Yay! You’re going on a cruise! How exciting!
Cruise vacations have become very popular and for good reason. Cruises are actually a pretty good value specially if you live close to a cruise port and don’t have to travel far to board the ship.
The biggest expense is of course the cruise fare, but once that’s paid there isn’t much more left to pay. Now that doesn’t mean you will not spend any more money once you board the ship, far from it! Cruise lines have come up with many ways to part you from your money. Many folks are shocked and surprised how large their on board account is at the end of the cruise.
The time to argue and dispute charges on your account is long past if you wait until the last day of your cruise. I suppose there are times when there are mistakes made on your account, but in my many years of cruising I’ve yet to see a mistake on my on board account. So the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises on the last day of your cruise is to check your account daily. That way you can adjust your on board spending.
Cruise lines make things very convenient with “cashless cruising”. This means that your key card is also your “credit card”. Everything you purchase on the ship is charged to that key card which is attached to your registered credit card.
Before you ever make an on board purchase you can count on the daily gratuity that is automatically added to your account; depending on the cruise line that can be $12 or more per person per day. So on a 7 day cruise for two $168 or more is charged to your account; unless you pre-paid gratuities before you cruised. Of course you have the option of removing these automatic charges from your account. Just go to customer service and ask for those charges to be removed; you can tip who you want to (bartender, barista, waiter, etc.) at the end of the cruise. (I’ve spoken to many cruisers about removing the automatic gratuity, some love it and some hate it. Some like not having to worry about tipping while others prefer to tip their favorite crew members on their own.)
Aside from the automatic gratuities what else can you find charged to your account? Let’s see, that frozen drink with the cute little umbrella you bought at the pool, that massage you had and the lovely products your therapist talked you into, those must have photos taken at every port and formal nights, the $20 you put in the cashless slot machine at the casino, that sushi or burger and bottle of wine at the specialty restaurant, the latte from the cafe, the shore excursion you took at your last port of call, the watch you bought at the one day sale, and the list goes on.
Yes there are so many things you can charge to your account and you’ll be surprised just how fast they add up!
So how do you avoid a shockingly large bill and the buyer’s remorse on the last day of your cruise? Read on for some money saving tips I wish someone had given me on my first cruise!
If you gotta have your morning latte from the specialty coffee shop then buy a coffee card.
These are usually punch cards you can buy for about $30 depending on the cruise line. They’re good for about 10 – 12 specialty coffees which cost about $5+ each without the card. So that’s almost a 50% savings!
Consider buying a beverage package if you think you’ll be drinking enough to justify the cost.
Compare prices of beverage packages to the price of each drink and how many drinks you can realistically drink in a day. If you plan on drinking more than the daily cost of the package is then it’s worth buying, if not it may be better to pay as you go.
Ask before you take!
You know those pretty drinks in take home glasses they walk around with on sail aways? Yes some of those glasses are pretty cool, they might even light up or glow in the dark. But they are not free! Ask how much the drinks are in the cool glass and if you don’t want to pay the price you can order the same drink in a regular glass for a lower price! BTW drinks in those cool glasses are not covered by any drink package.
Do you occasionally like to have wine with your meal? Then BYOB!
Most cruise lines allow each guest to bring 1 bottle of wine on board. Now when I say wine I mean wine, not beer, not gin, not any other type of liquor. Any alcoholic beverage other than that 1 bottle of wine per person will be confiscated and returned to you when you disembark.
If you prefer not to bring your own wine then buy wine by the bottle, not the glass. Unfinished bottles of wine will be stored for you and served to you whenever and where ever you want it.
Gotta have that Diet Coke or Sprite?
Consider buying a soda card, but again compare the price of the card with the individual price of sodas and how many you can drink in a day. Also most cruise lines will allow you to bring soda and bottled water on board. You can buy them from port and keep them in the mini fridge in your room. This is much cheaper than buying sodas and bottled water on board.
The mini bar in your stateroom is not free.
Check the price list before you open any bottles or cans in your mini bar. And remember whatever you drink out of the mini bar is also charged 15% gratuity.
15% gratuity is added to all beverage orders.
An automatic 15% gratuity is added to every drink you buy from the bar, this includes sodas and specialty coffees. It is also added to coffee cards, mini bar items, and drink packages. You might consider this before you add on that extra tip for your server.
Look out for photo specials before buying your photos.
During the cruise they may run specials on port photos, embarkation photos, formal photos, and more. Or consider buying the disc or thumb drive and print your own photos. Better yet take your own photos!
Port Days are Spa Days!
The spa will offer specials or discounts on services while the ship is in port. It might be worth having that massage before you leave for some sightseeing or return to the ship early enough to squeeze in a spa service before the ship sets sail again. And don’t let the therapist pressure you into buying their over priced products, if you must have them buy them online when you get home, it will be much cheaper! The spa will be less busy on port days too!
Do your homework on your ports of call.
Before you buy any shore excursions for any port read up on the port to find out the best way to see the sights you’re interested in. Sometimes you can just get of the ship and do your own thing instead of buying an expensive tour. If you want or need a tour guide consider booking tours from local tour operators, they are usually much cheaper than the tours offered on the ship.
Check before you watch TV in your stateroom.
Most cruise ships offer pay per view, so make sure you know what you and/or your kids are watching on TV.
Check room service times and charges.
Yes food ordered from room service is included in your cruise fare, but sometimes there is a delivery charge. Depending on the cruise line room service charges can be $1 to $4 or more each time you order room service. Others only charge during the wee hours of the night. So check before you order.
Be aware of service charges when you take cash from your cruise card at the casino.
It’s so easy to play some cards at the casino, just give them your cruise card and tell them how much you want to cash. Be aware that there is a service charge for taking cash from your on board account.
Use the ATM wisely.
If you need cash from the ATM try not to take it in small increments, you are charged a service charge for each withdrawal; that’s on top of whatever your bank might charge you. So instead of taking out $20 at a time and paying a $3-4 service charge each time you withdraw take out $100 or what you think you will need, usually the service charge is the same regardless of the amount you withdraw. (This doesn’t appear on your on board account, but it will on your credit or debit card!)
Take advantage of freebies!
There are many things you can get for free, including a drink or two. You just have to know when and where to go. Here are some freebies you can take advantage of:
Captain’s Welcome usually held the first day after sailing serves free cocktails and wine – only the ones the waiters are passing out are free, if you order something else you will be charged.
The Captain’s Farewell held the night before the cruise ends also serves free cocktails and wine.
Liquor tastings at the shops – not to be confused with wine tastings which have a fee. The duty free liquor shop on board usually samples different liquors nightly.
Art Auctions usually serve free champagne to everyone who attends, you don’t have to buy anything.
Loyalty club events – depending on your loyalty tier you will be invited to events that serve liquor like cocktail parties, nightly happy hour, and so on.
Trivia and other games – Participate in trivia and other games on board, winners always get prizes. Usually logo items such as luggage tags, tote bags, t-shirts, or hats.
Arts & Crafts classes – some ships offer watercolor classes, origami classes, etc. usually supplies are free, sometimes there is a small fee, but you get to take home your creation.
Have a money saving tip? Share it with us please!