Cruising can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be
Cruising is tons of fun but it can also be expensive if you just start charge everything to your shipboard account. I’ve only been on about a half dozen cruises but I have figured things out the hard way…financially. So, I thought I would share some money saving tips so you don’t end up with an outrageous credit card bill at the end of a restful vacation. Remember: the cruise ships are designed to make money, not save you money.
Pre / Post cruise transfer – Most of the cruise lines highly suggest you use their pre-arranged transportation. Perhaps. On our last round trip cruise out of Los Angeles, we used Lyft to get us from the airport to the port. There was 4 people in our party and the one-way cost was only $25! If we would have booked with the ship, the cost would have been over $200 round trip versus the $60 (including tip). A taxi ride was estimated at $70 for one-way. Just remember, to check with the port to find out which company (Uber or Lyft) is accepted. In January of 2016, Lyft was the only company allowed in the port at LAX.
Beverages – A lot of the of cruise lines are offering “all you can drink”or “unlimited” alcohol packages that vary in price. Some charge you per day, some charge per cruise. On our last cruise the price per person for unlimited drinks was priced at $50/day. My husband and I thought long and hard if we should get the package or not. It would have meant to break even everyday, I would have to drink about 6 Rum and Cokes or 5 glasses a wine per day. Maybe the first day on the ship I would benefit but we decided against it and saved $150. I’m not a soda drink and neither is my husband so even the other packages didn’t make sense for us. What if your cruise doesn’t offer “unlimited” drink package? Then purchase the soda package and buy a bottle of alcohol from room service. This way you can mix your own drinks in the fancy refillable soda cup, and save a bundle at the bar.
Carry-On Drinks – Most of the cruise lines will allow you to bring on your own bottled water. During our last cruise, I saw a family that brought on a case of bottled water. What a great idea! Especially since the ships tap water is full of sodium and potassium. I’m trying to get rid of the water weight by drinking water…not gain more weight! Did you also know that most cruise lines will allow you bring 1 bottle of wine per adult? This can also save a bundle, especially since the ships prices are super inflated. Of course, check with your cruise line.
Laundry – If you are traveling on a larger ship, there is typically a laundromat on each deck. I always bring laundry detergent from home to help me save a little money. Sure, doing loads of laundry may not be super cheap on a cruise ship, but neither is paying for the ships dry cleaning. Plus, I would rather pay to do my own laundry than to haul around another suitcase and pay to check another suitcase with the airline.
Excursions – Remember, the cruise line is a glorified travel agent and the will make money any way they can. Do yourself a financial favor and don’t book your excursion with the ship. Their prices are usually inflated and the ship also makes a commission on everything you book. To save some money, get off of the ship and talk with the locals who are selling excursions right outside the port. We have had some of the most memorable experiences when we booked our own drivers or excursions and saved a bundle!
Snacks – Now you maybe wondering why I’m even talking about food when most of the food is “complimentary” on the ship. Well, you are correct most of the food is free but what if you want a small snack when sitting in the bar having a few drinks. Where do you get pretzels, chips, etc? The gift shop has these items for purchase but their prices are outrageous. So, I’m usually designated as the food runner while my husband orders our drinks. I make a mad dash to the buffet and round up some cheese, crackers, veggies, and dip for us to snack on while we sip our drinks. It’s a great way for me to get in my 10,000 steps!
Elite travelers – We have been lucky enough to travel with family that has the highest cruise level on all the major lines. The frequent cruiser gets lots of special perks like free dry cleaning, free internet, free drinks, etc. If you can find a friend or make friends with someone that has one of these elite statuses, you will feel like royalty and also save a ton of cash.
Photo gallery – I have to say, I’m surprised that the cruise lines still continue with the photo gallery. How are they making any money? With a camera on every smart phone, it is a mystery to me why this service is still offered on the ship. I guess there are still folks that prefer the traditions of having a printed photo from the trip as a keepsake. But, if you are traveling on a budget the ship pictures can easily be substituted with those from your smart phone.
Happy Hour – If you decided to skip the “unlimited” drink package, look in the daily events flyer for the ships’ happy hour. Usually happy hour has discounted drinks, 2 for 1, or a specialty drink for the day. Typically they will schedule happy hour about an hour before the ship is scheduled to disembark from port. You better find your seat early, the bar fills up fast!
Casino – I’m not much of a gambler but I do know the one rule: the house always wins. Unless you consider yourself a professional gambler your odds at winning are better at playing the lottery. The ships slot machines are not as loose as Vegas, so don’t plan on coming back home with money in your pocket.
Do you have any additional money saving tips when cruising? Please share in the comments below. Check out other posts about cruising – 10 Best Reason to Cruise, Family Cruising – Fact vs Fiction, 5 Tips to Consider before Cruising, and 8 Reason to Cruise with Kids.