Cruises can be one of the cheapest yet most relaxing types of vacations, but not if you’re uninformed. The whole cruising experience can be a bit of an enigma to the uninitiated. And cruise lines, like most sales-based businesses, have lots of tricks up their sleeves to encourage guests to part with their hard-earned money. If you’re considering a cruise and want to stay within your budget, read our list of ’10 things cruise lines won’t tell you’ before you book your trip.
1. ‘All-Inclusive’ packages don’t exist
Although cruising is considered all-inclusive because your room, entertainment, and meals are included, that doesn’t mean you’ll get to partake in everything on the ship for free. Most cruise ships have main dining rooms (and usually a smattering of other venues) where your meals are included, but they also have high-end specialty restaurants that often require reservations and carry an up-charge for their fare. Luckily, there is no secrecy about which is which. Most ships also carry a surcharge for room service delivery. Just do a little research and you can easily avoid having to pay for a meal onboard. Also, research the entertainment and activities while you’re at it. Some activities may cost extra or be a one-time-per-cruise option.
2. People can spend a small fortune on drinks
A lot of cruise lines will allow you to bring up to 2 bottles of your own wine on board, so definitely take advantage of that! Aside from that, the only way to really save a decent amount is to buy in bulk. It costs less overall to buy a bottle of wine over a glass or a bucket of beers over a single bottle. And if you must have specialty drinks, have them served in regular glasses to save money. If you’re a soda drinker, try drinking iced tea for the week you’re onboard for free instead of dropping money on a soda package.
3. Don’t park at the terminal
Parking for a week at the cruise terminal could cost you hundreds of dollars. But if you park off-site at a parking garage, it’s often half the price. Many nearby hotels offer free parking for the week if you stay with them the night before your cruise departs, so that’s a great option for those flying to their cruise. Search for cruise port hotel and parking packages on ParkSleepFly here.
4. Crime is a problem
Although most ships are quite safe, they’re big vessels so crime still happens from theft to sexual assault. Like with most vacations, you should always be aware of your surroundings. Crime in ports can be an issue, as well, so research the cruise’s destinations really well before booking your trip.
5. Food is abundant
It’s no secret that cruise ships are not stingy when it comes to their food. No one will bat an eye if you want to order 3 entrees for dinner followed by a sampling of the entire dessert menu. You’re not limited to one of anything. You can eat breakfast in the main dining room and then have a second breakfast at the buffet. Also, check out some of the smaller eateries on board for unique bites. Some ships have bars that serve hot appetizers during off-peak hours or venues that have specialty items offered nowhere else on board.
6. Picking the right cabin is key
There is an art to finding the perfect cabin on a cruise ship. Sometimes, the walls are paper thin so you’ll want to stay away from loud spots like late night venues or the kid’s club area so you can rest without hearing everyone in the halls. Rethink dropping money on a balcony room if you’re the type that spends very little time in a hotel room. And when you’re picking a room, try to get one near the back of the ship where it’s smoother sailing.
7. Your drinking water comes from the ocean
Ships have huge desalination systems on board that remove salt and impurities so it’s safe for passengers to drink. Isn’t science amazing?
8. Disconnect for a while
Wi-fi on board is not only way over-priced, it’s also pretty slow. So unless you absolutely have to check your email, refrain from purchasing any of the internet packages on-board. Relax and disconnect while you’re on the ship and wait until you’re docked to get your internet fix.
9. Don’t book excursions on board
You can typically get the same exact cruise excursion packages for much less if you book it directly through the local tour companies. Do some research beforehand so you can pick a trustworthy company.
10. Book your cruise at the right time
Booking early often tends to yield the best savings. If you want the best deal, call your travel agent as soon as the new pricing comes out. You can also save a ton of money by booking a cruise during off-peak times like right when kids go back to school or during hurricane season. It’s a risk, yes, but prices are incredibly priced for those times.