Saving money on a cruise ship is easier than you might think. In addition to taking steps to cut costs during booking, you can embrace strategies to save money once your journey begins. Here are some of our favorite money-saving tips:
1. Explore ports on your own.
Rent some bikes and be your own tour guide. - Photo by SIME / eStockPhoto
Depending on the port and which activities you choose (helicopter tour, anyone?), shore excursions can be exorbitantly expensive. Instead, use our handy destination articles — or guidebooks or other sites — to devise a game plan on your own. (Just make sure you’re back on the ship with time to spare.)
2. Sign up for beverage packages.
Beverage packages save you the stress of deciding whether or not you should pay for another drink. - Photo by Celebrity Cruises
Some lines — including Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and Disney — offer flat fees for unlimited amounts of beverages. These packages range in price from $5 per day for a bottled water plan to $55 per day for an alcohol plan. Read the fine print; some policies have surprising restrictions (such as per-meal or per-day caps), many include a 15 percent service charge, and most are not transferable.
3. Seek spa deals by choosing your time wisely.
Spas can be refreshingly empty and peaceful on port days. - Photo by Disney Cruise Line
Most of the time, prices for onboard spa treatments such as massages and facials rival what you’d pay at luxury resorts on land. The exception: embarkation and port days, when rates can drop by as much as 30 percent. We don’t love to give up time in port, but we do like to prebook a massage for embarkation day, which feels like a well-earned treat after a long day of travel.
4. Steer clear of photo galleries.
A well-timed selfie can come out better than a cheesy, staged photo in a gallery. - Photo by michaeljung / Thinkstock
Many ships employ their own onboard photographers and, for $20 to $30 per 8-by-10-inch image, you can purchase “official” pictures of your family embarking, eating, playing, dancing, and all dressed up for formal night. Instead of splurging for the official cruise line photos, nominate one member of your party to play photojournalist each day so you can save on this expense without missing a moment.
5. Avoid onboard Internet.
Stay offline until you're in port. - Photo by Steve Mason / Thinkstock
Internet access and Wi-Fi are among the more expensive amenities at sea; many ships charge anywhere from 55 to 75 cents per minute. To avoid racking up big bills, save your surfing for port days — where, depending on your itinerary, you might even get cellphone coverage.
6. Run your own fitness class.
Make the ports your gym with activities like yoga, running, and biking. - Photo by pat138241 / Thinkstock
Most ships offer yoga, Pilates, and other group classes, but they can cost up to $15 apiece. Instead of forking over the cash, bring yoga or Zumba® videos and your laptop, and work out in your cabin.
7. Hand-wash your clothes.
Washing a single item by hand is much quicker (and cheaper) than doing an entire load. - Photo by tfexshutter / Thinkstock
Most cruise lines will gladly do laundry for you — with prices starting at around $2.50 per item. Instead of sending your washing out, use the self-service launderettes (up to $5 per load), or pack enough clothing for your trip and a small bottle of Woolite detergent. Plan to hand-wash items in your cabin’s bathroom sink that you unexpectedly need to reuse. Then hang them in the shower to dry. You can do the rest of the laundry when you get home.