Cruising provides a great way to explore new regions without having to unpack your bags every day. If planned correctly, a cruise vacation can save you money, making it ideal for groups and those wishing to save money.
In addition to our other tips on what to expect during various cruise days, like embarkation, port days, days at sea, and disembarkation, here are some great cruise tips and tricks every cruiser should know that will help make for a smoother sailing and save you money!
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12 Cruise Tips and Tricks from Expert Cruisers
Pack a Day Bag
Recommended by Gina at One Day in a City
It’s important to bring a daypack with you on embarkation day if you want to fully enjoy the ship’s amenities right from the moment you step onboard. This is because you’ll be instructed to leave your larger luggage at the luggage drop-off point before check-in and you may not see it again for a few hours (or longer!). You also may not have your room available to go in yet when you board.
Therefore, wear clothes that are easily changeable and throw a swimsuit, flip-flops, and maybe a good book into your daypack so you can start enjoying the cruise right away. It’s also smart to keep your medication, eyeglasses or contact lenses, and any important documents or other special items like expensive jewelry with you on embarkation day. It’s rare for a bag to get lost in transit from the terminal to your room, but it can happen. Pack for your cruise with a day bag ready for embarkation day and you’ll be enjoying the pool deck with zero worries while your less-informed cruise mates wait for their bags to be delivered!
Recommended by Michelle at Travel After Five
When you are out at sea, not only will your cell phone not have any service, but even when you are on land, you are going to face international fees. If you are on board with a group, it can get pretty tricky to find each other. Bring walkie-talkies on the ship! You will be able to reach out to your group when you are outside of your cabin, and it’s also a lot of fun to use them.
Mind Your Cell Phone
Recommended by Rachel at The RX for Travel
Cell phones have become an extension of our bodies, but because of its familiarity, they can sometimes be a forgotten piece of our pre-travel checklist. Before my first time cruising, I was gently reminded that there are no cell towers in the ocean. To stay connected, you can either purchase Wi-Fi while onboard and/or purchase additional services through your cell carrier. The first gives you service on the boat only, while the latter gives you service only at your destination. But it all adds up.
So, if you choose to forgo the onboard Wi-Fi service, remember to pick specific times and exact locations if separating from the rest of your party, to make meeting up again simple. If you are traveling solo, leave an itinerary with loved ones at home, so they know where you will be and when and know when you will be able to check-in with them. Lastly, remember to keep your phone on airplane mode, to avoid racking up data roaming charges, but also still be able to use your camera.
Prepare for Motion Sickness
Recommended by Danni at Live in 10 Countries
It’s well worth prepping in advance to make sure you don’t get caught up in seasickness on your cruise. Admittedly you might be expecting rough seas on an Arctic cruise, but even on a gentle river cruise, it can happen. Get the right medication at least a few weeks before you travel, as some require you to take them on land first. If you’re planning for water sports and activities, tablets are a good choice, or if not the patches are far less work – pop one on and it lasts for several days. Avoiding alcohol, staying hydrated and eating ginger will all help you to feel your best too.
Compare Tour Prices
Recommended by Alex at Swedish Nomad
Comparing prices of local tours with the ones offered by the cruise company is essential if you want to save money and get the most out of your day trips at each stop. Oftentimes, it can differ a lot in terms of cost, but also what’s included. Some cruise companies have rather steep prices on their day trips and don’t include transfer to the city, whereas local tour companies may offer discount prices and specialized tours.
Plan DIY Excursions
Recommended by Michele at A Taste For Travel
Be savvy and plan ahead so you’re spending your shore excursion money wisely. Before you leave home, do some research on the ports you’ll be visiting. While some destinations require transportation to reach major attractions, at other destinations the cruise ship terminal is located in the heart of town. This means you can easily arrange a do-it-yourself tour and save a lot of money.
For example, some of the free things to do in Aruba include taking a self-guided walking tour of the street art in the former refinery town of San Nicolas, swimming at one of Aruba’s centrally-located beaches and riding the free eco-trolley through historic downtown Oranjestad. Or, for a low-cost DIY tour, you could go cycling Aruba’s breezy Linear Park, a dedicated trail that’s the longest bike path in the Caribbean, visiting attractions, beaches and restaurants on your own. By saving at one destination, you can splurge at another. Or, take home a memorable souvenir!
Join the Cruise Critic Forum
Recommended by Lisa at TheHotFlashPacker
One of the best things you can do before your trip is getting on the “Roll Call” forum for your cruise at cruisecritic.com. Here you can meet others from your specific cruise, and you can coordinate plans before, during, or after your cruise. Occasionally, someone will organize some great shore excursions. For example, in the Falkland Islands, we were able to learn how to book one tour for $170 less than the price offered by the cruise line. On a cruise to Norway, one retired man planned lengthy, great tours at each port for 75% less cost than similar trips offered by the cruise line.
On most cruises, there will be a Cruise Critic meeting on one of the first days of the cruise where you can meet the people you know from online. Also, there have been some special opportunities for the Cruise Critic group on board, such as a visit to the bridge or a special sail away in one of the Norwegian Fjords.
Book Your Next Cruise On-Board
Recommended by Ilana at Life Well Cruised
If you love your cruise and think you want to do it again, book your next cruise onboard! Not only will you get additional onboard credit to use on this or your next cruise (essentially free money), but you’ll be able to apply a reduced deposit and keep the booking with your existing travel agent if you’re using one.
Carefully Review the Drinks Package
Recommended by Sarah at ASocialNomad
One of the great things about a cruising holiday is that you’re able to know before you go how much everything costs you. And that’s why carefully reviewing any drinks packages offered by your cruise company when you book and before you arrive onboard is really important. Drinks packages include both soft, cold, hot and alcoholic drinks and can be an awesome deal if you book at the right time.
Taking a drinks package on our recent transatlantic repositioning cruise from the gorgeous Genoa in Italy to the Caribbean saved us a packet. As we bought the drinks package at the time of booking we paid just 12 euros a day. And while that gave us huge options on wine and beer, it also meant that once I’d had 3 coffees and 2 soft drinks a day, I was in profit. So read the drinks package details carefully and you can make your money go a whole lot further when cruising!
Book Last Minute
Recommended by Zach and Julie at Ruhls of the Road
When booking a cruise, one way to save an enormous amount of money is to book last minute, like we did for our Alaska cruise. If a cruise has open rooms in the last weeks leading up to the cruise, the price will generally be lowered until every room is full. You will have to be flexible, since an open room may have to be on the interior or a specific section of the ship, but you will normally be able to find excellent deals. Do yourself a favor and check cruise prices a few weeks before the departure date, from time to time you’ll find an incredible deal!
Mix Up Your Dining Options
Recommended by Roshni at The Wanderlust Within
Instead of eating at the buffet every morning, lunch and dinner, try some of the specialty restaurants onboard. Last year I did an Arctic cruise and loved eating at the restaurants. As even though we needed to prebook, the menus were vast and everything is made to order, so there was less of a chance of overeating. Depending on the cruise, some restaurants are included and some come at an extra charge, so check before you book.
Bring a Night Light for Dark Inside Cabins
Recommended by Maureen at So Many Places! So Little Time!
We did a cruise around New Zealand in an inside cabin and it was fine. Inside cabins are great for those cruises where you’re in a port every day and just cruising at night. You’re really only there to sleep and the inside cabins have all the other facilities that an ocean view cabin has, except for a window. I love the way most cruise lines manage to disguise the fact that you have no window with a couple of hanging curtains that give the impression that there is a window behind them.
When the lights are out, inside cabins are very dark, which is great for sleepers who need a dark room, but when you get up to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night it can be quite a challenge. A good idea is to take a night light with you that will fit into the bathroom shaver’s socket in the bathroom and leave it on through the night. Make sure to bring whatever power adapter you need to work with the shaver socket in the bathroom.
Bring Drinks Aboard
Recommended by Ruby at A Journey We Love
Bring water and lots of other drinks/liquids to bring on the cruise ship. Certain cruise ships allow you to bring a certain amount on board without the need to pay for corkage or other fees. This will save you lots of money as compared to buying these on the cruise ship, plus you have a say which brands you bring in, and not at the mercy of what the cruise ship offers.
Download the Cruise Line App
Recommended by Disha at Disha Discovers
Before you board your ship, you should download the cruise line’s app on your phone. This allows you to easily check what events are happening on board so you can stay up to date. You can also make dinner reservations through the app so you don’t have to call the different restaurants onboard. Your statement is also available on the app so you can keep track of your expenses. Lastly, the app lets you chat with other passengers on the ship so you can keep up with your friends and family without paying for WiFi.
What do you think? Have you used any of these cruise tips and tricks? Do you have others to share? Let me know in a comment below!
Annick, The Common Traveler