If you know me, you know I LOVE cruises. I love how easy and relaxing it is. I love the little towel animals that my room steward makes every night. Most importantly, I love being able to eat 24/7. I mean, who doesn’t love stuffing their face with unlimited desserts? I’ve been on two cruises this year. One was 12 days and the other was 34 days. Some of my friends are concerned that I broke the bank. Secret- I didn’t. It’s shocking, but hear me out. Cruising can actually be an affordable way to travel. Don’t believe me? Here are my top insider tips to help you save money on cruises.
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In This Post:
1. Book an Inside Cabin
Just like hotels, you’re going to pay a premium for a good view. On the first cruise we went on to the Caribbean, we booked an ocean view room. We actually got an upgrade for a tiny fee so we went for it. We were a little more bougie back then because we weren’t traveling; we were just vacationing. On our second cruise, we booked an inside cabin. We ended up loving it. (We always book an inside cabin now). First of all, I didn’t pay a premium for it. Second of all, I was able to sleep in every morning because there was no natural sunlight coming into the room. Let’s be real–it’s tempting to get a balcony. But, you’re not going on the cruise to stay in your room. You’re going to enjoy the beautiful ports and to enjoy everything the ship has to offer. Therefore, you don’t need a view. You can access the public areas on the ship and enjoy the same view that people with an ocean view or balcony have.
2. Book Your Next Cruise Onboard
You can save some serious coin by booking your next cruise while you’re onboard. You don’t even have to choose your future cruise and sail date. You put down a deposit and your booking is open until you’re ready to choose your next cruise. We booked our next cruise onboard once and we both got a nice onboard credit each for the future cruise. That’s how it generally works, but check with your cruise line’s terms and conditions to be sure.
3. Book a Repositioning or Transatlantic Cruise
This is my favorite money saving tip when it comes to cruises. If you want to save a substantial chunk of change on your cruise, this is the way to go. Cruise lines will offer massive discounts on cabins because they’re relocating their ships to a new area where they will start running new routes. We booked a repositioning cruise to Rome from Fort Lauderdale and it was stinking cheap.
4. Skip the Beverage Package
Unless you’re drinking like a fish, the drink packages aren’t worth it. If we want to get our money’s worth for the drink package, we have to drink around 8-10 drinks each per day. There’s just no way that we’re both going to consume that much alcohol. Most cruise lines will allow you to bring one bottle of wine per person onboard with you. You can then consume your wine in your cabin without having to pay a corkage fee. Check with your cruise line’s terms and conditions regarding bringing wine on board. Some cruise lines offer their beverage packages for free.
We cruise exclusively with Holland America and their happy hours are amazing. It’s “Buy 1, Get One for $2.” If we’re wanting a cocktail, we buy those during happy hour to save money.
Also, you can attend the art auctions on board and get a complimentary glass of champagne for coming. Just don’t get super drunk that you end up buying a $20K piece of art. Don’t forget to pretend that you’re somewhat interested in the artwork and you didn’t come just for the free champagne. 🙂
Finally, hit up the bars in port if you’re wanting some booze. Drinks are cheaper in port than they are on the ship and you’ll be drinking something yummy and local. When we went to one of the Caribbean ports, we got a bucket of five beers for the price of two beers on the ship.
5. Ask Your Room Steward to Empty out the Mini-Fridge in Your Cabin
This sounds silly, but it reduces the temptation to grab that $20 bottle of Evian before you head out for shore. Okay, it’s not really $20. But, it feels like it. All of the soda and alcohol inside that fridge costs more than your life is worth. You’ll also have more room to put other items in there… AKA the chocolate cake drizzled in caramel sauce for a midnight snack.
6. Don’t Buy Bottled Water on Board
Speaking of bottled water, do not buy it on board. It’s extremely overpriced. Instead, bring your own water bottle on board and refill it at the fountains. Plus, it’s better for the environment. Some cruise lines will actually let you bring your own bottled water on board.
7. Eat on the Ship
Duh, Disha…I’m gonna eat on the ship. Where else am I going to eat if I’m on a cruise? That’s not what I mean, Susan. What I mean is this- eat on the shop when you are in port. Have a big breakfast. Then, go out and explore. Come back and have lunch. Then, go back out again. We do this almost every time unless it’s a haul to get back to the ship from where we’re at. This is perfect for Caribbean cruises. You’re usually docked right there and you can readily access the ship whenever you want.
8. Ditch the Cruise Line’s Shore Excursions
We have never ever purchased an excursion through the cruise line in our history of cruising. These excursions are sold at a hefty premium. For example, a simple walking tour can cost $65 USD per person. Why am I paying $65 USD for a walking tour when I can do it myself for a fraction of the price? I’m always appalled by how much people spend on excursions through the ship when I probably spent 1/6 of what they did. A great alternative is Viator. They list almost all of the excursions the ship is offering at a way lower price. You can also negotiate with local tour operators and taxi drivers when you get off of the ship. There will be a group of them waiting to show you around. For instance, we paid a local tour guide $60 USD for a private tour in the Azores Islands in Portugal for a six-hour tour. It would have cost us $400 USD to do this tour through the ship and we would’ve been with a large group of people.
9. Don’t Use the Ship’s Transfers
Transfers through the cruise line are pricey. Instead, use Uber or take a shuttle. The transfer to the airport in Fort Lauderdale from the port is $20 USD per person. An Uber is around $8-13 USD total. You can save even more money by getting a group of other passengers together and sharing a taxi or Uber.
10. Book Last Minute
I’ve never purchased a cruise more than two weeks before it left. When cruise lines can’t fill their cabins, they drastically reduce the rates to find passengers at the last minute. I’m jealous of the people who live in Fort Lauderdale who can jump on a ship last minute to the Caribbean. Hey, Amos, let’s move to Fort Laud!
11. Sign up for the Cruise Line’s Loyalty Program
Most cruise lines offer loyalty programs for returning passengers. There’s no harm in joining them. Some offer rewards such as onboard credit, a percentage off at specialty restaurants, discounts on wine packages and more. I currently receive 25% off at specialty restaurants because of my status and a few other perks. I have a million more cruise days left until I get free laundry. That’s really all I want in life- free unlimited laundry when I cruise. I’ll get there eventually.
12. Skip the Specialty Restaurants
Even though we receive 25% off at specialty restaurants, we usually skip it. Instead, we eat in the dining rooms and buffets that are already included. I know it’s tempting to try some artistic looking sushi or gourmet steak from New Zealand, but it doesn’t make sense to pay extra for food that you already paid for. The Dining Room on Holland America ships is soooo yummy! In my opinion, the food there is better than any of the specialty restaurants onboard.
13. Wait Until the End of the Cruise to Buy Onboard Souvenirs
Every cruise ship has shops on board. Fight the urge to go buy that t-shirt or hat at the beginning of your cruise. The shops will usually run a massive sale towards the end of the cruise on these items. Warning- don’t expect all of the jewelry and perfume to be massively discounted. They sometimes run a small sale on those, but it’s not a major sale.
14. Skip the Internet Package
Paying for WiFi on board is the biggest waste of money ever. The price is astronomical actually. Most of the time, it’s painfully slow. Just disconnect from the Internet world and enjoy where you’re at. If you need WiFi, go to a coffee shop or restaurant that has free WiFi when you’re in port.
Note: Please do not pinch pennies when it comes to tipping your room stewards. They work tirelessly to make sure that you are happy and that all of your smallest requests are taken care of. Please make sure you budget enough for their gratuities as a thank you for their superior service.
As I stated before, cruising doesn’t have to break the bank as long as you follow these simple tips. Happy Cruising!
Are you a cruiser? Do you have any other money saving tips I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below.
I hope you found this post useful and will implement these strategies to help you save money on your next cruise. Don’t forget to pin it for later!
Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.