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Family water sports fun at YallaBanana. Think about whether you'd like to arrange your own water sports or land activities during your cruise to save some money.

Courtesy of YallaBanana.com

Family water sports fun at YallaBanana. Think about whether you'd like to arrange your own water sports or land activities during your cruise to save some money.

15 tips on how to save money on a cruise

Taking a few extra steps can lead to hundreds of dollars in savings

Travelers constantly ask me how they can save money on a cruise. Let's begin with this simple truth: The cruise line will be working hard to get you to spend money.

 
  SMART MONEY ON A CRUISE
 
Money saving tips for cruises
 
 

So it's a good idea to come up with a clear budget in advance and to make sure you monitor and track what you're spending.

Here are 15 tips on how to save money and stay within your budget on a cruise. Do you have other tips? Please share below. 

 

Kayaking in Los Cabos, Mexico.
Ricardo Espinosa / Courtesy of Mexico Tourism Board Kayaking in Los Cabos, Mexico. Often you can arrange independent activities for a lower price.

Choose an independent tour on land

1

Research the ports you'll be visiting before departing and plan some self-touring or more inexpensive independent provider tours instead of the more pricey shore excursions offered by the cruise lines. See my article How to choose the right shore excursions and decide which option is best for you. Bonus tip: Return to the ship for meals if self-touring rather than buying food on land.

Do it yourself

2

Compare the fares when you arrange your own flights, pre- and post-trip accommodation and transfers to and from the ship with the price you're quoted from the cruise lines. You can often beat their prices. This takes a little extra effort on your part, and it often helps to use a travel agent or consultant. One option is Cruiseable's Travel Lovers Rewards program, where you can save hundreds of dollars on your next hotel stay.

Use public transportation during the trip

3

Use the shuttle bus and public transport instead of taxis. You will always find other passengers who are also finding their own way around or have been to the port before to assist. The local tourism office will also help. If needed, in most destinations there will be English-language assistance or signage.

You'll find a wide selection of traditional and modern cocktails at the R Bar on Grandeur of the Seas.
Michel Verdure / Courtesy of Royal Caribbean InternationalAt the R Bar on Grandeur of the Seas: Decide on whether you'll save with a beverage package. 

Skip the drink & Internet packages (or not)

4

Weeks before your voyage, review the packages offered by the cruise lines and determine if you can save or budget better by purchasing these. In addition to shore excursions, the cruise lines often offer all-you-can-drink packages and Internet/wi-fi packages. Often you can go without these. But you can also save by purchasing these, depending on how much use you'll make use of them. Bonus tip: Skip the Internet on board and head to an Internet cafe for free wi-fi in port; ask the crew where they go, as they will know where the closest free ones are.

Look for attentive service during the breakfast and lunch buffet at La Veranda on the Paul Gauguin.
Roger Paperno / Courtesy of Paul Gauguin CruisesGo ahead and order that second cup of coffee at La Veranda on the Paul Gauguin.

Take advantage of complimentary beverages

5

Use the complimentary juices, teas, coffees and water at meals and in the buffet dining room rather than ordering them when at the pool, bars or lounges. Yes, first-timers: On all cruises except luxury cruises with all-inclusive pricing, you're charged for each bottle of water, soda and coffee you order. 

Buy water in port & bring it back

6

Water fountains are available around the ship and although it is not encouraged you can refill water bottles at them. But here's a better option: Most lines will allow you to bring a reasonable quantity of bottled water and sodas onto the ship at each port. Check in advance if this is permitted.

Bring your own alcoholic drinks on board (if permitted)

7

Check to see if your cruise line allows you to bring any alcohol or wine for use in your cabin. Most do not but some may permit limited quantities and will charge corkage fees in the restaurants. It should prove cheaper than buying wine on board.

Attend free parties
Courtesy of Yamaha GroupAttend free cocktail parties you're invited to, especially if you're part of a group, as they serve free drinks.

Attend cocktail parties during your trip

8

Attend any cocktail parties you're invited to (especially if you're part of a larger group) as they serve free drinks and canapés during the event. Look in the daily newsletter for social events on board. Bonus tip: Do not buy the special cocktails and champagnes being offered at sail-away parties as these are usually cost a premium.

Attend a Meet & Mingle event

9

Check to see if there will be a Cruise Critic Meet & Mingle event via the cruisecritic site and sign up to attend. In addition to receiving free refreshments, you'll also get to meet other repeat guests who may have money-saving tips and will be arranging to share private tours and transfers.

Sip complimentary champagne in Carnival Freedom's art gallery while viewing the works of some of the world's most popular contemporary artists.
Rick Diaz / Courtesy of Carnival Cruise LineWorks by contemporary artists in Carnival Freedom's art gallery.

Think twice about onboard stores & auctions

10I hate to burst your bauble, but if you're intent on saving money, you'll want to avoid the stores and promotional activities on board most modern cruise ships. Unless you're in the market for new jewelry, fragrances, artwork or a souvenir, you may want to steer clear of merchandise sales tables, shopping talks, art shows and auctions as well as the on-board stores.

Seek out the best markets & stores in port

11 Do not shop close to the port as these are likely to have higher prices — in some ports, the shops closest to where you disembark are owned by the cruise lines. Ask the crew where they go to shop as they are likely to know the best markets, stores and malls.

Use a pre-paid currency card

12 Take a pre-paid currency card instead of taking currency or withdrawing cash from machines in port. Find ATMs that don't charge extra. See Cruiseable's tip about dynamic currency conversion when using ATMs overseas.

Look for free enrichment classes

13Some cruise lines include free enrichment classes (generally brief, one-off sessions) as part of your fare, but most do not. So be choosy when signing up for premium events like art classes, wine tastings, cocktail making and flower arranging that cost extra.

Photos for sale on Ruby Princess generally go for $25 to $29 a pop.
JD Lasica / Special to CruiseablePhotos for sale on Ruby Princess.

Do you really need another photo?

14 Some cruise lines take photographs of you and your companion when you're boarding and on formal nights. These never appeal to me, and I make sure to capture some better, more natural shots when I'm on board and on shore, sometimes by asking a fellow cruiser to take a shot with my smartphone.

Avoid using your mobile phone

15 Try not to use your mobile phone on board and disable data roaming to avoid receiving a significant bill — and sticker shock — when you return home. See our articles:

Your tips

A final word of advice: Don't let frugality be your only guide. You don't want to be so tightfisted that you'll only consider cruises with rock-bottom prices. There's a reason those fares are cheaper. How often do you cruise? Live a little! 

How about you? What tips can you share with fellow cruisers on how to save money?

In our series Smart Money on a Cruise

Gary Bembridge
I'm a longtime cruise fan and ship geek. While traveling the globe, I operate TipsForTravellers.com, where you'll find podcasts, videos and advice about cruising and traveling.

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