You’ve just paid thousands of dollars for your dream cruise and while things like entertainment, food and activities onboard are included, the incidentals can quickly add up. But if you’re in the know, there are some hidden ways to save.

Food off the menu
There’s nothing wrong with the food at the buffet tables, but if you establish good rapport with the waiter (whom you’ll be seeing every morning), he may be able to bring you a freshly made poached egg, just because.

If you’re lucky, dining at a specialty restaurant on the first night of a cruise may also score you an extra dessert, or a free bottle of wine.

You can also order more than one entrée, main and dessert. It’s a great way to try new dishes.

On some Royal Caribbean cruises, if you make three or more reservations at specialty dining venues, you’ll get credit of up to 30% of the value and you can use that credit any way you want on your cruise.

Free room service
Most cruisers forget that room service is free. You can get a coffee delivered to your door in the morning or if the kids are peckish before dinner, you can get them a snack. It’s a great way to spend time with the family and if you’ve booked a balcony stateroom, it’s a lovely way to start your morning. It’s recommended that you tip your attendant a couple of dollars. Bear in mind, there is generally a charge for late night room service.

Cheap (or even free) alcohol
Cruises often host parties and events that come with a free-flow of alcohol so make the effort to attend them if you’d like a free glass of champagne, or two. Don’t feel bad if you’re only there for the drinks because everyone else there probably is too.

Keep an eye out for the happy hour at the bar. Most cruise lines offer one-for-one drinks or a similar deal during off-peak times, but may not announce them publicly. They’re usually on the noticeboards, though.

You can generally bring two 750mL bottles of wine or champagne per stateroom, but only on embarkation day. This varies from line to line so be sure to check the fine print. Bring a wine opener or you’ll be stuck with a corking fee.

Perks for kids (or parents?)
Want a romantic night out but the playroom closes at 10pm? Ask and you may be surprised to learn that with a small fee, you can have a nanny watch your children for the evening, even put them to sleep by the time you get back. Some cruise lines also offer extended hours at the play area that are turned into a slumber party after the standard opening hours.

There are usually activities organised for kids of various ages throughout the day as well, so don’t be afraid to ask as you may be required to sign-up for a spot in advance.

Get the best value cabin
“Guaranteed cabin” is a buzzword for seasoned cruisers looking to save some money. Essentially, it means you choose what class of cabin you want (like interior, oceanview or balcony) but don’t select a specific room. You pay a lower rate than if you chose your own cabin within the category. It is then up to the cruise line to allocate you a cabin. The upside is you can be allocated one of the better quality rooms in your class for no extra fee or you may get an upgrade if the ship isn’t full.

Duty-Free shopping
What’s a holiday without some shopping? Since branded goods in cruise shops are duty-free, it is probably a wise move to buy that Tag Heueur you’ve been eyeing for while at sea.

That being said, you should do your research and know the prices of items you plan to buy as the prices of things in general may be hiked. Some items may be taxable upon disembarking at port, so keep those receipts and check before making your purchase as the law varies from country to country.

At the end of the day, only you can decide how you want your cruise holiday to be. Perhaps after returning to port, you’ll have something new to add to the list.

Words by Alycia Tan