Cruise Part 4: Saving Money Once Onboard

13 Prom. Deck 7 115


‘Cheap fares’ is how the cruise lines lure you on board.  Their goal is to fill their cabins…even at a loss if necessary.  The profits come AFTER you’re on board – with all the money they HOPE you’ll spend.  They employ many sales pitches/tactics to separate passengers from their money. …from drinks to specialty restaurants to spa treatments to shopping bargains to shore excursions. How much your cruise finally costs will depend on how many of these you opt for…and how many you walk away from. The decision is yours, but realize that these decisions WILL affect the REAL cost of your cruise.  🙂


Photo Credit: Cruise News Weekly on Flickr CC lic.

Photo Credit: Cruise News Weekly on Flickr CC Lic.

  • Enjoy The Free Stuff:  free shows or movies, activities, games, lectures/seminars, classes, demonstrations, lounging by the pool, Main Dining room, buffet or other free eateries, ‘included’ drinks  Make THESE the things you enjoy on board.


  •  It’s all about choices. Make them wisely. BEFORE YOU BOARD, make a “Top 3 List” (or Top 2…or Top 4) of favorite vacation activities…the things you MUST have/do in order to enjoy your vacation. Budget for those and let everything else go. If specialty coffee is a ‘must’ in order for you to enjoy your vacation, then by all means, have it. Compensate by forgoing the spa treatment. If that spa treatment is on your ‘must do’ list, do it.  Compensate by forgoing the shopping spree.  etc…  Do the things on your ‘Top’  list and say ‘no’ to everything else.
  • Waiting is a virtue!  Spa treatments, shopping, et. al. are discounted up to 50% on port days or the last day of the cruise. (on some cruise lines) It’s how they increase business during slow times. All of these discounts will be in the daily newsletter delivered to your stateroom. Discounts are always better than full price, right??
  • Resist the sales pitch for over-priced products offered after your spa treatment.
  • Don’t DOUBLE-tip.  Most cruise lines add a gratuity to drinks, spa and fitness centers, etc…   There is a space on the ‘receipt” to add an additional tip  –and you’re always welcome to add that for outstanding service, but don’t feel pressured to do so. Some unsuspecting tourists see the line and add 15-20%, not realizing it’s already been added.  They’re tipping double.

PLEASE NOTE:  I did NOT say to eliminate the tip….I said to not OVER-tip or DOUBLE-tip.  Tips are important for the employees who work so hard to make your cruise enjoyable.  Don’t stiff them on the tip they deserve.  Just don’t inadvertently tip twice.

  • Don’t feel like you must have a shore excursion on every port day….especially on a longer cruise. Choose those you really want to do, then spend some days just exploring – the beach, sightseeing, shopping, on your own without the extra cost of an official excursion. Some beaches, urban or historic areas are within a short taxi or bus ride from the port. Just do your research.
    • FIRST…it goes without saying that your BEST information about your plan is your carrier.  A phone call to them is ALWAYS on our ‘To Do”  list – about 2 weeks before travel to get the latest info on what we can and cannot do to avoid excess charges.
    • While still in the debarkation port, you will probably have cell service however, once you sail away, turn the phone OFF or on airplane mode (data off) to avoid  international roaming charges. Even though you may not be using that phone, it will still ‘ping’ in search of an internet connection if it’s turned on….leaving you with a shocking bill when you return home.
    • Contact your cell phone carrier to ask about their international rates. Some plans may allow you to add International service for 1 month.
    • Wi-fi calling (free wi-fi) may be your best bet if you don’t have an international plan.   Restaurants/coffee shops sometimes limit the wi-fi to those making a purchase…but worth it if you need to make that contact..  🙂
    • Talk to cruise crew members to find out how they make calls while in port.  They do this all the time so will know where to find the free or cheap wi-fi or purchase calling cards.  🙂
    • When making that call in port, make sure you are far enough away from the ship that your phone doesn’t connect through the ship’s tower anyway.  Again, phones ‘ping’ to the nearest (most accessible) tower. If you can see the ship, you just might be making that call FROM the ship – without intending to.
    • Check out the Magic Jack (or similar) app for wi-fi calls on land.  Just make sure to do diligent research (call cell phone carrier as part of this process)  so you aren’t surprised on your next bill.
    • NOTE:  Some cell phone companies include service on some Caribbean islands in their regular plans. Check with your company before cruising.  You just might be surprised…  🙂
  • If you need to send email(s), save time (which is the same as money when you’re purchasing internet by the minute) by typing the e-mails in your word processing program.  Then when online, just copy, paste and send.  The connection will be slow but you don’t want to spend that expensive time composing emails.
  • Some cruise lines will sell a small, discounted package of internet minutes on the last sea day (mainly for those needing to check in for flights, etc…)  If you can time things with that, it can save you some money…
  • Bring your own carbonated drinks and/or water on board if allowed (Carnival has recently disallowed anything “bottled” to be brought on board…most notably, water. 😦  ).  Policies seem to be constantly changing on this so check your cruise line website for details and bring whatever is ‘allowable’ to save money.  At least until the day when all beverages are restricted,  passengers can bring a limited amount with them.    Note… I DO bring my green tea bags.  🙂
  • flavored water packetsThese are nice to give you a little variety.  Get them at the Dollar Tree ($1/pkg of 8)….  They take up virtually no space in your luggage and add some variety to your beverage options.
  • If, while on your cruise, you find that you LOVE cruising, you can usually book your next cruise while on board.  Most cruise lines offer some type of incentive for booking on a cruise (On board credit, reduced deposits, etc…) Stop by the Cruise booking office on board to find out what they’re offering. Be sure to check cancellation policies before signing OR PAYING anything. Before going on a cruise, we usually will begin a little preliminary research on where we MIGHT like to go on the next cruise. That way, we are prepared for our visit to the “Future Cruise” desk.  🙂
  • Most cruise lines either give you a print out of your bill the last night of your cruise or you can access this on the kiosks or TV in your stateroom.  Check  this over carefully and if you find any discrepancies, get those resolved BEFORE you get off the ship. In most cases, once you leave the ship, all bills are considered final. We like to check this ‘early’ on our last day so we can resolve any issues before everyone else gets in the line at Customer Service.  🙂


  • As mentioned above, one of the big money-makers for the cruise line is the specialty restaurants.  They’re nice…I admit, however, so are the regular dining rooms which are included in the cruise fare.  There are so many eatery options available on these ships, not only the main dining rooms (where the food is INCREDIBLE) but burgers, pizza, the buffet

    Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe on Flickr CC Lic.

    with a constantly changing menu.  You can get plenty to eat and never spend a dime. The more you eat in specialty venues, the more your cruise will cost in the end.

  • Special drinks from alcohol to specialty coffees to carbonated drinks will all cost a LOT more than they do on land.  If you can forgo those…or get them on land instead, it will make a difference in the cost of your cruise.


Most of the cruise lines automatically charge tips to your account – currently $12-$15/passenger per day. You can opt to remove or decrease these if you wish, but honestly, that a pretty rotten thing to do to these hard working employees who have served you and made your cruise so relaxing and enjoyable. If they have failed in some way, stop by Customer Service to try to resolve the issue. Otherwise, please leave the tips as they are.  🙂 You can always increase these if you feel the service warrants it (or if you have made special requests that warrant a little extra). Some passengers think that children should be charged a lesser rate on tips just as they are charged less for children’s meals or admission fees. The problem with that thinking is easy for any Mom to understand… Children are FAR MORE CHALLENGING to pick up and clean up after than adults. We are fortunate the cruise lines don’t charge MORE for the children. haha!  Please don’t decrease tips if you have children in the room.  You’re paying someone to pick up after you and your child/children. As parents, we KNOW the messes these little tikes can make.  🙂

Photo Credit: Kelly Teague on Flickr CC Lic.

Bring several $1 bills for additional tips (room service, porters, shore excursion operators)  if you plan to use these services. These are not included in the auto-tips.  Obviously, these are choices you make. If you want to cruise as inexpensively as possible, don’t use these services and save the tip cost.  🙂  NOTE:  Tips for drinks are typically automatically included in the charge for the drink but cruise line policies may vary so check the website for specifics. Base how much money ($1 bills) you bring on how many of these services you plan to utilize.

You CAN make your cruise economical.  Start by making your “Top 3 List” of things you MUST do in order to have a happy and fulfilling vacation. By all means, do those…and compensate for that cost by forgoing other things. It’s all about choices, you know.  🙂

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