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7 Ways To Save Big Onboard Your Next Cruise

Cruises are an excellent vacation value, but it’s to spend plenty of money once onboard the ship. While much is covered in the basic fare, cruises definitely are not an all-inclusive experience. There are many optional expenses that can quickly overextend your family’s vacation budget.

Here are seven tips for saving money onboard the ship:

1. Disconnect The Phone. Cell service is available onboard ships, along with in-room phones. Both are very expensive, however. Cell phone service while the ship is at sea and international data and roaming charges while in port can generate hundreds of dollars in charges. Talk with all members of your family, especially teens, before you board the ship and review your family’s rules for cell phone usage. Turning off cell phones and placing them in your room’s safe is one of the best ways to control usage. If you need to make cell phone calls, check with your cellular phone provider for special international packages before departing on your cruise and call while you’re in port.

2. Budget Your Internet Access. Rather than buying a large shipboard package costing a hundred dollars or more, research the availability of Internet cafes in ports of call. Some island destinations also offer free Wi-Fi. If you’d like to purchase an Internet package onboard, do it on embarkation day. Specials on Internet packages are typically offered at that time. Internet access onboard ships can tend to be slow and sometimes difficulties develop while using the service. Make sure to log off each time you use your account. If you have problems, immediately report it to the Internet Café manager or Guest Services so they can help with billing issues.

3. Schedule Spa Treatments Smartly. Use the ship’s spa carefully, as treatments can be expensive. Spa specials are often available on embarkation day and when the ship is in port. Talk with the spa staff and check your ship’s daily newsletter for deals and packages. If you do get a spa treatment, turn a deaf ear to the product recommendations that are made at the end of the service. Those kinds of purchases are typically very pricey. Also, be sure to ask about applicable charges when considering participating in a spa or fitness class. Cruise guests often assume these classes are free, but many come with an additional charge attached.

4. BYO Everything. Simply sundries such as sunscreen and toothpaste are much more expensive once you’re onboard the ship. Make sure to pack ample supplies in your luggage. The BYO rule can also apply to beverages as well. Each cruise line has its own guidelines on what guests can bring onboard. Contact your cruise line to see what their rules are on this matter. Some cruise lines will allow guests to bring one or two bottles of wine onboard the ship at embarkation. There’s generally a corkage fee if you drink the wine in the ship’s dining room, but you can enjoy it in your stateroom free of charge. Your cruise line may also allow you to bring on bottles of water. If not, though, bring along some empty water bottles and fill them up in your cabin. Six packs of soda and beer may not be allowed, but make sure to check just in case.

5. Watch Your Beverage Bill. Alcoholic drinks, smoothies and some other refreshments are not included in the cruise fare. These drinks are expensive on ships and it’s easy to generate a large tab. For the best deals, check out the drink of the day and other specials. Beverage packages are also available on some cruise lines. These packages can save money, but do the math to make sure they’re worthwhile. If you or your kids must have lots of sodas, purchase the cruise line’s soda package. Sodas are not included in the price of your cruise and are pricey if purchased individually. In addition, bring along insulated mugs so you won’t have to keep getting constant refills. Instead of purchasing sodas, though, think about bringing along some Crystal Light or substituting the ship’s free water or juice while on the cruise.

6. Take Your Own Pictures. Bring along a digital camera (or two) to use on your cruise. Take lots of pictures and give your cameras to your waiter or other guests to take photos. Formal photos and group shots can be wonderful keepsakes, but don’t go overboard. They’re expensive. If you're taking pictures with cell phones, be sure they are on airplane mode while in use on the ship.

7. Go Light On Alternative Dining. Meals are included as part of your cruise cost, but generally not those in specialty restaurants. If enjoying fine dining contributes significantly to your cruise enjoyment, make your reservations wisely and stick to your budget. Check to see whether your cruise line offers special advance purchase alternative dining packages. These can save a significant amount of money. In addition, specialty dining specials are sometimes offered on the first day of the cruise or on other days. Make sure to read your ship's daily onboard newsletter and look for deals.

One of the best ways to save onboard cruise ships is simply resisting the urge to splurge. Cruise ships do an excellent job of marketing to passengers with enticing offers such as jewelry mega-sales, art auctions and more. Also avoid the video arcades if you want to save money. They’re not included as part of your cruise. The same is true for the casino. Determine how much you can afford to spend in these places and stick to your budget.

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