Your next cruise just got better with these sneaky tips for cruise ships

Cruise guru Jocelyn Pride shares her sneaky tips for getting the most from cruise ships.

Sneaky tips for cruise ships

Jocelyn Pride is a multi-award-winning freelance writer and photographer. Her stories and images are published in various Australian and international print and online magazines. When she’s not travelling, Jocelyn enjoys cooking, keeping fit, watching movies and looking after other people’s dogs.

Cruises are good value for money. Transport, accommodation, food and entertainment all rolled into one tidy sum. But a designer coffee here, a cocktail there, a dinner in a specialty restaurant, and before you know it the cost of your holiday spirals way beyond your budget.

Here are my top ‘sneaky tips’ to stretch your cruise dollars to the max.

Do your research
Knowledge is king. Be in control of your spending by knowing exactly what’s included in your cruise and what’s considered an ‘extra’. For example, the gym is free but taking a spin or yoga class may incur a cost. Speciality restaurants are an obvious extra cost, but sometimes something as simple as an ice-cream can rack up an expense. 

Pay the final balance as close as possible to the departure date
Sure, you need to pay a deposit, but find out when you can pay the final balance. This way, if the price drops closer to the sail date, you can ask for the lower cost or even re-book at the new price. This nifty trick gives you assurance you’ve paid the best price for your cruise and you also get keep your money in the bank for longer.

Find a reason to celebrate
Birthdays (be careful they have your passport details), wedding anniversaries, babymoons, honeymoons, graduations, family reunions, recovery from an illness, achieving a career goal or anything else you are celebrating is worth mentioning. Cruise ships are always in party mode and a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine never goes astray.

Get your head around the drinks package
Speaking of wine, this is where you really need to be savvy. Some cruise lines include alcoholic drinks (when you choose your cruise remember this is already factored into the price); however, most have some form of the ‘dreaded’ drinks package. Study carefully the different types of packages and ask yourself (preferably without a drink in your hand), how much you intend to drink. Wine packages tend to come in number of bottles – the more you order up front, the less you pay per bottle. Many cruise lines offer all-inclusive drinks packages usually calculated on a daily rate. The bottom line here is to read the fine print as they vary considerably between companies.  A common condition is that if one person in your cabin takes a drinks package, then any other adult sharing the cabin has to as well.

Some cruise companies allow you to take on one bottle of alcohol as part of embarkation. Break the rules and you’ll donate your bottle to the ship’s cellar.

Make friends with the upgrade fairy
To be ‘rewarded’ for something you haven’t officially paid for can feel like winning the lottery. But how can you be one of the lucky ones chosen for an upgrade?  For starters, you need to think about the timing of your cruise – off season cruises are obviously harder to fill.

You can also politely mention that you’d like your name to be added to the list should any upgrades become available.

Organise your own shore excursions
Shore excursions organised through the cruise line are an integral part of the experience, but they’re also expensive. Going it alone and organising your own tour will save you money and also enable you to do exactly what you want. However, be warned, if anything goes wrong and you miss the curfew, the ship won’t wait for you.

Alternatively, instead of leaving with the masses to explore on shore, stay on board for a day and have the ship to yourself. You can pretend you’re on your own luxury yacht.

Enter competitions and win stuff
Let’s face it – you are part of a captive audience. Someone has to win so it may as well be you. Bingo may not be your number one choice of entertainment, but since all the money is pooled, you could be the one who walks away with a handsome sum of cash. Additionally, look for competitions that may give away a free drink, hat or even a discount on your next cruise. You might even score a free makeover if you go to a treatment demonstration in the spa. Models are often required for presentations.

Do you have any more tips to share?



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    23rd Dec 2017
    well I have 2 cruises planned - one to NZ and another to Hawaii - all the thoughts above are excellent - also go to other games activities such as trivia, mini golf, games shows etc as they often give out wine/champagne as prizes that you can use with dinner.
    I think the coffee card is good value - not a fan of the drinks package - however know many that are.
    Don't be afraid to use on-line travel agents - they offer much better deals
    23rd Dec 2017
    When in Hawaii we always use Roberts coaches you can save a lot of money, they are very reliable probably the largest company in the area.
    23rd Dec 2017
    Well I have one cruise booked for next year and really have my nose out of joint for after paying for the cruise I read in the itinerary that there is $12.95 per person per cabin per day gratuities added to the cruise account, which in this instance adds another $750 to the bill.
    This yank crap of gratuities/tips for service is a rip off that needs to be addressed. I spent over 50 years working for a living and never once did I get any tip, other than if you want a better pay get a better job.
    Apart from this how do I know if the people that I have interface with actually get this money, or does it just all add to the company profit margin.
    I am going to tell them that I will do my own tipping if I think that the service person goes above and beyond what would be his job at any rate.
    23rd Dec 2017
    Hi Bob, it depends on who you are cruising with, you can cancel the gratuities, if you are with Royal Caribbean you can definitely cancel the gratuities, NCL are a bit harder but you can still cancel them, P&O will let you cancel as will carnival and princess cruises It might be worthwhile checking when you get on the ship, go down to guest services. We have done many cruises and we only tip our food and drink waiters and our cabin steward as they are the lowest paid. In Australia most of the cruise lines have started to include the gratuities in your ticket price which I prefer then it's up to you if you want to give any extras.
    4th Feb 2018
    You can cancel your compulsory gratuities but in doing so your steward or restaurant waiter will have to hand in your individual tip into the common pot for distribution. These days I leave the tipping in place and give a little extra to my cabin and bar workers. Just tell them the tipping is left in place and they do not have to report your tips to management. Some folks are not aware of that but after your fourth or subsequent cruise you'll get the drum.

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