7 Ways To Avoid Wasting Money On Cruises

7 Ways To Avoid Wasting Money On Cruises
Travelers often work hard to save money and get the lowest cruise fares possible. However, it’s easy to spend money needlessly once you’ve booked your cruise. Cruise lines offer many enticing ways to add to your vacation, from shore excursions and drinks packages to spa treatments and specialty dining. It’s essential to consider these purchases carefully and spend wisely.

Here are seven ways to avoid wasting money on your next cruise.

1. Avoid Purchasing Drinks Packages If You Don’t Drink A Lot
Alcoholic drinks, smoothies, specialty coffees, sodas, and some other refreshments are not generally included in the cruise fare. These kinds of purchases can rack up quite a tab. Many cruise lines offer soda packages, wine packages, and all-inclusive drink packages that include all sorts of libations. These packages may make sense if you spend lots of money on drinks on your cruise vacations. However, if you don’t drink that much on your voyages, they’re not a good value.

Think carefully about how much you’re likely to drink and compare the total package price against your likely bar bill. Some cruise lines offer several different types of drink packages, so carefully review all the details and make sure what you’re planning to drink is included. In addition, read the fine print for additional gratuity charges and other essential information. Sometimes, if one person in a stateroom purchases a package, everyone else in the same cabin must do so as well.

For example, the price of one non-alcoholic drink package on a recent sailing cost nearly $300 for a 7-night cruise. That package provided one person with up to 15 non-alcoholic beverages daily, including specialty coffees, sodas, smoothies, mocktails, juice, and water. If one guest purchased the package, everyone staying in the same stateroom was required to buy the same drink package. Packages covering alcoholic drinks cost significantly more.

Some cruise lines also offer these all-inclusive beverage packages as part of special cruise deals, so contact your travel advisor or cruise line before booking. Loyalty to a specific cruise line can be rewarding. Once you've enrolled in a cruise line's loyalty program and are a past guest, you’ll often receive invitations to receptions and parties serving free drinks. Loyalty club members may receive coupons for complimentary or reduced-price beverages as well.

2. Look For Spa Discounts
If you want to take advantage of spa treatments and thermal spa suites on your ship, seek out special promotions. The discounts can be substantial. Shipboard spas may offer discounts on embarkation day, and other specials may be offered during port days or at alternative times.

Once you’ve had a treatment, don’t let your relaxed state of mind make you vulnerable to buying lots of spa products. If you’re interested in fitness classes and spa events, look for free programs and check on costs before participating.

3. Put Your Phone In Airplane Mode
Cell service companies generally offer international plans that provide coverage in destinations visited by cruise ships. Check to see what’s available before departing on your cruise. If you decide not to purchase an international plan, place your phone on airplane mode and use Wi-Fi ashore instead.

Most cell phone international plans do not cover usage at sea, and roaming charges while sailing can be stratospheric. Check out Wi-Fi packages available through your ship, and do your calling and Internet surfing that way. In addition, make sure to download your cruise line’s smartphone app before boarding.

4. Take Your Own Photos
Photo packages are expensive on cruises, often costing hundreds of dollars. Bring along a digital camera – or several. Take lots of pictures and give your cameras to your waiter or other guests to take photos. Formal photos and group shots can be treasured keepsakes but don’t go overboard.

If you’re set on getting professional photographs on your vacation, it may be best to purchase them individually. Special Photo Gallery discounts may be offered on selected nights during your cruise, so keep an eye out for deals. Sites like Flytographer.com are also an excellent way to find outstanding local photographers in your ports of call.

5. Check Out Independent Shore Excursions
Cruise lines make it easy to buy their shore excursions, but they’re not always the best options. They can be significantly more expensive as well. Before simply purchasing what your cruise line has available, look into independent shore excursions offered by local groups. Viator, ToursByLocals, and recommendations by cruise line-specific message boards and Facebook groups can be good sources for top-notch options. Make sure to check reviews to get additional information.

Think about the experiences you’re seeking in each port of call. Independent tours tend to limit participation to smaller groups of less than a dozen, while cruise line shore excursions can be on large buses seating forty people. If you simply want to go to the beach or visit one major attraction, a tour may not be necessary at all.

6. Bring Your Own (Everything)
Plan to bring along anything you might need on your cruise, including over-the-counter medications, sunscreen, toiletries, and extra batteries for your camera. Stores on ships charge high prices for these items. Pack a small bag of things you might need, or purchase them in your embarkation port before boarding your ship.

Bringing your own wine, champagne, beer, and soft drinks on your cruise can save you money, but knowing the rules is key. Cruise lines have differing policies about what beverages guests can bring on board. Some cruise lines allow guests to bring one or two bottles of wine with them, while others do not allow guests to bring any drinks with them on the ship. Corkage fees are charged on some cruise lines as well. Check your cruise line’s website in advance to understand what’s permitted and any applicable fees. Cruise lines also have their own policies about bringing bottled water onboard.

7. Seek Out Specialty Restaurant Deals
Meals are included in the price of your sailing, but specialty restaurant dining options are generally not part of the standard cruise fare. Some of these dining venues can cost $35 per person or more. Specialty restaurants on certain cruise lines offer a la carte menus only, so be sure to calculate projected costs before booking.

If enjoying fine dining adds significantly to your cruise enjoyment, you may wish to purchase a specialty dining package for your cruise. If so, carefully review the package details to ensure your desired specialty dining options are included. Some cruise lines also offer specialty dining packages free as part of special cruise promotions, so reach out to your travel agent or cruise line to check before booking. Discounts may be available at alternative dining restaurants on embarkation night, so check your cruise line app or daily cruise program before making reservations.

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