Cruising can be an affordable way to travel – see wonderful destinations around the world, while having meals, accommodation and the use of many facilities provided on your journey.
But you may get a shock at the end of the trip when you’re settling your bill and there are a load of charges, ranging from the bar, spa and shore excursions.
We often don’t think twice about buying that extra bottle of champagne or splurging on a spa treatment, especially with the convenience of having our cruise cards, or Ocean Medallions (on a Princess ship) at the ready.
Here are some of the ways that you can avoid the hidden costs of cruising.
There is now a wealth of dining options onboard ships. Lines like Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Lines offer up to 18 different dining options – from high end restaurants to cafes and eateries. And that extra meal can cost anything from $15 to $45 per person. Most lines also offer Chef’s Tables which can even stretch as far as $100 per person for a full degustation menu.
But remember, all cruise lines have included dining options, and most of the larger ships also have a number of dining rooms. And their menus are extensive and change often so you won’t be eating the same thing twice. The buffet area also has tea and coffee available all day as well as some snacks. For example, on Carnival Cruise Line Australia’s ships, you can grab a burger from Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint or a taco from the BlueIguana Cantina throughout the day, at no extra cost.
The best saving tip, if you want to include specialty dining in your cruise, is to budget for those meals. Also look out for lines that offer cruise deals. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line often offer their guests dining packages that bundle several specialty dining restaurants for a discounted price. Royal Caribbean also recently, has included a specialty dining restaurant package as well.
Shore excursions are some of the best way to experience the ports you are visiting in the short amount of time you have ashore. Cruise lines offer their guests a range of activities – everything from adventure and adrenalin pumping activities like ziplining in Costa Rica, to cooking schools in the Mediterranean.
These all come at a cost and some shore excursions can be extremely expensive. Luxury lines can charge guests thousands of dollars for a bespoke experience.
If you want to save some money, you can book your own shore excursion which can sometimes be half the price of what the cruise lines offer. But be wary, if your shore excursion tour is running late back to port, the ship will not wait for you.
The cruise lines though, will also provide guests with information about what to do in port on their own, so guests can take their own walking tour of the city, or wander down to the beach. Make sure you visit the port’s website before disembarking or visit the information desk when you’re ashore to get an idea of what to do to maximise your time.
Pampering yourself on ships is extremely expensive. Spa treatments can range from $120 for a one-hour massage. The exotic treatments can even cost as much as $500. But if you do want to treat yourself, check the ship’s daily program for spa treatment specials which might only be available on that day, during certain hours.
Or, you can always purchase a pass to thermal suite. Lines like Norwegian Cruise Line offer some amazing thermal suites on their newer ships and you can buy a week long pass to enjoy facilities like the sauna, snow room, steam room and thalassotherapy pool.
Most cruise lines do not include alcoholic beverages and wine in the cruise fares (with the exception of some river cruises and luxury lines). So you can quickly rack up quite a fair bit on your account if you pay-as-you-go for beverages.
The best savings tip for alcohol and other beverages is to first of all, see whether a drinks package is worth your money. If it is, then it’s worth purchasing one before your cruise. Click here to read about the different drinks packages.
If are a big soft drink guzzler, it’s worth buying the soda packages lines like P&O Cruises and Royal Caribbean offer.
If you want to pinch your pennies, you can always look for free booze at events like Champagne art auctions or Captain’s cocktail parties. Also, another tip is if you do want a glass of vino with dinner, it’s worth buying the bottle and then taking it with you to dinner the following night. It will, most often, be cheaper than buying by the glass.
If you’re on a long voyage, you’re most likely going to have to use the laundry facilities. Like hotels, cruise lines charge an exorbitant amount to get clothes laundered. But most cruise ships have a self-service launderette for guests to use.
Lines like Cruise & Maritime Voyages only charges guests $2 for a wash and $2 for a dry. You can either pack enough clothes for your cruise, if you’re on a shorter cruise. But if you’re getting desperate, you can try and find a laundromat in port.
There are so many activities available to guests, especially on larger contemporary family ships from Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. And some activities can be extremely expensive. P&O Cruises’ Adventure Park, which is filled with adrenaline pumping activities, can cost up to $189 for a Gold Pass. Not bad considering there are 19 different activities to try. But still costly if you have to purchase pass for two children and two adults.
Cruise lines though, have lots of different things you can do for free. Most entertainment on ships, like Broadway shows are free. On Royal Caribbean, you can try things like the FlowRider, a surf simulator activity or the iFly.
Our savings tip is if you want to try some of the paid activities, make sure you budget for them. In the gym, you can find pilates and yoga classes for as little as $10 a session, which is cheaper than a yoga session on land.
Staying connected is expensive on your cruise and some lines charge up to 75 cents a minute for pay-as-you-go-plans. WiFi is getting faster as the cruise lines continually update their technology. If you are desperate to stay connected, you can purchase an internet package, rather than pay as you go.
Lines like Royal Caribbean offer guests different packages, depending on what they want to use the WiFi for. There is a streaming package if you’re desperate to watch your favourite Netflix programs from your cabin.
Princess Cruises which claim they have the fastest internet at sea, has a special social media package so you can use it for Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. But if you don’t want to fork up to $200 for a package, you can wait till you’re on land to use the internet. It will save you a bundle.
Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.