How to avoid overspending on a cruise

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Although many cruises are billed as “all-inclusive” and do include the basics like accommodations, food and entertainment, you’ll find that when you step on board there will be numerous opportunities to part with your money. From shore excursions to alcohol to spa treatments and souvenir photos, overspending at sea can be pretty easy. Keep your budget in check and avoid racking up extra costs with our tips for how to avoid overspending.

Compare separate costs

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Thomas Quine, Cruise Ship via Flickr CC BY 2.0

In many cases booking your cruise and flight as a package deal is a good idea, but before you do so explore separate costs. You may find that you can find a cheaper flight on your own that will help keep costs down. You’ll have more flexibility when shopping for a flight deal on your own versus doing so through a cruise line because you’ll be able to choose flight times, connecting times (if applicable) and airlines.

Book during “wave” season

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Joe Ross, Oceania Mediterranean Cruise via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

While you won’t be looking at a bargain basement price, there are traditionally deals to be had by booking a cruise during what’s known as wave season. This happens between January and March when cruise lines typically showcase their best deals for the season to come to entice potential passengers. You can often find cruise deals year-round now, but wave season is still a peak time for nabbing things like on-board credits, discounts, free upgrades, reduced deposits and other incentives.

Skip the specialty dining

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Prayitno, Izumi Japanese Restaurant via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Food is included in your cruise ship stay, but that doesn’t usually include the specialty spots you’ll find on most ships like steakhouses and Italian or French restaurants. It might be tempting to skip the buffet and opt for “fancier” venues, but ultimately why spend extra on food when you have food already available to you? Specialty coffees like lattes and cappuccinos also add up, so stick to regular java, which is included, to save.

Quick tip: If you buy a bottle of wine to drink with dinner and don’t finish it, don’t kiss it goodbye. Ask for it to be corked and saved for the next night.

Book spa treatments on port days

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Iglu Cruise, Queen Mary 2 Spa via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Spa treatments aboard cruise ships can be pricey, but getting a deal is possible. Think about booking your treatment for a port day since spas often discount their services on days in port or may even put together packages of mini-treatments on port days. These days tend to be slower with many people choosing to leave the ship.

Do independent shore excursions

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Dave Herholz, Ships in port at St. Maarten via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

On a cruise ship, you’re likely to be bombarded with posters, brochures and sales pitches for shore excursions, but they aren’t free. You can save yourself a ton of money by opting to head to shore independently and even book tours or activities on your own, which are likely to be much cheaper than if you went through the cruise ship. Just be mindful of the time – if you’re late the ship probably won’t wait.

Say no to photos

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Paul Reynolds, My Camera via Flickr CC BY 2.0

When you’re on a cruise you’ll notice photographers milling about snapping photos. While you might like the look of some of the snaps you happen to see (pictures are usually posted at various points), purchasing them can get expensive. Save yourself the $10+ per photo and instead document your own cruise ship adventures.

Bring your own beverages (if you can)

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Tnarik Innael, wines via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to bring enough wine or soda on board to last your entire cruise, but you might be able to bring some beverages with you, which can save you money. Some cruise lines allow passengers to bring a small quantity of non-alcoholic beverages (i.e., sparkling water, sodas, juice) and one sealed bottle of wine or champagne per person on the ship on embarkation day. Usually, liquor is not allowed and will be confiscated. Carnival, for example, allows a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12 ounces each or less per person and one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne per person in their carry-on luggage. Disney Cruise Lines does allow those 21 and over to bring alcohol on board, but it can’t be consumed in lounges or public areas.

Do note that if you want to drink a bottle of wine you brought on board, do so in your cabin. Most cruise lines will charge a corkage fee (usually $15-$25).

Avoid internet

How to avoid overspending on a cruise
Ministerio TIC Colombia, Internet via Flickr CC BY 2.0

If you’re able to disconnect while you’re on a cruise, doing so will save you money. Internet packages on cruise ships are notoriously expensive, so you’re much better off trying to find a hot spot or internet café in port when and if you need to check your email.

Featured image: Dennis van Zuijlekom, Cruise Ship  “Seabourn Sojourn” via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

How to avoid overspending on a cruise was last modified: January 11th, 2017 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (386 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.