Cruises can be costly, full of hassles and ridden with hidden expenses. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
During the past few years of traveling the world, we’ve now spent more than a half year as passengers on cruise ships. With all that time out at sea, we’ve learned so many great cruise hacks and cruise tips.
Having spent eight months on eighteen different cruise ships, across eleven different cruise lines, we’ve become expert cruisers. In the process, we’ve uncovered all the best cruise hacks to save money and avoid the many excess costs so often incurred while cruising.
We even pulled off the ultimate cruise hack by achieving what only seems impossible: an affordable world cruise. We used a series of budget travel tactics in combination with many of the cruise hacks laid out in this article to cruise entirely around the globe on a budget of $60 per day (more on how we accomplished that is revealed at the end of this post).
During all this time as cruise passengers, we’ve developed an arsenal of cruise hacks in addition to collecting many cruise tips that other savvy cruisers have passed on to us. From cruise wifi hacks to cruise packing hacks, we’re now happy to share these secrets of the sea with you!
Whether you’re about to embark on your first cruise or are a seasoned cruising veteran looking for a few new cruise tips, we hope these cruise hacks help you to save hassle and money on your next cruise. Or maybe even help you to save a few pounds too!
Cruise Booking Hacks – Buy a Cruise for Less!
As we’re always looking for the best values around the world, one of the questions we receive most about cruising is when to book a cruise to get the lowest price possible. Like airfare prices, cruise prices tend to fluctuate greatly and there’s no surefire way to guess exactly how those cruise fares may change. But based on past booking patterns, it is possible to have a good idea of the direction that cruise prices may be trending.
Often booking a cruise very early is the best advice. In other instances, last-minute cruise deals are a way to achieve rock bottom cruise prices. Follow these tips when booking your next cruise and you’ll be sailing into an awesome deal.
1) Hack the Cruise Prices – Book Against the Grain
Always consider shoulder seasons and off-peak cruise times to secure the best cruise prices. Definitely avoid Spring Break sailings, if feasible. You’ll not only save money but will also save yourself sanity, as it helps to avoid a cruise full of unruly kids or drunk college-age partiers.
Similarly, it can be a wise call to avoid winter holiday sailings and peak summer sailings. A simple rule of thumb is to book cruises when school is in session, if possible.
Some great cruise bargains can often be found in Fall, soon after kids go back to school. During the early autumn time frame, weather tends to remain moderate in most cruise destinations throughout the world. Even with nice temperatures, prices tend to drop low during this time when a lull in vacation travel occur.
Late Spring brings another dip in cruise travel that tends to usher in attractive pricing, but not necessarily for Caribbean cruises. Instead look for some ultra low-priced deals on Mediterranean and Alaska cruises in May, before Labor Day.
Cruise hack – Where & when to find lowest cruise rates:
- Caribbean cruises – Sept, Oct, and into early Nov. Also early Dec.
- Alaska cruises – Before Memorial Day (May) and after Labor Day (Sept)
- Mediterranean cruises – April and into early May. Late Sept and Oct.
Not only will rates drop during these off-peak time periods. Cruise lines will further offer enticing incentives to attract customers to come aboard during these less desirable times of year.
We recently used this strategy to snag an awesome two-week Eastern Caribbean cruise deal with Holland America during the early December period. They enticed us with prepaid gratuities, a $100 onboard credit, free beverage cards, and even reimbursement on travel expenses to get to the port. It all totaled about $700 of value. And that was on top of a highly-discounted off-season cruise deal listed at $500/pp. So it was almost like they were paying us to take this off-season cruise! We essentially cruise hacked our way into an almost-free two-week Caribbean cruise. And that’s what booking during the off-season is all about!
2) Book Early but Monitor Prices
It can be a safe bet to book a cruise as early as possible to lock in a low rate. Booking a cruise more than a year or two in advance of the sailing often yields attractive prices. But when booking early, it’s extremely worthwhile to continue monitoring fares.
If the price of a cruise changes, then you can usually change your booking to take advantage of the new pricing. Unlike when booking airfare, most cruise fares are cancelable and changeable up until a month or so before the sailing date. So after booking a cruise, keep a watchful eye on those prices. If you find a more attractive offer to the cruise you’ve booked, call your booking agent immediately to have them either change your reservation or to cancel the old reservation and rebook the better deal.
But don’t only monitor cruise price itself. Although you may see prices are remaining the same, there could be attractive promotions making it worthwhile to alter a cruise reservation. It could make sense to rebook your cruise if you later notice valuable promos being offered. Cruise lines love to entice passengers with offers such as complimentary beverage packages, onboard credit, or free cruise wifi minutes.
Cruises usually offer free cancelation as long as you do so before the cancelation period, which varies by cruise line and itinerary. Typically the cancelation period for a cruise is a month or two before the sailing date, so you can usually cancel without penalty anytime before then to rebook the better deal you’ve found. (Note: there are certain early booking fares like Carnival’s Super Saver, that are non-refundable. So when booking, verify that your deposit is indeed refundable.)
Be diligent to check the price often or consider paying for a service to alert you of price drops. Whenever we book a cruise, we simply bookmark the cruise listing and check it regularly for price changes. If you have a really good travel agent, that’s something they can keep an eye on for you.
There are also cruise fare monitoring services can alert you to a change in prices for a fee. But those services are unable to track and compare all the different promotions that may be on offer. Hence, tracking prices manually can be a be a worthwhile effort.
3) Or Book a Last-Minute Cruise Deal Under the Right Circumstances
If all of the following circumstances apply, you can usually find the best cruise deals ever by booking last-minute:
- You don’t have a strong preference as to a specific itinerary, cruise line, or ship
- You are considering a cruise not during a location’s peak cruise season
- You are comfortable booking a non-refundable cruise within a month or so from departure
- You live within driving distance of the departure port or within a cheap flight away
Getting last minute cruise deals can be tricky and a bit of a gamble. But that gamble often pays off with slashed prices on undersold itineraries. If you don’t have a strong preference on a particular ship and just want to go cruising at a very low price, booking last-minute can be a great cruise hack to accomplish that.
The timing of the cruise will help to increase your odds of securing an incredible cruise deal. These last-minute bargains aren’t available during the height of a cruising high season. For example, don’t dare wait to book and expect a last-minute deal on an Alaskan cruise during the middle of summer or a Caribbean cruise during the height of Spring Break. Prices will likely rise or sell-out closer to the sail date.
Instead, wait for last-minute rates during those unpopular times we mentioned earlier. We’ve seen weeklong last-minute Caribbean itineraries out of Florida in the Fall months for as low as $199! We’ve similarly seen last-minute Mediterranean and Alaska cruise deals drop below rates of $50/night during late Spring. So if you can hold out, try waiting about 45 days prior to the cruise in order to book a fantastic last-minute cruise bargain at a non-cancelable rate.
4) Consider Repositioning Cruises for the Lowest Deals
Repositioning cruises occur when cruise lines relocate their ships from one region of the world to another, based on seasonal changes and travel trends. And we firmly believe they are the best travel value in the world.
Here’s an example of how repositioning cruises work. Once it starts to cool off in Europe in the Fall, many cruise lines tend to reposition their ships across the Atlantic, towards Florida ports for the winter high season serving the Caribbean. As a result, the cruise lines form a repositioning cruise across the Atlantic, often stopping at interesting far-flung islands and unusual ports along the way. It’s a full-service cruise and usually they’ll even bring on extra entertainment to account for an influx in sea days.
But transatlantic repositioning cruises are just one example. These seasonal one-way cruises operate all around the world. You can find them voyaging across the Pacific, between Asia & Europe, between the Americas, and even down to Africa. And they’re all exceptional deals!
Despite exotic ports and extra onboard activities, prices for repositioning cruises tend to be super low due to supply and demand. That’s because people tend to avoid repositioning cruises for practical reasons since they are lengthy voyages (usually 2 weeks or more), tend to have an abundance of sea days, are one-way (requiring return transport), and these unique cruises simply aren’t promoted.
So prices drop, sometimes dramatically. We once even scored a two-week repositioning cruise across the Atlantic for only $159. That breaks down to about $12/day for a luxury cruise across the Atlantic!
If intrigued, be sure to read our separate post about:
5) Why Use a Travel Agent or Third Party
With most things travel-related, we often advocate booking directly with the travel company to get the best price. Middlemen can take a cut and inflate travel prices. But this is absolutely NOT the case when booking a cruise. We always suggest booking with a third-party instead of the cruise line directly. In doing so, cruise agencies can frequently find perks, promotions, and occasionally even lower prices.
Sometimes 3rd party travel agencies buy a block of cabins that they resell. If the agencies feel the need to unload them, they can be aggressive with pricing and promotions that can beat what the cruise line is directly offering.
For example, we regularly book our cruises on CruiseDirect and score some great perks with them. Most of the deals we previously mentioned were booked with them. Usually, they have the lowest prices, which can be comparable across other agencies or booking directly with the cruise line. But they regularly throw in additional perks that we rarely see when booking directly with the cruise line.
On our last cruise, we simply got a $100 onboard credit that the cruise line and no other agencies were offering. Another revent cruise, we received an included drink package and wifi package. Whatever the case, these promos were only available through the third party and not offered directly with the cruise line, even though the price was the same.
6) Book a “Guaranteed Stateroom”
We’re big proponents of booking what’s called a “guaranteed stateroom” to get the absolute lowest price on whichever cabin type you’re interested in (inside, outside, balcony, suite). With a “guaranteed” cabin, you are guaranteed a room within that particular type of stateroom range or higher. You simply do not get to choose the cabin’s exact location on the ship. The cabin location will be assigned to you prior to your cruise departure.
Booking a guaranteed cabin can perhaps be a slight risk. Naysayers will cite the potential of being placed in undesirable areas such as under a nightclub, galley, or in the ship’s bow. We always book “guaranteed” and have never been assigned one of those undesirable locations of a ship.
Quite the contrary, actually. It’s always been better! We once even booked a guaranteed inside cabin and ended up in an awesome balcony stateroom. We believe that you stand a much greater chance to be placed in one of the many great locations on the ship, rather than a bad one. And you could even score an elusive free balcony upgrade, as we did once when simply booking an interior guaranteed stateroom.
The one thing to keep in mind is that these guaranteed cabins always have the absolute lowest price for their category. So if you’re a price-sensitive cruiser like us, and simply looking for the best cruise deal, then booking a guaranteed cabin is the cruise hack to help accomplish that.
For more on how to get those upgrades, Read: 10 Secrets on How To Get a Free Balcony Upgrade on a Cruise Ship
Cruise Hacks for Electronics
In today’s digital age, there are many tech-savvy cruise hacks to stay abreast of before your sailing. These cruise hacks and tips will help you avoid drained batteries, make the most of cruise wifi, and keep you connected while out at sea.
7) Pack This Handy Device To Keep All Your Gadgets Charged
With only one or two electrical outlets in most cruise staterooms, this poses a problem to keep all those cameras, phones, tablets, and laptops charged. It can be very wise to pack a compact travel adapter in order to charge multiple devices and avoid drained batteries.
But power strips with surge protectors are actually banned from cruise ships, as they pose an electrical hazard. If you bring one, they will get confiscated from your luggage and returned at the end of a cruise.
Yet this special Cruise Power Strip solves that issue, as it is a power strip that was designed specifically to be compliant with all the major cruise lines. Power strips with built surge protectors or extension cords are what poses an issue. When such power strips are found in luggage by security, they get confiscated during the cruise. So this Ship-Approved Power Strip excludes extension cords and a surge protector to become a completely permissible devise to plug into the outlets of all the major cruise lines.
This cruise-approved power strip turns one outlet into three, plus two USB ports! So it gives the ability to charge five gadgets at once. We never cruise without a portable power adapter like this.
8) Use the Shipboard App
Most cruise lines now have their own app you can use onboard the ship, complimentary. Simply connect your phone to the ship’s wifi network and you’ll be able to use this app without incurring any wifi charges.
These cruise apps are free to use for tasks such as checking your onboard account balance, browsing the day’s up-to-date activities, reading up on your next port, checking menus, accessing a ship map, or even making dinner reservations.
Be sure to download the app prior to your voyage so that you don’t incur wifi fees or roaming charges that you’ll otherwise get hit with if you wait to download the app while at sea.
Here’s a listing of the major cruise line’s app to download before you embark.
|Carnival||Carnival HUB||Carnival HUB|
|Celebrity||Celebrity Cruises||Celebrity Cruises|
|Disney||Disney Cruise Line Navigator||Disney Cruise Line Navigator|
|Holland America||Holland America Line Navigator||Holland America Line Navigator|
|Norwegian||Cruise Norwegian||Cruise Norwegian|
|Royal Caribbean||Royal Caribbean International||Royal Caribbean International|
9) Ditch the Walkie-Talkies and Instead Chat with the App
It has been a long-used cruise tip to bring walkie-talkies like these onboard cruises to be able to communicate with your cruise mates during the voyage. It makes it easy to meet your friends or family members while going separate ways on these massive ships.
But you can now forgo using this dated technology and instead communicate using the cruise line’s app. This capability often comes with a fee, but that fee will likely cost far less than the price of a pair of walkie-talkies. And the messaging app will work better too.
So how much do these cruise messaging services cost? It can vary by ship and even by each individual cruise itinerary. But to give some indication of costs during a recent sailing, Norwegian’s app – Cruise Norwegian – offered messaging service for a one-time fee of $9.95. This allowed for voice calls and text, through the app, to fellow passengers during the entire cruise. It was a 13-day cruise, so that came out to less than a dollar per day. We find it to be a very fair price for this messaging service.
Cruise Wifi Hacks
Wifi can be extremely expensive onboard cruise ships and it is notoriously slow. We found rates as hight as $0.95 per minute and the least expensive package was $9.95 for 15 minutes of wifi. Eek! Wifi prices and speeds are improving into 2020, but they’re still a very costly add-on to any cruise vacation.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to hack the cruise wifi network to get free wifi on a cruise. But there are easy ways to exploit cruise wifi, extend it, connect multiple devices to the same account, and even get a wee bit of free wifi on certain cruise lines.
So here are some tried and true cruise wifi hacks to minimize your cruise wifi expenses and maximize your time online during your cruise.
10) Always Buy Wifi Before You Embark on Your Cruise
You can find nominal savings on a wifi package if purchasing it before your cruise. Typically most cruise lines give a 10%-15% discount if you book a wifi package before you get on the ship. You can find these discounted wifi packages by logging in to your online account directly with the cruise line, before your embarkation day. It’s there where you browse the different wifi packages the cruise line offers for your specific itinerary.
Also, before booking a cruise, keep an eye out for promotions that may even include a free wifi package. Free wifi on cruises is becoming a more common promotion that cruise lines are offering to tempt you to book.
11) Get Free Push Notifications on Your Phone
Be sure to enable the wifi on your phone even if you don’t intend to purchase a wifi package. On some cruise lines’ wifi networks, push notifications and messaging apps been known to slip through for free! We have regularly experienced this cruise wifi hack firsthand on Celebrity and also on Royal Caribbean.
Without purchasing a wifi package, we were able to receive notifications to our phone when simply connecting to the ship’s wifi package while on airplane mode. When this occurs you may not be able to respond to any notifications, without an internet package. But it can still be a nice albeit tiny perk to be able to receive push notifications on your phone, free of charge.
Other Royal Caribbean cruisers have reported messaging apps, such as Google Hangouts, working in full function throughout their entire cruise, despite not purchasing a wifi package.
So put your phone on airplane mode, then enable your wifi to see if you may be able to potentially receive push notifications or even get free messaging on your phone during your cruise.
12) How to Get Free Wifi on Cruise Ships: Use 29 Seconds Per Session
Some cruise ships’ wifi will only deduct usage from your account if you’ve been logged onto the wifi for 30 seconds or more.
We first discovered this when logging on to Celebrity’s wifi for 29 seconds or less and noticed it didn’t deduct any minutes from our usage. So you can use the wifi for free if you’re able to keep your session under a half-minute! Just be careful to watch the time ticker and act quickly!
When using Holland America wifi, it also didn’t deduct any usage from our account when using it for less than a half-minute. Not all cruise lines use this practice though, as we discovered using Norwegian’s wifi for even a second deducts an entire minute. But this cruise wifi hack is definitely worth testing out on your next cruise to see if you can use 29 seconds of wifi for free.
While you admittedly can’t do much browsing in that very short amount of time, it is a great way to quickly pull in new emails or send out a prewritten email. Similarly, you can pull up a webpage within those 29 seconds, then log off and read the content after you’re logged out. This can be a great cruise wifi hack if you only need to occasionally check or send emails.
13) Use Wifi During Off-Peak Hours for Maximum Speed
If you did purchase a cruise wifi plan, use those minutes at times such as late at night or early in the morning. Or consider using them during peak meal times and during a popular show. You’ll find the speed to be blazing fast compared to other periods. These off-peak times may vary by ship and itinerary. Ask the Internet Desk Manager for the best times to log on.
💡 Pro-tip to test wifi speed on a cruise: Use a cruise’s complementary sites to assess how quickly the free pages load.
For example, on Holland America, they provide complimentary access to nytimes.com. So we use the ship’s online portal to browse the news site for free. We’re doing so not to actually read the news, but rather to simply to gauge how quickly those NY Times pages are loading. When they load fast, we know this is a good time to actually log on to our paid wifi plan to get more efficient use of our limited wifi minutes on the cruise.
14) Get Your Minutes Refunded
If the Internet is painfully slow (as it can be), do inform the Internet Desk Manager of your troubles. He or she will almost always reinstate the minutes used during your sluggish wifi session(s), no questions asked.
Sometimes cruise ship’s wifi systems become overloaded or have outages, leaving passengers to squander those expensive wifi minutes they’ve paid for. If the Internet is really bad and you find yourself waiting five minutes for a page to load, it is unfair to be charged for that when wifi minutes on a cruise are so costly. If you do have a legitimate wifi problem on your cruise, don’t hesitate to visit the Internet Desk Manager to get it fixed and have those cruise wifi minutes refunded.
For example, during a transatlantic cruise on the Norwegian Bliss, I once logged in and pages didn’t load after several minutes. After trying many times, it unnecessarily burned through the precious small allotment of wifi minutes. When I addressed this with the Internet Desk Manager, he confirmed that there was a satellite outage. So he credited the lost wifi minutes from those sessions back to our account.
Such instances are usually only credited if you are proactive in requesting them, never automatically. So if you experience a session in which pages aren’t loading, be sure to speak up.
15) Use Free Wifi in Port and Find the Best Locations
Wifi on a cruise can be pricey, but you can always wait until you’re in port to connect for free. There’s almost always a place to connect to wifi right at the cruise terminal where you’re docked. However, those in-port terminals are often for a fee and can be expensive. Occasionally they’ll have free wifi, but such connections will be painfully slow since many passengers and crew will all be trying to log on at the same time, clogging the network.
Instead, walk a few blocks away from the cruise terminal to find free wifi with better speed. Go to a local cafe, a bar, or even a fast-food restaurant. Even some malls or town plazas will have free wifi.
Sometimes the port maps you can get from guest relations on the cruise will have such free wifi spots marked. If not, ask your favorite crew member where he/she goes to use the wifi. If you’re on a ship with a regular itinerary, crew members will know all the best places in port with free wifi and fast speed.
16) Use Phone’s Data on the Cruise to Access Internet When Near Land
Whenever in port or even near land, consider using the data plan on your mobile phone to connect to the Internet. Before you cruise, be sure to check your phone carrier’s international roaming coverage. Some carriers, such as T-mobile or Google Fi, provide free data and texting in over 170 countries. That’s exactly what we use and it has worked very well for us all over the world.
But using your phone data plan is not just limited to being in port. When we’re cruising through areas within a few miles of the coastline, it’s possible to connect phones to have Internet access through mobile data while on the cruise.
When on the cruise, take a look at the route map to note if you’ll be passing by any islands or coastline where you may have data coverage. For example, during a sea day on a recent Caribbean cruise, we noticed that we were passing within close proximately to a Bahamian island. So we strategically checked our phone’s data signal when the island was near. Turns out, we were indeed able to access the Internet for nearly an hour since Google Fi’s coverage covers the Bahamas.
In addition to always having data while in port, we often had data on our phone while cruising through the Panama Canal, in Alaska’s inside passage, cruising along the coastline of SE Asia, and even while cruising through the Suez Canal in Egypt. If you already have an international roaming plan, this is a great free way to access the Internet on a cruise. Whenever land is near, connect your phone to access the data network!
You can even tether your phone data to a laptop or other device while cruising near land. Just be sure that when you’re attempting to access land-based mobile data, that you do so outside on your balcony or on deck. We’ve found the cruise ship walls can sometimes block data signals to interior spaces of a cruise.
17) Cruise Hack to Connect Multiple Devices Using Only One Wifi Package
When purchasing a cruise wifi package, passengers are only permitted to connect one device at a time. So when there are two (or more) people in the same cabin, they cannot be logged in at the same time. Similarly, if you want to connect your mobile phone and your laptop at the same time, this cannot be done simultaneously. For either of these scenarios of connecting multiple devices, you would need to purchase multiple wifi packages on the cruise.
But there is a way that you can easily bridge the cruise’s wifi network to create your very own wifi network right from within your stateroom. Shh… this is a cruise wifi hack the cruise lines don’t want you to know about. Here’s how it works:
All you need to do is pack a wireless travel router, like this one. Once on the ship, set the device to “bridge mode.” Then it can be paired to the cruise wifi network to create a new mini wireless network right within your cruise stateroom. Essentially it acts as a wifi repeater, allowing you to connect all your devices using only one wifi package.
Doing this cruise wifi hack works particularly well if you have an unlimited wifi package during your cruise. Set up your own localized network in your cabin and just let it run during the entire length of your cruise. Then you can connect as many phones, tablets, and laptops as you’d like. All of those devices will remain connected whenever you’re in your stateroom.
It’s super easy to use and this device tends to be prices under $50. Meanwhile, if you were to purchase a second unlimited wifi package, it would cost hundreds of dollars! So a wireless travel router easily pays for itself and it can be used similarly in hotels that charge for wifi, per device. An added bonus is that this particular wireless router also functions as a backup battery that fits in your pocket. So it can serve a secondary function of keeping your mobile devices charged while ashore. This travel router has additional vacation uses too, such as allowing you to share photos & files between connected devices.
Cruise Hacks to Avoid Getting Sick
If the motion of the ocean has you feeling ill, try some natural seasickness remedies. Seasickness medication, while usually effective, will often make you drowsy. So instead of spending your entire cruise in a Dramamine-induced coma, use these natural methods to improve your state of being and enjoy the ride!
While the well-known tactic of staring at the horizon can be effective, here are other ways to avoid seasickness on a cruise that you may not have known about.
Furthermore cruises are an environment where viruses, colds, flus, and other illnesses can easily spread. But we have one simple little trick to help thwart illness from ruining your cruise vacation.
18) The Best Stateroom Location to Avoid Motion Sickness
If you’re prone to seasickness, consider booking a lower stateroom, midship. You’ll find the motion is much more subdued on the lower, central areas of the ship.
To further help with sea sickness, keep your air-conditioner on iced-cold. Experts have suggested that cold air is known to help fight off motion sickness.
It’s worked for us! We once sailed through the remnants of a hurricane in 20-foot (6-meter) seas when crossing the Atlantic. Nearly everyone on the ship, including the crew, were plagued by seasickness. Yet we had a cool, lower midship cabin and felt just fine!
19) Go To these Unintuitive Spots on a Cruise if Feeling Queasy
Not in lower mid-ship stateroom? Then head to the casino. Yes, the casino!
On nearly every cruise ship, the casino is conveniently located in the lower mid-ship. This is the sweet spot on a cruise to avoid motion. Cruise lines don’t want their gamblers becoming ill.
Cruises also don’t want poker chips and dice sliding around. But they do want a central location to tempt people to stop in for a slot pull. So casinos are always central and tend to be low to. If feeling nauseous, go there. Or find a pleasant interior space near the ship’s casino.
Another unconventional place to retreat if you’re just feeling mildly queasy is the ship’s pool! Here you’ll get a double-whammy of help.
First, the pool water itself will feel refreshing and cool. Secondly, you’ll move with the water in the pool rather than with the ship, which can with the disagreement your inner ear is having that’s causing the sea-sickness in the first place!
Just don’t go to the pool if you’re ready to blow. Your fellow pool-goers certainly won’t appreciate that.
20) Natural Sea Sickness Remedies that Are Free on a Cruise
We recommend green apples and saltine crackers as natural seasickness remedies that are totally free on a cruise ship. All the crew members strongly advocate these tried-and-trusted natural remedies. You may even notice cruises more prominently offering green apples and saltines during any particularly rough days.
Also, try ginger pills or buy a can of ginger ale as a tried-and-true natural remedy.
Did you forget to pack medicine or didn’t expect to get seasick? All ships sell seasickness medication at the gift shops. Instead, simply ask Guest Services, the clinic, or even your stateroom attendant for some seasickness medication. They’ll provide it free of charge. Even though it’s sold in the cruise gift shops at outrageous prices, all cruises will actually provide some sort of seasickness medicine entirely gratis. Just ask.
We have received ginger pills on some lines. Other cruises, ships have provided Meclizine Hydrochloride (generic Bonine).
We recommend bringing ginger pills on board with you to use as a natural remedy. They’re also super cheap online, so order a bottle on Amazon before you depart and there will be no need to approach the customer service desk with a green face.
21) Tip to Avoid Catching a Virus while Cruising
While most cruise lines take very good cleanliness and sanitary measures to prevent the spread of illnesses (and increasingly so, these days), much of the responsibility remains on fellow passengers. Of course, you already know to wash your hands often with hot soapy water when cruising. But there’s another simple little trick that we always employ that’s helped us to never get sick during our many months on cruises.
The buffets are arguably one of the easiest places to spread germs on a cruise and hence the place to be most vigilant in prevention. At the entrance to buffets, cruises have hand sanitizing stations for passengers to clean their germ-ridden hands before reaching for the tongs. The problem is that hand sanitizer only lasts for a minute or two. So all the passengers who touch their hands to their face or cough, then return to the buffet for seconds, are infecting the entire buffet line.
Unfortunately you can’t rely on other passengers’ hygiene to keep the germs away.
So here’s the tip! Use that hand sanitizer a second time after you’ve touched all the potentially infected buffet tongs. Most passengers only sanitize before visiting the buffet, which protects other passengers from your germs. But almost no one sanitizes after, which protects YOU from other passengers’ germs. So protect yourself!
This double-sanitization technique may seem like an over-cautionary step to take. But it’s so important.
We’ve now been on three cruises where a virus spread and we were among the minority that never succumbed to illness. During our last cruise, there were so many passengers with a nasty cold, as coughing was rampant. Yet we were careful to always sanitize immediately after retrieving our food from the buffet and before eating. No sickness for us. Ever.
The Trip Insurance Cruise Hack You Need to Know
22) Here’s Why to Always Book Travel Insurance with a Third-Party
When booking a cruise, most cruise lines or agencies will offer you something called “trip insurance” or “travel insurance.” It’s very important to have travel insurance on a cruise, but NEVER book travel insurance with the cruise line directly. The cruise hack is to book with a third party travel insurance agency instead.
First, why do you even need travel insurance for a cruise? There are endless reasons to protect yourself. But here’s just a sampling of why you need travel insurance: trip cancelation, medical coverage on a cruise, lost baggage, flight delays, etc.
- If you get sick during the voyage and need treatment, you’ll be stuck with an extremely expensive medical bill when visiting the ship’s doctor. But travel insurance covers such exorbitant expenses, should they arise.
- What if there’s an extreme health emergency, in which you’re in need of a medical evacuation? That’ll cost somewhere in the ballpark of $50,000-$100,000 (or more) for those without the proper travel insurance.
- If your flight is delayed to your cruise port causing you to miss the ship, travel insurance would fly you to the ship’s first port or could cover the costs of the having to cancel your cruise.
- If your luggage goes missing, travel insurance will reimburse you for new clothes and other essentials. (we’ve actually used this one and got to go on a shopping spree that netted $800 worth of new clothes!)
- If you got sick before the cruise or something unfathomable like a death in the family prevents you from going, travel insurance would cover all or a portion of your otherwise non-refundable cancelation.
Why not book trip insurance with the cruise line: Policies from cruise lines often contain minimal coverage at inflated costs. And we’ve found it to be painstaking to track down specifics of what their coverage includes. Also, these policies often cover only the cruise itself. That means if you’re staying in the port city of embarkation before or after your cruise, you may not be covered during your pre- and post-cruise travels. Furthermore, your flights to the cruise port probably aren’t covered either unless you booked them as part of a package with the cruise. And if for some reason the cruise line financially defaults, the cruise line’s own insurance policy won’t be able to help you out at all. For all of these reasons, it is important to instead book a separate policy with a third party travel insurance company rather than with the cruise line itself.
Be careful when booking your cruise: Many cruise lines and online booking agencies will try to pull the deceptive tactic of automatically including trip insurance with your cruise package. When booking a cruise, be sure to specifically ask that they do not include travel insurance. If they do add this expense to your booking, insist that you’d like it removed.
Where to book travel insurance for a cruise: There are many third-party travel insurance companies and we’ve carefully scrutinized all the top ones, comparing the costs and coverage to uncover which ones have the best value. For travels that are less than a month in length and coverage specific to cruising, we’ve found the best value for the coverage offered to be with travel insurance provider Arch RoamRight Travel Insurance. Hence we personally use and recommend it for cruise travel. Policy costs will differ based upon the length of cruise and price paid, but you can expect to pay about $50 per person (maybe less) for a weeklong cruise. Simply enter your dates and costs to get a quick trip insurance pricing estimate. (Takes about 1 minute.) This small expense is well worth the peace of mind to protect yourself against unexpected travel mishaps that would potentially ruin a cruise vacation and cost thousands of dollars.
Food Cruise Hacks
With so much deliciousness on a cruise, it can often be a happy problem to navigate all of those delectable culinary treats. So here are a few cruise hacks to help you maximize your intake of all those tasty dishes!
23) Order Two Main Courses
Can’t decide between the steak and the lobster? Get both!
Your waiter will gladly oblige with your request for two main courses if there are two options that both look enticing. This also applies to starters and desserts. Hope you’re hungry!
24) Request a Main Course for Your Appetizer
Despite wanting two mouthwatering main courses, you may not have the appetite to eat both. The solution: order one of the mains as an appetizer instead. Personally, we find that vegetarian main courses can make for particularly awesome starters.
Sometimes you can even request smaller appetizer-sized portions of main course dishes. Ask and you shall receive!
25) Eat Free Dessert in the Cruise’s Coffee Shop
The specialty coffee shops on board cruise ships are revenue centers where passengers can spend money on expensive cappuccinos and lattes. But what many cruise passengers don’t realize is that you can also find beautiful desserts at the ship’s coffee shops that are all complimentary.
Those wonderful cheesecakes, cookies, and pies won’t cost you a dime. No coffee purchase is required to indulge in them. So if dinner is running long and you need to make it to a show, skip dessert in the main dining room and instead enjoy an alternate sweet treat later at the coffee shop.
26) Get Free Room Service on a Cruise
Room service is often associated with high fees in hotels. Yet unbeknownst to some passengers is that many cruises offer room service complimentary to guests.
As of 2020, Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, and Disney all still offer a nice room service menu that is free. After briefly disappearing in 2019, even Carnival has brought back free room service to passengers now in 2020. Throughout each of these cruise lines, some premium items (perhaps a steak) may have a small charge. But menu items like sandwiches, salads, burgers, pizza, etc are often available free of charge. Desserts too!
Personally, we like ordering a cheese plate to snack on while getting ready. Celebrity’s grilled chicken skewer’s with yogurt sauce is a particular favorite for a tasty snack. How about late-night cookies & milk? Yes, please!
Do check to confirm if your cruise has complimentary room service. Or just look for the menu in your stateroom. Note that Royal Caribbean and Norwegian do not offer free room service on their cruises. Yet even those two cruise lines still offer some limited cold breakfast offerings and coffee as a complimentary room service options in the morning hours.
|Cruise Line||Room Service Fees|
|Royal Caribbean||$7.95 per order + 18% gratuity|
|Norwegian||$9.95 per order|
27) How to Get Free Candy on a Cruise
Have a sweet tooth? Don’t buy the overpriced bag of M&Ms for $5 in the ship’s duty-free shop.
Instead, simply head to the ice cream stand and ask the scooper for a cup of toppings of your choice. We’ve noticed that Celebrity’s ships tend to have a particularly nice range of candy to choose from. You can often get a cup of M&Ms for free, so there’s no need to pay for overpriced candy in the cruise gift shop. Personally, we go for the Sour Patch Kids to chew on by the poolside – yum!
28) Why Go to a Specialty Restaurant on the First Night and Never Formal Night
If you want to try out one of the ship’s specialty restaurants, do this on the very first night of your cruise. On the first night, passengers tend to choose dining in the Main Dining Room. This leaves the specialty restaurants with several open tables. Therefor cruises will have special offers on these specialty restaurants during the first night of the itinerary.
So consider going to the steakhouse on the very first night and you may find such deals like a 50% discount and a free bottle of wine! Check the Day 1 itinerary for such a promotion after embarking, or enquire directly at the premium restaurant. If there’s a good offer, go for it! That promotion likely won’t come back again later in the cruise. The specialty dining deals on Day 1 are usually the most generous of every cruise.
Meanwhile, those who choose to go to the specialty restaurant later in the cruise, will not only pay full price, but they may also miss out on a great complimentary meal in the main dining room.
Some cruisers like to splurge on a specialty restaurant during formal night. But that is the worst possible time to do so. We suggest to always eat in the main dining room on formal night! That’s when cruises tend to serve the best complimentary dishes, such as lobster and chateaubriand, for example. You don’t want to miss these amazing complimentary meals by paying for an alternative at a specialty restaurant! So dine at the specialty restaurant on the first night instead.
29) Skip the Buffet on First Day
It is usually a complete cluster at the buffet during lunch on the first day abroad a cruise ship. Passengers have just gotten on the ship and are starving. The buffet is the most logical place to flock to. But don’t follow this herd mentality once you board the ship! There are usually a few other complimentary dining options available during lunch that most passengers haven’t taken the time to scout out. So there’s no need to wait in a long buffet line to fight for the salad tongs.
Instead, start your cruise off right and find out what other complimentary restaurants may be open for lunch. You’ll eat better, avoid the crowds, and have a much more enjoyable beginning to your trip. Again, check your Day 1 itinerary once you embark which will clearly detail what other dining options are open.
During a recent voyage on the Norwegian Bliss, everyone crowded the buffet. We instead sat right down at the Local Pub, which was virtually empty, as most people just boarding the ship had yet to figure out that this complimentary restaurant served lunch. So while everyone else flocked to the buffet, we enjoyed table service at the pub’s casual and crowd-free setting, with an order of fish & chips and a fantastic Reuben sandwich.
Health and Weight Gain Cruise Tips
With all that eating, it may be worth watching your weight and burning a few calories. Between those decadent desserts and the midnight buffet, you may worry about your waistline expanding during all those wonderfully gluttonous meals at sea.
But you’re on vacation. It can be fun to indulge! So use these simple cruise hacks to enjoy all of that fantastic cuisine, without disembarking ten pounds heavier.
30) Why Weighing Yourself on Day 1 May Give You an Excuse to Gorge
Yes, really. Just do it.
You can always find a scale in the cruise ship’s gym or the medical office. Find that scale to weigh yourself, even if you have no intentions of using the gym during the rest of your voyage.
Weigh yourself as soon as you get on board so you can keep tabs of any weight gain during the cruise. This a particularly good idea if you’re on a longer cruise itinerary.
After your initial weigh-in, weigh yourself periodically throughout the remainder of your cruise. By doing so, you may actually find that you’re not packing on the pounds as much as you feared. Many people are more active on cruises, burning calories while ashore or on the ship. So this can give you a well-deserved excuse to have a cheat day of gluttony.
31) No Need for the Gym When You Can Use Stairs!
You’re on vacation. There’s no need to spend it at the gym unless you really love a good workout.
Instead, simply hold firm on always using the stairs. Most large cruise ships have a minimum of 10 passenger floors (often more). Set a firm rule to never use the elevator and you’ll end up burning lots of calories simply by trying to get from one place to another on these megaships. Often, you’ll get there faster too. That holds particularly true if your cruise ship has many aging passengers who must use elevators or kids who like to press elevator buttons.
If your cabin happens to be on a lower level, simply taking the stairs up to the upper deck for lunch and back down will burn approximately 100 calories, based on the estimate of 5 calories burned per flight of stairs. Considering that you’ll likely be making multiple trips up and down the ship’s stairs throughout the day, you can realistically burn several hundred calories just by going about your normal day aboard the ship. Do so. Then don’t feel bad about getting the chocolate lava cake later in the night.
Take your FitBit or bring along an inexpensive pedometer like this which will track all your steps and calories burned too. You may be surprised at just how much walking you can inadvertently do on a big ship!
32) Have Bread WITH Your Meal, Never Before
A lovely basket of bread is always immediately delivered to your table upon getting seated for dinner on a cruise. It’s so easy to butter up those tasty rolls and load up on all those carbs before your appetizer has even hit the linen.
As a result of eating all the pre-dinner bread, you may even find yourself too full to finish whatever delicious main course you’ve chosen to dine on for the night.
To avoid that fate, make a special request for your server to only bring out the bread basket when your main course is served. Remove that carbtastic temptation from the table prior to your main course.
If you’re still hungry while eating your meal, enjoy some of that tasty bread. You won’t gorge yourself with this filler as you may have prior to your meal’s arrival. Save your appetite for the main course and forgo the seduction of all of those unnecessary carbs, before your meal.
Cruise Tips for Drinking on the Ship
Drinking on cruises can be notoriously expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Use these cruise hacks to quench your thirst without breaking the bank!
33) Drink for Free and Cheap on a Cruise
We have so many drink-related cruise hacks to share, so we’ve actually detailed them all in a separate posts detailing all the different tips to get free & cheap alcohol on a cruise.
We show how to get hooked up with a beverage package and what the the truth about sneaking booze onto a cruise. Happy hours can make for happy cruisers. But knowing when the free cocktails are served is even better! Yes, many cruises regularly give passengers unlimited free drinks for short periods for those in-the-know. Cheers to that!
Creating your own mini-bar is another fun drinking cruise hack we regularly employ. And those who want better coffee without paying for inflated specialty coffee prices, we show how to be-your-own barista!
Be sure to check out these two articles where we reveal all of our secrets for more economical boozing on the high seas:
Shore Excursion Cruise Hacks
Shore excursions can be tricky beasts, particularly if you’re new to cruising and don’t want to pay for the often exorbitant fees charged by the cruise lines. Booking excursions through the cruise line can be very convenient and offers a hassle-free experience, but you’ll pay a hefty premium to do so. These cruise tips should help get you on shore with some spare cash to spend while you’re there.
34) The Best Wake-Up Call on a Cruise
Instead of setting an annoying alarm clock or getting a wake-up call on your stateroom phone, just preschedule complimentary room service breakfast to be delivered to your cabin at whatever time you’d like to be woken up. Instead of a buzzing alarm or a loud phone ring, you’ll wake up to a soft knock on your door and have a cup of coffee in your hand within minutes of waking. Then enjoy a leisure breakfast-in-bed as you pull into port.
If you’d prefer to eat a more proper breakfast, then just schedule a pot of coffee or tea to be delivered to your room. Once you’re done sipping and the caffeine has you moving, head up to the main dining room or buffet for a full breakfast. Continental breakfast items and coffee is almost always complimentary on any cruise, even when room service is not. Check your specific ship to be certain.
35) Do-It-Yourself Cruise Excursions Will Save Big
Go out on your own or book excursions directly with local companies operating in the area, which will undoubtedly save you hundreds of dollars across multiple ports. Just be absolutely sure that you get back on the ship before the “all-aboard,” because late passengers not on the cruises’ excursion can get left behind.
In some ports, do-it-yourself sightseeing is easily accomplished independently. Do some port research in advance to see what’s near the port before you arrive. Do some Googling about the ports, read travel blogs, and/or buy a travel guide. Once you have a solid game plan, then you can simply hop off the ship and sightsee on your own.
In some locations, a rental car can be the way to go for those comfortable with driving internationally. Popular rental car agencies often have locations directly at cruise ports. This helps to make rental cars a convenient and economical option to cover a lot of ground during the short time you have on land.
Not comfortable with driving? Then consider a taxi tour. There’s usually no shortage of taxis waiting around for some cruise passenger dollars. But taxis at many cruise ports are notorious for overcharging unsuspecting cruise passengers. Be sure to know the going rate in advance. Also, we’ve found that taxis often cost less (and are more pleasant) when catching them from town, rather than directly from the cruise port.
In most popular cruise ports, it can be easy to find an independent local tour just as you walk off the ship. Those prices are sometimes negotiable too, so don’t be afraid to haggle or ask for a deal.
But if you do want to do a tour while in port, it’s wise to plan and book a tour in advance. That way you won’t end up wasting what little time you have on land to seek out an excursion that may become sold-out, or not available. You can sometimes find tour operators by Googling or searching through Tripadvisor, which then results in a back & forth email exchange to actually book the tour and possibly the unnerving task of sending funds as a deposit. Instead, we recommend this next tip…
36) Use Viator as a Safe Way To Save Money on Ports of Call Tours
We’ve found the best website to book a good value shore excursion is: Viator.com. They have the lowest prices and tend to have the largest inventory of excursions available in all the popular cruise ports. This makes booking an independent shore excursion so easy. You can quickly browse through and reserve a variety of day tours, which pick you up right from the ship. We’ve found that many of the shore excursions offered on Viator are the same or similar to those offered through the cruise line directly. Yet Viator often has them at a fraction of the cost!
We love booking shore excursions through Viator because they have a low price guarantee. This protects you from getting into the port and finding the same excursion at a lower price. Yet we further appreciate that Viator has 24-hour live phone support and their tours are usually fully refundable if canceled at least 24-hours in advance (for those who may be indecisive like us). But best of all, Viator has tours specifically for cruise passengers with dates & times that align with your cruise ships’ itinerary.
These Viator shore excursions also include what they call a “Worry-free Shore Excursion” policy, which will ensure your timely return to the port for each activity. In the extremely rare instance (if ever) that some freak occurrence causes you to miss the ship, Viator will actually arrange and pay for transportation to the next port-of-call.
Also if your cruise happens to get delayed or diverted arriving to a port altogether, making it impossible to attend a shore excursion you booked, then your money gets automatically refunded in full. All of these assurances give us the confidence to book with Viator. We’ve done this for so many shore excursions now that it has probably saved us hundreds, or thousands, of dollars during the past few years of cruising.
You can start searching for shore excursions directly from the Viator homepage. Or below are some links to Viator shore excursions for some of the most popular cruise ports. Of course, it’s best to book these excursions as far in advance as possible. Popular excursions do get booked full since many savvy cruisers are now using Viator to book their shore excursions at a discount. So get saving!
37) Why It’s Worth Actually Attending Port Lectures on a Cruise
The port talks are sometimes designed to sell you the ship’s shore excursions, so you may want to skip them in favor of other more fun shipboard activities. But port lectures can sometimes be non-excursion related and very helpful even for those who don’t intend to purchase a shore excursion through the ship.
Even if the port talk is based upon all of the excursions the cruise is attempting to sell, the lecturer will still highlight and show pictures of popular things to do in port on these tours. For those comfortable with independent travel, use this info to help decide which sights you may be able to see on your own.
Yet these excursion-related talks tend to have further benefits to entice and reward your attendance. Often at the lectures, they give away money-saving coupons to use onshore or other shipboard freebees too. If so, that will be listed in the ship’s daily program. So check it and you may find what they’re giving away something that’s worthwhile to attend.
38) Where To Find A Super-Helpful Port Map
There are some very informative port maps and mini-guides available for every port of call, but for some strange reason these maps are typically not distributed out to all passengers. Sometimes they’re handed out at the port lecture, so you may find them there.
But not to worry if you’re unable to get to the lecture. Just ask guest relations for a port map to get the scoop on where everything is once you get off the ship. These maps tend to contain a plethora of helpful information such as sample taxi fares, ATM locations, and wifi hotspots. Be sure to grab one the day before you get into port! These port maps are always available but never pushed out.
39) Use Water Bottles on Shore
It’s important to keep hydrated while on shore. Yet in some of the more touristic ports, bottled water can often be outrageously priced. In a scorching hot situation, you may be thirsty enough to pay it. Instead, be prepared and bring a water bottle filled with the ship’s drinkable tap water to bring on land with you. You’ll be saving a few bucks with this environmentally friendly alternative to buying expensive bottled water on shore.
40) Stop Paying for Expensive Rentals: Bring Your Own Beach Gear
At nearly every cruise port where there are beaches, you can guarantee that there will be no shortage of vendors offering pricey beach chair rentals and snorkeling gear. Many ports (particularly cruise lines’ private islands) have beautiful reefs that you can swim to from shore. We love snorkeling while in port as a DIY activity ashore.
Yet it can be a little gross to think about the dozens of people who put that snorkel in their mouths before you and the sanitary conditions of such island gear. And mask & snorkel rentals are way overpriced.
The funny thing is that if you plan in advance, you can buy some nice mask and snorkel sets for about the same cost as renting it once you’re on the island. Often cruises will rent out snorkeling equipment for $15-$30, or even more. This popular Mask & Snorkel Set is a great mask that’s often on sale for the less than it would cost to rent it when you reach the islands. Or consider these full face snorkel masks have become all the rage.
Meanwhile, at the beach, you’ll certainly want to stay out of the sun and have a place to relax. A pair of beach chairs with umbrella regularly start at $30 and higher throughout most Caribbean ports. For nearly the same price as those one-time rentals, you can buy a pop-up beach shade tent like this to use over and over again.
And don’t forget the sunscreen either! We’ve seen astronomical prices for sunscreen throughout the islands and in the cruise ship gift shop, well in excess of $20 for a small bottle. Meanwhile, Amazon has great prices on BananaBoat. So be sure to add a few bottles to your Prime order, to ensure you’re well-stocked before your next cruise.
The Cruise Hacks to Get Cash
41) How to Turn Onboard Credit into Cash Money
If you have onboard credit and you don’t spend it, you will lose it. You cannot simply go to guest relations and ask for this onboard credit in cash. As its name suggests, this is a credit to spend onboard. So they won’t ever give you cash.
Instead of blowing your onboard credit on overpriced souvenirs that you didn’t really want to buy anyways, this simple cruise hack will allow you to transform your credit into cash money. Just head over to the casino!
Here’s how to turn onboard credit into cash: Insert your cruise card into the slot machine. Add whatever is left of your onboard credit to the slot machine. Although you don’t technically have to gamble at all, consider betting a nickel or so on a slot pull just for fun. (Don’t get carried away though. The slot odds are pretty bad!)
Now that your funds are loaded as gambling credits, you can simply cash out those casino funds with the casino purser. You will have just turned your onboard credit into cold hard cash. Jackpot!
Be sure to do this while in international waters. If not, the casino will be closed once it nears port, and you will have lost the ability to cash out your onboard credit.
Note for 2020: Although we have successfully used this casino cruise hack many times and on many cruise lines to turn onboard credit into cash, some cruises are beginning to catch onto this trick. During our last Holland America cruise, our onboard credit was marked as not usable in the casino. So just be forewarned that while this can indeed be an effective tactic, it may not always be possible.
Whatever you do, just don’t let your onboard credit go to waste! Either retrieve it as cash using this cruise hack or spend it on something before you get off the ship.
42) Use This Cruise Hack to Avoid Expensive ATM Fees
Cruise ships have notoriously high ATM fees onboard. We’ve seen transactions come with an ATM withdrawal fee as high as $15! So we always recommend bringing cash, should you need it ashore, during or after your cruise.
But if you need more cash while on the cruise, you could incur that outrageous ATM fee simply by using the shipboard ATM. Instead, you can use a similar method, as described in the cruise hack above, to get cash from your onboard account.
Simply go to the casino and buy chips of casino credit as if you were to use them in the casino. You can use a credit or debit card to do this. It makes no difference. After you buy your chips, don’t actually gamble away your casino credit. Just cash out at the purser’s desk!
Some cruise lines will charge a small fee to get casino chips using your credit card and they may impose a minimum threshold to withdraw. For example, on a recent Norwegian cruise, they charged a $3 fee and there was a $100 withdrawal minimum. Still, the $3 fee is significantly less than the $15 fee that the shipboard ATM would have charged. So there’s absolutely no need to visit the ship’s expensive ATM with this nice little casino loophole to access cash! Just buy some casino credit for a $3 fee and then cash it out immediately.
Cruise Hacks Around the Ship
One of the best cruise tips there is, is to simply get to know your ship. Check out the ship’s deck plans before you get onboard and use these hacks to help make the most of the ship itself. Avoid the crowds and enjoy the cruise to the fullest!
43) Get a Free Balcony Upgrade
Achieving a free balcony upgrade can be more difficult than ever these days. But we’ve actually managed to score a free balcony on three of our past four cruises. It can be very tricky to actually land these free stateroom upgrades, so we’ve actually detailed a very informative guide on exactly how to do so.
44) If Booking a Balcony Cabin, Know the Best Side of the Ship to Book: Port vs Starboard
If booking a balcony stateroom, take a moment to research whether the starboard or port side of the ship will have a more scenic view. Really, it depends on your specific cruise’s itinerary on whether to book a port or starboard cabin.
If your ship’s itinerary is going in a closed-loop and visiting mostly mainland ports, book a port (left) side stateroom for a clockwise route. Book a starboard (right) side for a counter-clockwise route. In doing so you’ll be treated to better views when cruising in and out of ports.
If your itinerary is taking you in a circle visiting islands, the best views can be a little more uncertain, as it will depend on which side of the island each specific port is on. If splurging on a balcony it can be worthwhile to take a closer look at the route map for your cruise itinerary. In doing so, you can determine whether the port or starboard side of the ship will be facing land more frequently, providing you with more scenic views.
45) Get the Good Seats at the Theatre
Most big cruise ships will have at least four entrances to the main theatre (upper starboard, upper port, lower starboard, and lower port). On some ships, one of those theatre entrances may be accessed at a non-thru corridor. This means there isn’t a hallway extending throughout the length of the ship to the main dining room, where many passengers will be coming from.
If your specific cruise has a theatre entrance with this configuration, that is the entrance you should always use to get the best seats in the house, particularly if you’re arriving just minutes before the show.
You may be surprised to find many empty seats right in the front in this particular corner of the theatre. During sailings on the Norwegian Star and the Holland American Volendam, the non-thru lower port-side theatre entrance was a sure bet every single time! While the starboard side was packed full every night, we’d easily slip into a front-row seat within minutes of the start of the show.
46) Tips to Avoid the Crowds while Cruising
Cruises tend to get a bad wrap when it comes to crowds. It’s not entirely unjustified, as crowded spaces most certainly do exist on cruises. Yet it’s so easy to avoid the crowds on these enormous ships with some minimal efforts.
For a quiet space during the day, go to this unlikely area: the club. Yes, the club!
The cruise’s disco may be rocking at night and into the wee morning hours. But during the day, it usually sits empty. While cruise spaces like the library can sometimes become full of people during the day, there’s usually not a soul in the club. That’s where we go for quiet time and never disappoints!
Typically, the most crowded area we find on a cruise is the buffet during lunch on a sea day. Any crowd-averse cruisers should make a point to avoid the buffet from Noon-1:30. Simply get a seat in a restaurant instead to avoid the midday cluster and enjoy a crowd-free environment. Or go to the buffet outside of those hours.
Catch some rays on the pool deck in the morning. The cruise’s lido deck can get crowded during the mid-afternoon hours. Instead, simply enjoy the pool before lunch. The morning is always our favorite time to head to the lido deck. As other cruisers nurse their hangovers or head to a late breakfast, the pool decks can be unusually empty in the morning hours, making for a much more enjoyable experience.
Find Your Secret Spot on a Cruise
When a ship is filled to capacity, it’s nice to have a pleasant place to retreat to for some serenity. Yet with a finite amount of public passenger space, this can often be challenging. But if you thoroughly explore all the out-of-the-way ship locations, you can be rewarded with your private area of zen.
We suggest to stroll all around the ship on embarkation day to discover such hidden nooks.
On the upper decks, take some time out the day to see what is at the very aft of the ship.
Then go all the way forward towards the bow. Since all the action tends to center on the middle of the ship, the aft and bow tend to be two very overlooked places to relax onboard. They also tend to come with excellent views!
Try this: On the main pool deck (lido deck) go to both ends of the ship, then check both up and down a few decks deck. You may have just found your secret tranquil oasis and escape the crowds!
47) When it Rains: Use the Pool, Hot Tub, and Slides
If you don’t feel like squeezing into a cramped hot tub with a dozen other strangers, simply go when it rains. You’re getting wet anyway and the pool deck will be completely empty. Unless it’s a really bad storm or lightning is in the area, the pool facilities will remain open and functioning. You’ll also find no lines at the waterslide or at the bar. Enjoy!
48) Use Limited Spa Amenities for Free
Even if you aren’t planning to splurge on that massage, don’t be a stranger to the spa, which may also have some minimal complimentary facilities.
If nothing else, the spa can provide an alternative place to shower. So if there are two people in the same cabin who need to get ready quickly for formal night, the spa’s shower facilities can allow for someone to shower up there. You’ll find towels, hairdryers, and everything. Also, some cruise spa showers are known to have some nice complimentary soaps and shampoos available too!
So if you have a spouse that takes ages getting ready in the bathroom, take it upon yourself to use the spa’s shower facilities for free.
49) Magnets Keep You Organized on Cruises
Did you know that your cabin’s walls are actually made of metal? They are! So before boarding your cruise, grab your favorite magnets from your fridge at home. Or, better yet, buy these cool heavy-duty magnet hooks which hold up to 22 pounds and will really help to avoid clutter in your small cabin!
You can repurpose the magnets onboard the ship to keep track of daily guides, receipts, and other pieces of paper that may otherwise start cluttering up your room. It’s a great way to stay organized and create additional storage space.
You can also have fun with magnets on the exterior of your cabin by decorating your door or leaving notes for fellow cruisers to let them know your whereabouts. We see lots of people having fun with these magnets on the exterior of their staterooms. Hanging something on the outside of the door makes for an easy way to identify your room.
50) Shop ’til You Drop on the Last Day of the Cruise
If you’re planning to do any onboard shopping, consider waiting ’til the last full day of the cruise. Often the ship will have a big sale on the last day of a cruise. There will be greater odds of this happening and better deals if you happen to be on a repositioning cruise or if the ship you’re on is about to change itineraries.
Check the daily program on the final full day of your cruise to see if there will be a big sale. Towards the last day of a cruise, we regularly see sales in which all items in a certain store are priced at $10 or $5 and below.
Also, if you purchase alcohol from the duty-free store on the afternoon or evening on the last day of a cruise, they’ll usually allow you to bring the bottle back to your cabin. If bought any other day, it’s held until the end of the cruise.
✅ Bonus: Cruise Packing Hacks & Checklist To Save
Besides your usual clothing and toiletries, here’s a checklist of cruise specific items to remember to pack:
- Waterproof Your Phone – If you don’t have a waterproof phone, you’ll want to make sure your phone doesn’t become victim to pool splashes or ocean sprays. You also may not be comfortable leaving your phone unattended on a lounge chair. So with this Phone Dry Pouch, you can bring it in the pool with you and even dunk it in the water or bring snorkeling when ashore! It’s also a convenient place to keep your cruise keycard. It’s usually priced under $10 too, so it’s a great buy. Check colors available and prices here.
- Bottle of wine – Most cruise lines (not Norwegian, but most all others) allow you to bring aboard 1 bottle of wine per person. Be sure to take advantage of that. You must pack it in your carryon luggage and you must open it in your stateroom to avoid a corkage fee in the dining room.
- Use an over-the-door organizer for the bathroom – It seems there’s never enough space in cruise cabin bathrooms. We love this skinny and compact travel organizer that conveniently hangs from the back of the bathroom door to hold everything we need.
- Binoculars – If you’re going to be cruising around scenic coastal stretches, like Alaska’s Inside Passage (See: Glacier Bay Photo Essay), then don’t forget a pair of binoculars. Big cruise ships can’t get too close to shore, so if you want to see towns, glaciers, or have a closer look at a wayward whale – be sure pack a pair. These Bushnell Falcon binoculars are great quality and the price is pretty incredible. Check prices and recent reviews.
- BYO Collapsible Travel Straw – Did you know that most cruise ships slowly phased out straws during the past year? The straw-free movement is an environmentally friendly initiative currently sweeping the world. Some cruises have switched to paper or provide them by request. Yet these reusable travel straw so that you’ll be able to sip your piña colada the way it was intended but without that harmful plastic.
- Water bottle – Stay hydrated onshore excursions without buying expensive bottled water. Pack a refillable lightweight water bottle like this CamelBack.
- Sunscreen – Of course you want to protect your skin. But if you use all of your sunscreen and need to buy more on the ship, expect to pay upwards of $20 for a small tube in the ship’s overpriced gift shop. Instead, stock up before you go. Amazon has great prices on BananaBoat.
- Mask & Snorkel – Don’t pay the inflated prices to rent a nasty used snorkel. Buy one in advance, instead. This popular traditional Mask & Snorkel Set is a great mask that’s often on sale for the less than it would cost to rent it when you reach the islands. Or consider these full face snorkel masks that people rave about.
- Pop-up Beach Tent – If you’re taking a beach-heavy cruise like a Caribbean itinerary, this compact foldable pop-up beach shade tent can be a great accessory to bring with you.
- Seasickness Prevention – If you don’t have your sea legs, come prepared with a plan. We find Bonine works well and has less drowsiness effect than the popular Dramamine. Alternatively, go natural and try ginger pills, which tend to calm nausea associated with seasickness without any side effects.
- Prevent a Stinky Bathroom – When sharing a bathroom with loved ones in the close quarters of a cruise cabin, sometimes “ship happens.” 💩 Things can get smelly. But that can be easily prevented. Use this Pou-Pourri before-you-go toilet spray and no one will ever know it happened.
- Stay organized with magnets – Yeah, we just mentioned this in cruise tip #49, but it’s such a fun item to bring aboard. Plus these magnet hooks are inexpensive, so it’s worth repeating here in this cruise pack list.
- Travel scale – If you’re flying home after a cruise, this tactic will help to ensure that you’ll be under the weight restrictions imposed by airlines. We use a little travel luggage scale to keep tabs on our bags’ weight.
- Backup Battery – If you’re going to be out on all-day shore excursions and have a mobile phone or camera that won’t hold a charge with all the pictures you’ll be taking, then be sure to pack a backup battery. We personally use (and love) this Anker PowerCore Backup Battery that is very lightweight, yet will recharge your cell phone many times over.
- Cruise-Approved Power Strip to keep all your electronics charged with a single outlet. We never travel anywhere in the world without one!
- Passport – Very important, don’t forget! (An ID + original birth certificate may suffice with some cruise lines/itineraries. Check before you depart.)
Speaking of packing… After constantly traveling around the world for the past five years on cruise ships and other forms of transportation, we’ve finally developed the perfect packing list. We have meticulously detailed all of our travel gear recommendations. So for a more all-encompassing pack list, see our big Ultimate Travel Packing Checklist & Tips to ensure you don’t forget to pack anything important for your next trip.
We hope these cruise hacks have been helpful and that you’re now all ready to set sail!
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Also, if you cruising and would like to read more of our blog, check this post out. We recently completed cruising entirely around the world without using a single flight. We accomplished this ultimate world cruise using 4 different ships and on a super low budget around $60 per day! We basically spent a year living on cruise ships and it actually cost us less than our former working lives back on land. See this video we made of all the highlights.
- Continue reading here: How To Achieve the Impossible: A Cheap World Cruise
Happy cruising everyone!
Publishing note: This Cruise Hacks post is continually updated, most recently in January 2020 after our latest series of cruising around the world.