The thrill of cruise day is electrifying. After you make your way through security and enter the ship from the gangway, your vacation can begin. It’s also at this exact moment that you might wind up spending more money than you should.
That might sound like a strange observation. After all, just about everywhere on the ship, there is a place to eat that is covered in the price of your cabin. We’ll assume you also paid for the drink package.
And that, my friend, is the first place where spending more than you should rears its ugly head.
5. Read the Fine Print
The first thing most do when they board a cruise ship on the first day is to get something to eat. The second is to get a drink. And why not? If you have the drink package, you can literally drink till you’re blue in the face (although we *highly*recommend against that). Simply give the crew member your room key and in return, that person will give you your desired drink along with a receipt.
You fill out the tip (that’s customary in the United States when buying a drink), sign the receipt and enjoy your beverage of choice.
If you do this, you’ve already taken the first step in losing your money. How so?
Take a closer look at that receipt. That line item where you added the tip says “additional tip”. Look one line up the receipt. The cruise line already charged you 18% gratuity when they made your drink. If you added another 10% on top of that, you would have paid a gratuity of over 30%!
How is it over 30%? Remember, your 10% tip is based on the cost of the drink and the added 18% built-in gratuity. We’re assuming you have the drink package. As such, we’d expect you to have enough drinks in order to justify the cost of the package.
How much will you spend over the course of a 7-day cruise putting out 30% and higher gratuities every time you order a drink?
You can see why we listed this money-saving tip first.
4. The Food Is Good No Matter Where You Eat
One of the best things about cruising is the number of choices you have to dine each day. On larger cruise ships, there are a lot of places to eat, both casual and dressy. Even on smaller ships, there are a lot of places to eat some really good food.
One of those places is the main dining room. The menu has popular favorites every day. The kitchen rotates through a variety of other items each day of the cruise. It’s highly unlikely that you will not see something that appeals to you on the menu.
The temptation is to take a few meals in the specialty restaurants. If saving money is a priority, this is one you should probably pass on. Is that to imply that the food isn’t good?
Quite the opposite! The food in specialty restaurants is usually incredibly good! It has to be if they want travelers to pay to eat on a vessel where they’ve already paid for meals. If you purchase the dining package before you sail, or at the very latest on the first day of sailing, you’ll pay less than you would if you waited until the next day. You’ll also spend less than putting the check on your room account.
So your first money-saving tip is to add the dining package onto your account early so you don’t pay more than you should.
Your second money-saving tip is to not pay for the dining package at all. As we said, there are plenty of awesome dining options all over the ship. We won’t get into specifics because they vary between cruise line to cruise line and even from ship to ship within the same cruise line.
Whatever price you pay for your cruise, you’ve already paid to eat your meals in more than one place. So save yourself some money and skip the dining package if keeping money in your pocket is the priority.
3. Bring Your Own Camera
Some people go on cruises to celebrate special occasions. The cruise line knows that. So they create reasons to take your picture. Everything from eating dinner – especially in specialty restaurants – to designated picture sessions in the atrium. All for the purpose of making you feel that you absolutely must capture this moment. For a fee, of course.
Don’t get us wrong. Cruise lines use professional photographers who understand lighting and composition. And they’ll take those pictures in the impressive atrium. So your pictures will look amazing.
But the atrium will be there every day of your cruise. And cell phones have cameras that rival expensive DSLR cameras. It’s true, you won’t have the lighting available to the pros. But the processing the software on phones use can compensate for most deficiencies you might encounter.
2. Make a Special Trip On Embarkation Day
Earlier, we mentioned where most people go as soon as they get onto the ship. Almost all of them involve eating or drinking. But we’re recommending you make a trip someplace most travelers never visit.
Right after you board and put something in your stomach, make your way to the spa.
The spa? Yeah. The spa.
On embarkation day, there are so many things vying for your attention. The spa is usually tucked away on the upper decks away from all the action. Hence, the thought of going to the spa will almost never come to mind. So why are we recommending a trip to the spa?
Because the spa is tucked away on the upper decks away from all the action. In other words, because the spa knows they are the last people anyone wants to see on embarkation day, they will give discounts on spa treatments to those who put forth the effort to see them.
And no, you don’t have to use the discount that day. In fact, in the off-chance your cruise port is canceled and everyone is trying to figure out what to do, you can cash in on your discount to the spa.
So our money-saving tip here is to go to the spa on embarkation day to get a discount on a spa treatment you can use later during your cruise.
1. Don’t Finance 5G Tower Installation
With all the excitement on cruise day and the desire to get to your stateroom, there’s a very simple thing you can easily forget about that can cost you hundreds of dollars.
That simple thing is putting your phone in airplane mode. A good rule of thumb is: if you can see the ship, keep your phone in airplane mode. Why is this important enough to make it our number one money-saving tip?
While you’re in port, your phone will be connected to the cell towers of the mobile phone carriers. Once you get away from land, at some point, you will lose connection to the cell towers. After that, your phone will connect to the next closest tower. And that tower is on the cruise ship.
It might seem like a little thing. But when you get your cell phone bill demanding many hundreds of dollars, it’s then that you will see that you were charged for roaming. That’s right folks; you’ll get hit with a crazy expensive bill all because you didn’t put your phone in airplane mode. The only thing you’ll accomplish is financing cell phone companies’ installation of 5G towers.
So our number one way to save money when cruising is to put your phone in airplane mode.
That being said, there are some details we need to add to this tip.
I can’t think of any cruise line that doesn’t have an app. And we highly recommend installing the cruise line’s app. There are a number of services that can save you time and make your cruise easier if you install it.
The only way to use it, however, is to activate your wi-fi. If you put your phone in airplane mode, your wi-fi is also disabled. The way around that is to leave your phone in airplane mode, then turn on wi-fi. This way your cellular radio will remain disabled leaving only wi-fi accepting signals.
When you are on land, you might find the need to make phone calls. Check with your carrier. Some of them will allow you to use your phone in Mexico and other places without incurring any additional fees.
In the instance that your carrier doesn’t have a plan to let you use your phone in other countries, you could get a pre-paid SIM card for the area you’ll be making calls. But as is the case with cell phone companies, there is a catch. Your phone must be unlocked to use a SIM in another country. You can’t even take your phone to another carrier in the United States unless it is unlocked.
Once again, this requires a call or even a trip to the cell phone company. If you purchased your phone from the cell phone company, there’s a 99.999999% chance your phone is locked to that carrier. You’ll have to ask them (read, beg) to unlock it. Once it’s complete, you can use your pre-paid SIM in your phone.
Other Ways To Save Money Cruising
These are our top 5 ways to save money while cruising. There are definitely more. What ways do you save money when cruising? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and share them with the community.