Cruising is a highly cost-effective way to travel.  For one fee, you get room, board, activities, and a deluxe stateroom with a view that changes every day!

However, just like at an all-inclusive resort, sometimes the devil is in the details.  The cost of every cruise covers the basics: your stateroom, your basic meal plan, the basic level of amenities and activities.

Add on some shore excursions, wine with dinner, and a night at the casino, and suddenly your credit card may be a bit more burdened than you’d planned.  Don’t worry! We’ve got six tips that are guaranteed to save you cash.

Plan Ahead, Know Your Limits and Treat Yourself.

Treat Yourself. When you book your cruise and get a list of  available shore excursions, everything is going to look incredible.  Pick one.  Whether it’s whale watching in Juneau or snorkeling in Cozumel, there will be one thing you  can’t dream of missing.  Go for it.  There are plenty of other free activities, on shore or on the ship, to keep you busy the rest of the time.  Even better, do your own research and book your own shore excursions with local providers, at a fraction of the cost.  There is no benefit to booking directly with the cruise line, and a little time online can save you a lot of money.

Plan Ahead. You already know you enjoy a rum and coke before dinner, a deluxe espresso every morning, or a glass of port before bed.  This will cost you extra.  Instead of paying as you go, check out what kind of drinks plan or coupons your cruise line has available.  You can save a lot of money by buying a coffee card, a wine package or a soda plan.

Take Your Own Photos. Ship photographers will be everywhere: when you board, as you disembark, when you’re on your way to dinner.  Their photos can be nice, but they’re overpriced for an 8×10, and let’s be honest, your personal photos are probably better.  Buy one, if your heart is set on it.  Otherwise, pack a digital camera and take lots of your own candid snaps for better mementos.

Create a Realistic Budget. You are going to buy souvenirs.  You may want to spend time in the casino.  You may want to go online and email friends back home.  Think realistically about what you will want to do on your cruise, and budget for it.  Set aside $20 – 40 a week for souvenirs (or whatever you can afford).  Set a realistic limit for the casino.  The spa is amazing but can pricey, so remember your budget and don’t get caught up ‘in the moment’, if you do, just know be prepared.

Don’t Forget to Budget for Tips. Gratuities are part of every cruise, and generally range from $1 per day to $6 per day.  Cruise staff will work hard for you, and earn this money, so be prepared to have cash ready.  Some cruise lines offer packages where you can pre-pay gratuities.  Check with your cruise line about payment options.

The Final Word is – Do It Yourself. With every aspect of your cruise, there will be people willing to do things for you, mostly your cruise line.  It will be happy to arrange airport transfers, book shore excursion, or carry your luggage.  Do it yourself, and you will save a ton of money.  Take a taxi, book your own adventures, and get nice luggage with wheels. (Note: the one exception here is that most cruise lines require all luggage to go through an x-ray security screening prior to arriving at your cabin.)

If you’re willing to put in the time, do some research and put a little effort into planning your spending beforehand, you will find that not only is the trip less expensive in the end, it’s also a lot more enjoyable!

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  1. Rob

    It may be my bias, but you’ll also want to keep an eye on calling back home. The on ship systems usually have even higher call charge rates than trying to use your own cell phone (that’s if it even works). Renting out a satellite phone can be a cheaper alternative and gives you signal without any ship (just incase!).
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  2. Barry McConnell

    Excellent point, Rob. Also watch out for data plans and WiFi cards. On a recent cruise I called Verizon to see if it would be cheaper than using the ship’s Internet connection since I have a WiFi card I use when I travel. When I asked about the cost if I used it in the Caribbean, the lady didn’t even give me a price. She just said “Don’t take it!” LOL
    Barry McConnell recently posted..Castles- Cathedrals and Canals- Destination – Copenhagen- DenmarkMy Profile
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  3. Rich says:

    I also found that if you ask the crew where they go in port for free wifi they be happy to tell you. RCL belive it or it not charges the crew for on board wifi. I also found the places have good food and inexpensive drinks.

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