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While we say goodbye to summer, we’ve been planning next years vacations! Yesterday I shared money saving cruise tips to help you save on booking. Once you get a great deal on the trip you don’t want to end up blowing tons on all the little things they aren’t part of your “all-inclusive” vacation. So today lets go over some key ways to cut onboard cruise costs.
Get Drink Packages Only if On Sale Free
Every ship line has their own “all-inclusive” drink plan. Some are just for soda and others include alcoholic drinks too. To come out ahead on the alcoholic plans they require drinking 6 cocktails per day. While some folks might be able to hit that, most of us would like to remember our cruise… So skip the beverage plan and grab a drink occasionally. Most are priced $6.95 or less if you buy individually versus the $50+ of the drink card per day. The soda plans can be a “deal” if you love to only drink soda, but you’ll have enough calories with the all night buffets that skipping soda might be a great idea. Tip: You can get these packages for free with some booking incentives. Then and only then are they a deal.
One other tip in the alcohol department. Go ahead and get a bottle of wine rather than the glass. If you don’t finish it they will re-cork it for you and save it. Most ships will let you then request that bottle another night and even in another restaurant.
Bring Your Own Drinks
Many ships allow you to bring any soda, water, wine or Champagne onboard as long as it’s unopened. If you consume it in your room there is no charge, however if you take the wine to a public dining area then they will charge a corkage fee. If you want something special in your room this is a huge savings over the cost on the ship (plus gratuity). If you want an occasional soda pack some to bring a long or grab some at ports of call. To give you an idea on cost, a six pack of Coke is $12 on Carnival ships or a bottle of Barefoot wine is $30. In the store these are around $2.50 and $5 respectively.
Bring Your Toys
While you are packing a bottle of wine (or buying in locally right before you board) also think about packing a snorkel or other play items for the beach days. Most cruise lines do require that you wear a snorkel vest too, so if you only bring the mask expect to pay around $10 for the vest rental. Having your own gear saves you a chunk though!
Skip the Land & Air packages
The only benefit of grabbing land and air through a cruise line is convenience. You will save a ton by handling your own hotel arrangements and transportation. The last cruise my husband and I went on left out of Miami, we had 8 hours until our flight after the ship docked so we rented a car and toured Vizcaya. The cost for the rental and admission was cheaper than paying for their motor-coach transfer to the airport and we didn’t have to sit in the airport for 6 hours!
Be Your Own Photographer
Avoid the ship photos at all cost! You would never pay $20 for an 8×10 at home, so grab a stranger and ask them to take a group photo from time to time on formal nights. You can get an 8×10 print for $1.99 at home and print out 10 of your favorites for the price of one on the ship!!
No Email or Phone Calls on Board
Skip the internet costs completely on board the ship. Most ports have cell service so you can connect as soon as you dock, you may also find you have service when the ship is within sight of land. If you don’t get service in that area then look for local free WiFi spots or even internet cafes. If you can’t avoid getting online or actually have to work while on vacation then grab the package plans to that you pay less per minute. Still expect to pay between 50¢ to $1 per minute. Tip: If you know you need the minutes, many lines offer free minutes on embarkation day if you buy a minutes package.
Book Your Own Shore Excursions
In most cities you can look up the ship activity ideas and find your own from similar (if not the same) companies a little cheaper. This is still tourist based so plan to pay more for activities than you normally would at home, but there is a savings booking yourself. If you want to go off the beaten path then head to the library and do some research on things to do in each port of call. Many times getting away from the tourist traps is also a lot more fun.
Book Special Dining or Spa Time on the First Day
If you want to try out one of the ship’s specialty restaurants (which aren’t included in your room) or want to treat yourself at the spa, most ships offer great discounts on embarkation day. You’ll find up to 30% off spa services and sometimes BOGO dinner options at restaurants. Keep in mind these can be booked in advance before boarding, so if you want the discount don’t wait until that day. Other discount days to catch are while you are in a port of call. Tip: If you can’t decide what night to plan a specialty dinner, the menu for the main dining area is made for the entire cruise and copies are available at the pursers office. So do some homework and pick a night that you aren’t in love of the entree options.
Save on Parking
Tacking on an additional $7-$10 per day to park your car adds up quickly. There are deals on parking if you watch Groupon and Living Social. If you stay the night in a hotel before embarking see if your hotel offers a stay and park rate to just leave your car at the hotel and take a shuttle to the port.
Tip Is Included
On 99% of the ships everything you purchase already has tip added in, however you’ll still see a line to fill in tip on the receipt. Make sure to note whether you have already paid tip so you aren’t double tipping! At 18% already that can be a very costly mistake. If you want to reward great service then you can add on more, but it’s not expected or required. Tip for your cabin staff is also already included on your final bill, if you want to change the percentage you can go to the pursers office anytime during the cruise.
Do you have any other tips to saving onboard?