Royal Caribbean Ships
Photo By: Russell Otway

You shopped around, spoke with travel agents, scored a cabin upgrade and booked your cruise on a great deal to save money, but your savings don’t have to end. Despite extra charges for many different amenities on board, you can save during your cruise without missing anything that can make a cruise vacation fun.

What Costs More and What You Don’t Have to Pay For

The first step to saving money while you’re at sea is to know what most cruise lines charge more for while you are onboard. While different lines have different policies for extra charges and some lines offer more free amenities than others, typical items that you can expect to pay for during your cruise – and how to save on each one – include…

Drinking Up Your Budget

Limited drinks are free on cruise ships, including water, basic coffee and some juices. If you prefer specialty coffees or hope to relax with a few cocktails, savor wine at dinner or enjoy a beer by the pool, you’ll have to pay extra. Even soft drinks such as soda and smoothies can cost a pretty penny on board.

You can save, however, if you consider packages that offer flat rates for unlimited drinks. Daily drink specials are generally a better price as well, and you can consider tricks like buying a bottle of wine for dinner rather than a glass. The same bottle can be enough for several nights, and will be a better per-drink price than by-the-glass rates. On some cruise lines, you can even bring your own wine, champagne or other drinks on board, but you may have to pay a corkage fee or there may be other restrictions on the beverages you can bring along. If you properly bring your own drinks, however, that can be a significant savings over onboard prices.

Premium Dining at Premium Prices

You’ll never go hungry on a cruise, but you may have to pay extra for ultra-gourmet meals. Specialty reservations-only or theme restaurants generally have a surcharge, as do deluxe snacks such as cookies and cakes available from café-style eateries. Some higher end room service items may also have extra fees, and of course any snacks – candy, chips, chocolates, etc. – in the souvenir shops have to be purchased.

To avoid these extra charges, limit your dining to free venues – main dining rooms, poolside grills, pizzerias, delis, casual buffets and many room service menus are typically free. You can still have a more intimate experience in the main dining room if you request a private table, and you can indulge in the decadent desserts on the regular menu instead of paying more for cookies and cakes from other eateries. If you prefer specific candies and snacks on board but don’t want to pay cruise ship prices, pack these items in your luggage instead.

Picture Perfect Pricing

Cruise ships have staff photographers to capture all your vacation moments, from embarkation photos to formal night portraits to more casual snapshots at dinner, out on deck, at different events or on the gangways at each port. Those photos can be great souvenirs, but they are expensive, especially if you buy several different shots.

To save, consider taking your own photos and skipping the professional backdrops and quirky poses altogether, or create your own poses at your favorite spots on board. Some ships also offer package deals for multiple photo purchases, which can be a good savings if you really do want the professional photos instead.

Disconnect for Great Savings

We live in a hyperconnected world of smart phones, tablets and other devices, and it can cost plenty to keep your devices connected on a cruise. Furthermore, connectivity speeds while sailing are significantly slower than on land, so you truly are paying more for less.

To save a bundle, simply disconnect during your cruise, saving your photo shares and status updates for when you’re back on land. Or if you do want to keep connected without a big price tag, look for package deals cruise lines may offer for just social media sites, or better rates for buying all your internet minutes at once. And to be sure you’re not accidentally racking up roaming charges, keep your phone off and disconnected when you’re not using it on board.

Relax With Great Savings

Most cruise ships have spas offering luxury treatments such as massages, ionithermie wraps, acupuncture, mani-pedis and more. Unfortunately, the onboard prices can be significantly higher than similar treatments on land, but you can still find great savings.

For the best rates, consider embarkation or port day specials when the spa is typically less crowded and rates are lowered to attract clients. Bundling several treatments can also lead to good savings, or you might even win free spa treatments at a raffle or other giveaway. Don’t fall for high pressure sales pitches for different products, however, or else you might see those savings evaporate.

Work Out Without Costs

If you want to burn off the calories from delicious cruise food by joining fitness classes, you might also be burning money with extra fees. Specialty classes like yoga, pilates, spinning or other popular ways to keep fit often have a surcharge, as do sessions with the ship’s personal trainers.

Instead of slimming down your wallet while you try to slim down, visit the free gym facilities instead. Cruise ship gyms have both cardio and weight-training equipment, and machines are often positioned with outstanding views of the surrounding sea to make your workout a great experience. Don’t forget to finish up in the spa or sauna – also free – and you’ll be glad you worked out on a budget.

Save by Skipping It

There are plenty of extra costs on board that you can just skip for instant savings. From video games in the teen areas – just play cell phone or tablet games – to pricey in-cabin minibars – bring your own treats or just head to the buffet – you don’t need to spend money on everything the cruise ship offers. Once you recognize where extra charges are, you can easily take steps to keep your cruise vacation budget-friendly without completely missing everything you want to do on board.

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