really apply for larger items like hoodies; otherwise, they may take up your entire suitcase. 😂

Here’s how you can vacation on a budget!

About the writer:

Chelsey is a writer & photographer with both a Bachelor's and Master's Degree from Arizona State University. She holds 3+ years blogging experience not only for Hip2Save, but various other publications in the health, lifestyle, and education field.

Join The Discussion

Comments 43

  1. DSch

    Amazing tips, particularly for first time cruisers. I also enjoyed the fact that you mentioned excursions and the “disclaimer” of if you book through third party excursions and you are not back to the ship in time, you will be left! It is really about personal choices and one’s comfort zone. If you have an excursion that maybe does not take up the entire time the ship is in dock and leaves immediately upon the ship docking, you could have some wiggle room. There are some excursions though that really take up the entire time a ship is docked AND there maybe variables to take into account. Example, we took an excursion in Cozumel, which in turn took a 45 minute ferry ride, 15 minute van ride, and really took up the entire time our ship was in port. Well, low and behold, a van in our group broke down. We were late getting back to the ship by over an hour past when the ship would have normally left. Again, all about your comfort zone and peace of mind. One can definitely find cheaper excursions off the ship, no doubt.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh wow! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience with us! Good to know that excursions can take up a full day.

  2. Nicole

    Some very good tips, especially the last one. No one ever wants to lose money. Will have to revisit this post when planning our next cruise. Thank you so much!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re very welcome, Nicole! Thank YOU for the feedback! Happy you enjoyed the post!

  3. Jennifer

    More excursion tips…in some islands the cruise companies behave as if they own you. Meaning some excursion places won’t take your business if they know you are with Carnival…they have exclusive deals with Carnival that forces them to push you back to the cruise line which will likely significantly overcharge you for the excursion as compared to what others are paying for the same experience. Do your own homework it pays off…our best deal over the years was Dolphin Discovery in Cozumel. The royal dolphin swim for the four of us and no photos was going to be nearly $800 with carnival. I booked direct..had to lie and tell them I was staying at an airbnb on the island as they would not book me as a carnival guest. Well…we ended up spending about $600 for the day and we got the same royal dolphin swim (we were actually in the water ppl we met on the ship) and a manatee swim and a disc with like 300 pictures on it!!! No kidding the park is located about 5-10min by car from the port, plenty of car/taxi service to get to and from…and the last time we went we ended up going back on the bus with the guests who booked with Carnival direct…the driver asked for $5pp and he gave us four seats on a bus going back to our ship.

    • Jennifer

      We’ve done the same many times!

  4. Melissa

    Thank you for all the information. My husband and I are planning our first cruise this year and this is a very helpful post.

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      Yay! How exciting! You’re so welcome, Melissa! Glad this post is helpful! Hope you have a wonderful time on your cruise!

  5. Lisa

    Another tip I always tell first time cruisers in particular is do NOT overpack. Take what you think you need, put it in your suitcase and then throw half of it out. Most ships do have laundry either self-serve (bring detergent) or by the bag (although IMHO expensive). Also, I didn’t see this tip above, but you know those undergarments that you really should have thrown away like a year ago? Save them for trips like this. We always do that and come back with less clothes than what we started with and no laundry of undergarments. Come on, I know we’ve all got those undergarments that should have been thrown away! 🙂 My (adult) boys are always like, “Mom, really,” but they do it.

    • Chris

      I’m delighted that someone else does this besides me. I sweat a lot when exercising so I also bring ‘disposable’ workout clothes.

  6. E

    Two great sites to check out cruise price drops and price history are and You can set alerts on cruises to notify of a price drop.
    Also many cruise lines also offer price guarantee so that if the price goes down after booking they’ll give you the difference in onboard credit or room upgrade.
    Finally, all cruises have their price set by the line. If you look, all sites have the same price but different perks. We’ve found Costco to have the best perks plus 2% back when using our business memberships.

  7. JD

    A Star Hip2Saver is a recognized member of our Hip2Save community hand selected by our team for demonstrating a long history of engagement with helpful & friendly comments across and our social channels. Our Star Hip2Saver badge acts as a verification for readers who know the ins and outs of all Hip2Save sets out to accomplish — assisting our community to live extraordinary lives on ordinary budgets. Readers cannot pay or provide any sort of exchange in order to earn this badge. Rather, they are invited to participate by a member of the Hip2Save team and opt to have the Star Hip2Saver badge added to their profile & comments.

    Book your spa time when everyone else is off the ship on excursions. It is very relaxing. Also understand that if you book through a travel agent and your ship arrives back to the returning port late and you miss your return flight home it is up to you to make your own arrangements back home. I was on a ship that arrived back to home port a day late due to mechanical difficulties. Passengers who booked through the cruise line had their flights taken care of by the cruise line. Those who didn’t were on their own. We still book through a travel agency but factor it in. Also don’t be late back to the ship from an excursion you will be left behind not might be.

  8. Emily Gable

    Carnival has a best price guarantee for excursions, so you can still book with the ship (and not have to worry about being left behind) and get the best deal! If you find the excursion for less than the cruiseline’s price, they will credit you 110% of the difference in the form of on-board credit. I have used this a couple of times – and it’s just an easy online form.

    • Lisa

      Emily, could you elaborate a bit further? Do you mean, if I find the EXACT excursion through some place that I’ve read a lot about is “shoreexcursioneer” (I think I have that right), that would count? Also, is it difficult to find the “exact” excursion? TIA

      • Emily

        Yes. You have to find the exact excursion (same place, length of time, type of transportation, lunch included, etc.) advertised at a lower price. I think shoreexcursioneer would count – though I think I have used shore excursions group in the past for my price match. Looking at their website, they offer similar services.
        Out of the shore excursions I have booked, I have only filled the form out twice asking for the best price guarantee and carnival approved them both times. I haven’t found it too difficult to find the exact same, but I have found that carnival actually has their excursions priced pretty competitively.

        • Lisa

          Oh, thank you, Emily. We enjoy the peace of mind regarding the ship not leaving us. To each his/her own, but our priority has always to never become “that” pier runner.

  9. Jessica

    We take all our gratuities off our account and carry cash. They have you tipping so many people that you never see, the cruise line gets a cut AND they have a lot of extra gratuities added to drinks and meals automatically. We like tipping and gifting the people that really help us and make our vacation great, like the steward and our waiters and the child care staff. We gave our steward enough for a plane ticket home to see his wife and kids on one cruise. 🥰

    • Lisa

      Jessica, it is a personal decision, but I feel you miss out on tipping some of those wonderful staff that you might not normally see or have any contact with. We keep our gratuities on our bill. If we want to tip extra to a staff member who may have had had more contact with, we tip in cash as well. I know it is a sticking point for some, but wanted to give both perspectives regarding gratuities.

    • MrsGarfield

      Bad advice! I worked for years as a food server on Carnival and the gratuity is our only pay! You cannot imagine how many people do like you do and we end up working for nothing. At the end of the cruise we get a list posted with who paid, how much and who didn’t. Carnival pays paid us (when I worked there) $36 for the month and we have to buy our uniforms and pay for our flights to/from home. And you cannot imagine how many pairs of shoes do we go through! The gratuity covers the cabin stewards, the food servers, and the maitre d. Of course the maitre d gets a huge percent of that which I think they don’t deserve as much. If you pull your gratuity, please tip these people very good. This I s their salary. I don’t remember if the bar servers are part of the gratuity but you can always ask.

  10. Doxelvr

    How do you buy discount cards from Allstate? Do you have to be an Allstate member?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi there! You can choose discount cards when selecting your rewards, through the Allstate app. Hope this helps!

  11. Taylor S.

    BOOK VETERANS DAY, not black friday. Saved us a grand for Celebrity.

  12. MrsGarfield

    “across from a crew-only access door” I worked for years for Carnival and I don’t remember such a door. If there is a door, it’s usually not a high-traffic one. Another tip – ask the people working on the ship for tips in regards to where to go, what to see on land. After all they visit these places every week for months on end. I do not advise to pull your gratuity (this is the cabin steward and food servers salary). If you do in order to avoid paying the overpaid maitre d, make sure you leave cash to your team of servers and cabin stewards equivalent to the gratuity amount. It would be best if you split the money between the server and their helper because the servers are often time dishonest and lie about receiving money. I had worked in the past with such people. If you are late to get back on the ship – the captain usually waits a little bit, depending on schedule. Remember the cruise lines pay port fees for certain hours. They cannot arrive too early or leave too late – they have to pay. If you happen to miss the ship, cruise lines are supposed to have a rep at the port who can accommodate/help you (at you expense) with a flight to your next port of call. Room service – fastest way to eat and get out of the ship. On port days the buffets are really busy. Either go there early or order room service. It’s best if you order from the day/evening before for the food to be delicate certain time. If your port has tenders (no dock) – it takes forever to get to land – long lines. Plan accordingly. During port calls the ship is almost empty. Not many people come back to eat, so no craziness there. If you are eating at the dining room, please go on time and don’t linger behind! There are 2 seatings and if you stay behind we cannot set up on time for the next seating and the dining room will not open on time for next seating. It affects a lot of people, not only your servers. Motion is felt less on the lower decks. The higher you go, the more you feel it. The ships have stabilizers but sometimes if the waves hit sideways they can cause the ship to sway a lot.

  13. SavingsMama

    I would never recommend cruising in the fall, esp for 1st timers! If a hurricane brews up, changes paths etc. you’re in for a world of motion sickness. Please consider splurging just slightly and stay out of severe weather.
    On the refillable water bottles, on Royal Caribbean they actually did not allow the refilling of those for sanitary purposes and had signs at all the water stations mentioning this. I found them to be clean and promoting hand washing, too…so I can understand it. Biggest advice I can offer is, you don’t need to pay for many of the extras on board. You will be enjoying your loved ones so much and the unique scenery 🙂

    • Sylvia

      I cruise in the fall every year, it’s cheaper less crouded and the water is very warm, never had any problems, the boats are very heavy motion sickness pills help just in case.

    • rebecca

      I disagree, i way prefer sailing in the fall (10-time cruiser.) The weather is often much cooler than the summertime; not so sticky hot in the ports while you are exploring or on an excursion. I also like to FEEL like i’m on a boat if i’m paying to be on a boat; I love to fall asleep to a sway. I’ve been on cruises in other seasons where it felt completely stable much of the time, and the ship being still is anticlimactic to me.
      I have also been on a cruise in Spring where over 50% of the entertainment was rescheduled, and many things cancelled, due to storms, terrible wind, and the tossing of the ship, and the weather that time was much worse than some of my Fall cruises. You never know.
      Personally, i don’t care for crowds, and i have found that during hurricanes, much of the ship is deserted due to people who are seasick staying in their rooms. It frees up all kinds of space in the ship’s restaurants, activities, hallways, etc.
      I know some have seasickness or mobility issues that make tossing ships very hard or impossible. But i wanted to offer up a contrasting opinion with reasons some may not have considered.

  14. CW

    Yeah and many other things. The problem is MSC. Worst experience in 14 cruises, 4 different lines, we wanted off the ship day 3 of 5.Service was horrible, the staff on the Divina were rude to the point many of us went to guest services, the company who chartered the ship had to sit the dining room staff down night 2 for a talk. The food was awful, restaurants as well as buffet. Never on MSC again even if free. A friend did the Seaside and had the same experiences. Also the two biggest ship drug busts in the state of FL were the Divina and Seaside (you can Google that).

    • Sylvia

      I went to many cruise ships MSC was the worst, the food is just pasta, pizza, hot dogs. That company does not make any efforts to get their customers to come back. The other cruise lines were all awsome.

  15. Angie

    Re: leave the walkie talkies at home…most of the cruise lines offer their mobile app for free to use throughout your cruise to message one another via your cell phone while onboard. Also you can refill your reusable water bottles most cruise lines just make you use another glass to be used that you then pour into your container.

    • rebecca

      I’ve been on cruises where the on-board message system is not reliable, with messages to your companions and attempts at app-scheduled dinner or other reservations much delayed, or not delivered at all. App use is not always useful due to spotty ship internet service, frequent app crashes, and lack of timely updates on the app when an event is cancelled or rescheduled, even very recently, when you might expect the cruiseline to have the app services ironed out.
      This is just an observation based on my own experience, in case it helps someone for planning or packing purposes.

  16. Janet is a great place to book your cruise. The cruise we booked happened to give us a free specialty dinner and a bottle of wine.
    Also, we booked one of our specialty dinners at the end of the cruise. As I understand it, all the food inventory is cleared out after the cruise and all new food comes onboard for the next cruise. By booking our specialty dinner at the end, they gave us each a free lobster tail during our meal because they couldn’t carry over the inventory.

    • Nicole (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for all the great info, Janet!

  17. zeeg

    If you can afford a balcony stateroom, book it. I noticed that the beds are of different quality. The interior and ocean view in my experience are lesser quality beds. Plus, when you have a balcony room, our favorite thing to do is offer room service the night before to be delivered at 6 am, for coffee, pastries and fruits. Once delivered, sit in the balcony enjoy your continental breakfast. Then, at 7 am, go to the main dining room for a made to order, a la carte breakfast. Dining hall for breakfast is only opened between 7-8.30 am. Very well worth it! My favorite is smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese.

    • Nicole (Hip Sidekick)

      Such great tips, zeeg! We appreciate you sharing your experience. Sounds like you had a wonderful trip!

  18. KayleighW

    Drink tip – bring a refillable water bottle AND packets of Crystal Light. Voila! Your own flavored drinks!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Such a great tip! Thanks for mentioning that! 💖🙌

  19. queen62

    I’ll be booking an Alaskan Cruise 2024 July any tips would be greatly appreciated. Not a first time cruiser been on 15 or more.

  20. Dana

    Make sure the Power Port, outlet extender, Power Strip, DO NOT have a surge protector or extension-type cord attached; they are not allowed on cruise ships. Most will Amazon listings will state ‘cruise ship approved’, ‘non-surge’, or something similar. You can find cheap pop-up mesh hampers at stores like Dollar Tree to keep your dirty clothes separated and an over the door shoe organizer to store odds and ends like hair clips/bands, small toiletries, etc. Bring clothes pins or towel clips to hang wet bathing suits in the shower, pack a Tide Stain Stick, Tide to Go packets (for longer cruises), ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper, and any medications you might need “just in case” (Pepto, Tums, Tylenol, cough drops, seasick medication, bandaids, etc). Cut up a small sponge and add a few drops of dish detergent to each piece; store sponge in a ziploc bag and use to wash your insulated cups/bottles. A small bottle of Poo-pourri!! Also, a small nightlight or battery-powered tea light candles come in handy to place on the bathroom counter so it’s easy to find the bathroom in the middle of the night!

    • Trish (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks a ton for sharing all these helpful tips, Dana! 🤗 Much appreciated! 💕


    I’m bringing lots of baggies to bring food from the ship with us to the beach to avoid buying a ton of food.

    • becca

      Many ports will not allow this. There will be announcements made.

  22. Pat Goff

    I may have to buy reusable water bottles just for a cruise. Great tip. Never been a fan of water bottles but great idea.

  23. Patricia Goff

    I have never been on a cruise but it sure sounds like a lot of work.

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