Cruising is a great vacation value, but itís easy to spend money once onboard the ship. While meals are included, there are plenty of optional expenses that can quickly tax your wallet. Here are 15 tips for saving money on your next cruise.
1. Set a budget for shipboard expenses. Itís fine to splurge a little on the ship, but establish a dollar amount youíre willing to spend before you board the ship and stick to it.
2. Keep track of your onboard spending. Ships operate on a cashless system when you make onboard purchases, so itís easy to run up expenses without knowing it. Most ships have automated systems available on stateroom televisions, allowing you to monitor your expenses constantly. If not, ask every member of the family to put their receipts in a specific drawer and keep track of your expenditures on a daily basis. Match these against the shipís records so there will be no surprises at the end of your cruise.
3. Watch the alcohol. Alcoholic drinks, smoothies and some other similar refreshments are not included in the cruise fare. These drinks are expensive and can rack up quite a tab. Avoid alcoholic drinks on the ship, or if you must drink, check out the drink of the day. Some cruise lines will allow passengers to bring a bottle of wine or two on the ship, so check out your cruise line's policies in advance.
4. Purchase soda packages. If you or your kids (or you!) must have sodas, purchase the cruise lineís soda package. Sodas are not included in the price of your cruise and are pricey if purchased individually. Buying a soda package is one purchase that will quickly pay for itself several times over. In addition, bring along insulated mugs so you wonít have to keep getting constant refills. If your cruise line allows guests to bring cans of soda and bottled water on the ship, purchase some before embarkation and bring them along.
5. Make your own decorations. Celebrating a special occasion onboard the ship? Cruise lines offer add-on packages with gift baskets and decorations, but youíll save money making your own items and bringing them onboard.
6. Curb your Internet access. Rather than buying a large package costing a hundred dollars or more, research the availability of Internet cafes in ports of call and check your e-mail there. If you must purchase an Internet package onboard, do it on embarkation day or at another time when special discounts are offered.
7. Take your own photos. Bring along a digital camera and give your family members disposable cameras. 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 donít go overboard.
8. Plan your own shore excursions. Itís convenient to purchase your shore excursions through the ship and thereís always that nagging concern about missing the boat. On the other hand, if you plan your shore excursions properly, youíll save lots of money and will arrive back at the ship with plenty of time to spare.
9. Skip art auctions. Going to art auctions on sea days is lots of fun. They are also an enticing way to end up spending lots of money. Think about your needs before stepping foot on the ship and if art isnít in the picture, donít go to these events unless youíre confident that youíll just sit and watch.
10. Donít splurge at the spa. If you want to take advantage of spa treatments, wait for special promotions to be announced during port days or at other times. Once youíve had a treatment, donít let your relaxed state of mind make you vulnerable to buying lots of spa products.
11. Shut off cell phones. Cell service is available onboard ships, along with in-room phones. Talk with all members of your family, especially teens, before you board the ship and go over your phone rules. If you need to make cell phone calls, do so once you get in port and check with your cellular phone provider for special international packages before departing on your cruise.
12. Resist the casino. The gaming allure can be strong and the atmosphere is entertaining, but itís easy to lose money at a shipís casino. If you want to enjoy the casino, set a budget and stick to it.
13. Donít be a shopaholic. Most cruise ships have wonderful stores and thereís always some sort of sale being held onboard. Resist the urge to buy items you donít need and compare prices with those found onshore.
14. Go light on alternative dining. Meals are included as part of your cruise cost, but not those in alternative or specialty restaurants. Some of these dining venues will cost $30 per person or more. If enjoying fine dining adds significantly to your cruise enjoyment, make your reservations wisely and stick to your budget.
15. Stay off the bus. Arrange for your own transportation to and from the dock, especially if you are traveling as a group. Youíre more likely to avoid tourist prices with taxis if you walk a few blocks away from the dock.
One more tip: if youíre on a tight budget, avoid the video arcades. Ship arcades are loaded with an extensive assortment of video games and attractions, but theyíre not included in the price of your cruise.