A cruise at first look may seem like a good deal, that is until you get on board and feel overwhelmed with the extra costs for beverages, excursions, and activities.
Rather than feel like you’ll break the bank, here are seven easy ways to keep your wallet happy while still enjoying your cruise vacation.
1. Book Your Own Onshore Excursions
While booking through the cruise ship is more convenient, the excursions offered are more expensive than what you can book on your own (and less authentic!).
Instead book independent shore excursions, hire taxis, or rent a car to explore on your own. Case in point: By booking our dolphin swimming excursion on our own in St. Kitts, we saved $100 from the price it would have cost through Carnival!
2. Don’t Overtip
While generous tipping is always appreciated, keep in mind that a 15% gratuity is often automatically added to purchases made.
As well, a flat fee for tips is added per person in your stateroom towards the end of your cruise. For Carnival, this fee was $90 per person, children included.
3. Avoid Onboard Internet
Access to Wi-Fi on the cruise ship is an additional cost – and although it’s not necessarily the priciest add-on starting at $5 per day, it’s also supposedly not the best quality internet.
Instead, wait till you are onshore to find free Wifi (I was able to find Wifi at almost every port of call) – or, gasp! – disconnect for the week.
4. Activities, Activities, Activities
There’s no need to pay for any activities on board a cruise, as there are so many you can take advantage of for free.
In our week on board, we did daily sports and musical trivia, watched comedy shows, played mini-golf, swam, went to karaoke, and exercised at the ship’s gym – all for free. There’s also a kids club that has plenty of activities to keep little ones entertained as well.
5. B.Y.O.B (Bring Your Own Booze)
Cruise ships have varying rules as to how much of your own alcohol you can bring, but it’s worth learning what they are and taking advantage of it. Carnival allowed us to bring two bottles of wine, which cost us just over $20 total, while bottles on board started around $30 each.
If you are flying into your departure port and taking a carry-on bag, simply look if there are any grocery or liquor stores nearby. We bought our two bottles of wine in our departure port of San Juan, Puerto Rico to avoid check-in baggage fees.
6. How Much Will You Drink?
Unless you plan on drinking heavily, skip the beverage package. You can purchase drinks as you go, or to truly cut down on costs, drink off the ship altogether.
The beverage package for our Carnival cruise was $49.95 per day, plus at 15% tip, and all adults in the same stateroom are required to buy the package. In total, this would have cost us close to $800 in alcohol for the week.
Instead, we paid for our drinks as we went. Off the ship we often were able to find beers for $2 or $3 a piece, and two of our cruise excursions included complimentary rum punch and beers. This helped us keep our alcohol costs down to about $300 total for the full week – over $500 in savings.
7. Buffets Galore
Although this depends on your appetite and length of your off shore excursions, we found that we tried to eat on board as much as possible since its included in the cruise cost.
Most days we had a large breakfast on board, grabbed a banana as a snack for mid-day, and didn’t eat lunch until we returned to the boat in mid or late afternoon.
Have you been on a cruise? What are your money saving tips?