Cruises are a wonderful way to travel. On a cruise you get to ride in style on a gigantic boat decked out with incredible amenities as you make your way to awesome destination after awesome destination! However, there is one negative: cruises are expensive. Well, we are here to tell that that is wrong! You can book an amazing cruise on a great cruise line for a budget with our cruise tips. These 7 cruise hacks will help you save money and spend less on a cruise than you have ever even dreamed!
Also check out Our Complete Alaska Cruise Guide
Cruise Hack #1 – Explore the Entire Ship on the First Day
Your cruise ship is going to be bustling with activity, especially on your first day. You will have to do safety training, meet your cruise mates for the next week, acquaint yourself with the ship, and of course eat!
In all this activity, something is inevitably going to be missed. Either you’ll miss part of the schedule or you may gloss over an amenity onboard. To help make sure you take advantage of everything on your ship, you should take some time on day 1 to explore the entire ship!
We recommend wandering aimlessly starting on the bottom level and making your way up to the uppermost decks. On the way, take note of any food stands, shops, pools, hot tubs, or anything else you’d like to visit during your time on the cruise.
Another reason why you should do this on your first day: you likely will have a day at sea at the beginning! That means you’ll have plenty of time to explore, and you’ll be able to stop and see anything that grabs your eye without worrying about missing out on a day on shore.
Cruise Hack #2 – Find Free Stuff Onboard
Our second cruise hack goes hand in hand with the first. Onboard your ship, there are bound to be free activities, gifts, and drinks each day all around the ship. However, it is your responsibility to find where and when these free things are happening!
Each cruise ship is different, but most will publish each day’s events in a newsletter. That newsletter will either be passed out each morning or available for pickup at the concierge, make sure to get a copy each day!
Scan your cruise’s newsletter, and if anything floats your boat, especially events with free gifts or free champagne, then add that to the day’s plan! If nothing looks appealing, then no harm done, you can spend the day hanging by the pool or doing a shore excursion!
Cruise Hack #3 – Free Onboard Credits
Many cruises offer free onboard credits. These credits can be used for pretty much anything onboard the ship, including alcohol, food, souvenirs, and gifts! They are essentially as good as money, and therefore you should get some credits if you can!
You can get onboard credits a few different ways. For our Alaskan cruise, we booked through Expedia, who at the time had a promotion for $50 free onboard credits! Shop around when you buy your cruise and see if any booking sites are offering free credits.
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Another way to get free credits are if you meet certain critera. For instance, Julie’s Dad is a veteran, and on Princess Cruises (who we cruised in Alaska) he got $100 free onboard credit because of it! In addition to veteran status, cruise ships may offer free onboard credits to seniors, loyalty customers, or something else. Check the cruise details ahead of time and claim credits if you can!
A final way to get onboard credits is through negotiation. If any of your cruise is not up to your standards, then head to the concierge and attempt to negotiate. Cruise companies are much more likely to award you with onboard credits versus cold hard cash, so take that into consideration. If you have a few more days on board, then you should be okay with settling for onboard credits and using them onboard!
Cruise Hack #4 – Bring Wine Onboard
Other than the cruise ticket itself and any excursions you buy, your largest onboard expense is likely going to be alcohol. Beer, wine, and liquor onboard a cruise is not exactly cheap. After all, the cruise ship bars are the only game in town! You are able to purchase all-you-can-drink passes, however we have a better solution: bring wine onboard!
Many cruises offer you the ability to bring wine onboard, however some limit the quantity. Princess, for instance, limits you to one bottle per passenger. We had 4 people in our room, us and Julie’s parents, so we brought along 4 bottles! You must be careful to read the rules first, so that your wine isn’t confiscated during boarding.
Cruise Hack #5 – Book Excursions Directly
Excursions are a BLAST on any cruise. Whether you are cruising Alaska or the Caribbean, during Summer or Winter, there are incredible tours you can do during your days on shore.
There are a few different ways to book these excursions, the easiest of which is to book directly through your cruise ship, either online or through the concierge service onboard. However, we recommend booking directly through the excursions companies. Why? To save a few bucks!
When you book an excursion through the cruise ship, you will no doubt spend more than if you booked directly. That is because a portion of the cost is actually going to the cruise ship. When you book directly, you will be getting the exact same excursion without paying the premium you pay when you book through the cruise ship.
In fact, we booked directly, and we were on the exact same excursion as many people who booked through the cruise ship! When we told them how much we payed, they wished they would have booked directly as well…
Cruise Hack #6 – The More the Merrier
On any cruise, you will pay more to have an awesome room. The cheapest rooms will be in the interior of the ship, while the most expensive will be suites with incredible balcony views. Our opinion is that you should go for the cheapest rooms available, since the point of taking a cruise is to be OUT of the room! Seeing the sites, taking excursions, exploring the ship, and more.
Another way to cut costs is the sixth of our seven cruise tips: adding people to your room! Many rooms fit 4 people, and if you book with a room of 4 you’ll spend much less per person than if you booked with 2! Even if you book a room of 3 you’ll still be saving a bunch of money. After all, the room is basically only for sleeping and showering, so who cares if it isn’t all that luxurious?
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Cruise Hack #7 – Book Your Cruise Last Minute
This is the number 1 way to save money on your cruise: book last minute. Now, this can be stressful, especially if you like to have things planned far ahead of time. However, if you are able to get over the fact that you won’t know your plan for more than a week or so ahead of time, then you’ll be able to save boat loads of money!
We booked our Alaskan cruise from Seattle, and were fortunate to have a place to stay in Seattle while we shopped around for cruises. If you don’t live near a cruise port, we recommend not booking flights or lodging until you book your cruise. That way, if anything goes wrong with the cruise booking, you won’t be upside down with your flight or lodging.
Cruise companies, much like airlines, do not want to operate with empty rooms. An empty room means less people spending money on excursions, alcohol, and souvenirs during the voyage, so the cruise company will usually do what they can to fill all the rooms! If they have unsold rooms and departure is approaching, then they will typically lower the prices to fill all the rooms.
Cruises are required to submit their passenger manifests 72 hours before departure. For you, that means that cruises will stop selling rooms about 4 days before departure. Therefore, if you want to get the best deal, you’ll want to wait 4-10 days before the cruise leaves to book your trip. The longer you wait, the cheaper the price will be, however you don’t want to have all the rooms get snatched up before you get one! SO this will be a balancing act.
Unfortunately there is not a strategy that is set-in-stone for getting the best cruise price. We recommend setting a budget for your cruise per person, then checking each day until the price drops below your budget. Once it does, check how many rooms are still open, and book it whenever you begin to feel uncomfortable about the situation! Then you’ll get the best value for the cruise that you can, while guaranteeing you’ll get to have the adventure!
Your cruise checklist will ensure you have everything finished that you need in order to set sail! Make sure you have each item checked off ahead of time.
- Find and Book Your Cruise
- Book Travel (Plane, Car, etc) to Port
- Book Accommodations in Port (if necessary)
- Pack Bag – Packing List:
- Clothing – Tops
- Clothing – Bottoms
- Underwear & Socks
- Wine (Cruise Hack #4!)
- Power Strip (typically there is only one outlet per room)
- Ensure Passport is Active
- Book Excursions
- Complete Cruise Check-In Before Cruising
- Leave Stress at Home!
Use this cruise checklist to ensure that you do everything you need to do before setting sail on your adventure. Remember to leave stress at home!
Thank you so much for reading our post on 7 cruise tips and hacks to help you save money and have an incredible time on your cruise! We sincerely appreciate you reading and hope you learned a few things. Enjoy your cruise!
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