Cruises can be costly, full of hassles, and ridden with hidden expenses. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
During the past several 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 nineteen 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!
🏃 Health & Weight Hacks for Cruising
🍹 How To Drink for Free & Cheap
🏝️ Top Cruise Shore Excursion Tips
🚢 Cruise Hacks to Know Around the Ship
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 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
Timing is everything. Being flexible with your travel dates is one of the best ways to secure low rates. Many off-season cruises are listed at rates up to 80% off the same exact ship and itinerary found during peak season.
So always consider shoulder seasons and off-peak cruise time periods to secure the best cruise prices. Definitely avoid Spring Break sailings. 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 of the best cruise bargains can be found in the fall, soon after kids go back to school. During the early autumn time frame, the 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 occurs.
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.
Where & when to find the lowest cruise rates:
- Caribbean cruise dates – Sept, Oct, early Nov. Also first half of Dec.
- Alaska cruise dates – Before Memorial Day (May) and after Labor Day (Sept)
- Mediterranean cruise dates – April and into early May. Late Sept and Oct.
Rates drop significantly during these off-peak time periods. Additionally, cruise lines will further offer enticing incentives to attract customers to come aboard during these less desirable times of the year.
Example: 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 in 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. 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. Cruise lines often reward those who book early with their best prices for a sailing. But whenever 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. Read the fine print before booking to fully understand the cancelation policy. Then, be sure to keep a watchful eye on those prices.
If you find a more attractive offer to the cruise you’ve booked, call the cruise line or booking agent immediately to have them change your reservation. Alternatively, they can cancel the old reservation and rebook the better deal.
But don’t only monitor the cruise price itself. Although you may see prices 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 the 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 of your cruise regularly or consider using a service to alert you of price drops. Whenever we book a cruise, we simply bookmark the cruise listing and check it often to see if there have been any 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 that can alert you to a change in prices. One new-ish service we’ve recently used is CruiseWatch. The website allows you to select cruises to monitor and will send email alerts on price changes based on the criteria you select. Another way to monitor cruise price changes is by using the Ship Mate Cruise App. This app has also proven useful in setting up price alerts for free.
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 for 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, if you want an Alaskan cruise during the middle of summer or a Caribbean cruise during the height of Spring Break, don’t dare wait to book those cruises last minute. Prices will likely rise before the cruise is ultimately sold-out.
Instead, wait for last-minute rates during those unpopular times we reviewed in the prior cruise hack. 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 (or less) for 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 are seasonal one-way cruises used to relocate ships from one region of the world to another. And we firmly believe they are the best travel value in the world.
Here’s a brief 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 cruise lines even bring on extra entertainment to account for the 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 and this cruise even included unlimited alcohol!
If intrigued, be sure to read our separate post about that details everything you need to know:
5) Why Use a Travel Agent or Third Party to Book Cruises
There are three main ways to book a cruise:
- Direct with the cruise line
- Through a travel agent
- Through a cruise website
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.
Travel agents and third-party websites frequently offer perks, promotions, and occasionally even lower prices that the cruise line may not offer directly.
Sometimes big 3rd-party sites 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 received a $100 onboard credit that the cruise line and no other agencies were offering. On another recent cruise, we were given a complimentary drink package and wifi package. Whatever the case, these promos were only available through a third party and not offered directly with the cruise line, even though the price of the cruise was the same.
Search CruiseDirect for Latest Deals & Promos.
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, in the ship’s bow, or next to an elevator. 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 and cords are actually banned from cruise ships, as they pose an electrical hazard. If you bring a power strip, cruise security will confiscate it from your luggage.
Yet this special Cruise Power Strip solves that issue, as it is a power strip designed specifically to be compliant with all the major cruise lines. Power strips with built surge protectors or extension cords are what pose an issue to cruise ships. So this Ship-Approved Power Strip excludes cords and a surge protector to become a completely permissible device 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.
Check the 5-star Amazon reviews here.
Buy this Cruise-Approved Power Strip
8) Use the Shipboard App
All the major 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 apps 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 - NCL||Cruise Norwegian - NCL|
|Princess||Princess MedallionClass||Princess MedallionClass|
|MSC||MSC for Me||MSC for Me|
|Royal Caribbean||Royal Caribbean International||Royal Caribbean International|
|Virgin Voyages||Virgin Voyages||Virgin Voyages|
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 $7.95. 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
On most major cruise lines, wifi is not free. Instead, wifi can be very expensive onboard cruise ships and can sometimes be painfully slow. Carnival, Celebrity, Disney Cruises, Holland America, MSC, Princess, and Royal Caribbean all charge fees for wifi on their cruise ships.
How much does wifi cost on a cruise ship? The cost of cruise wifi fees differ by cruise line, by ship, and the price can even change from one sailing to the next. But wifi on a cruise ship is generally very expensive. While smaller wifi packages are available, it typically costs hundreds of dollars to have some sort of unlimited wifi plan on a cruise ship. And that’s for a single device.
Understand that cruise wifi packages are often sold by the amount of time (e.g., minutes, days, unlimited), sometimes by data amount (by megabytes or gigabytes), and sometimes wifi packages are tiered by speed (basic browsing packages vs high-speed / streaming packages). However you slice it, wifi is a very costly add-on expense to any cruise vacation.
There is no easy way to hack the cruise wifi network to get free wifi on a cruise. But thankfully there are easy ways to exploit cruise wifi, extend it, share wifi access, connect multiple devices to the same account, and even get a wee bit of wifi for free 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) Don’t Buy a Wifi Package on the Ship, Buy it Before You Sail
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) Before Your Cruise: Download Movies, Shows, Offline Apps, and Books
If you do decide to buy a small Wifi package for your cruise, you’ll want to stretch that package as much as possible. So don’t spend hours of wifi connectivity to stream a Netflix series that could’ve been downloaded to your device in advance. Understand that most streaming platforms allow you to download their series and movies to your devices to watch offline.
So when you’re at home or at the hotel before your cruise, log in to your streaming subscriptions to download some movies or shows you think you may want to watch.
But don’t stop there.
Download some offline games to play. Download a book, whether something fun to read or some books about your cruise destinations. You can even download this article, or any webpage, to read offline later. Here’s how to download webpages for offline reading for iPhone here and for Android here.
Or download some podcasts and audiobooks too. To get access to thousands of audiobooks and podcasts, you get the free 30-day trial of Amazon’s Audible Plus. Download tons of content for your cruise, then cancel it once you return home.
Lastly, in Google Maps, you can download the offline maps of your cruise destinations to learn about locations and directions without needing wifi. If you don’t know how to download offline maps, here are complete directions.
12) Get Free Push Notifications on Your Phone During the Cruise
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 have been known to slip through for free! We have regularly experienced this cruise wifi hack firsthand on Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, and MSC cruises.
Without purchasing a wifi package, we have routinely been able to receive push notifications from messaging apps and social media to our phone when simply connecting to the ship’s wifi, on airplane mode without having a wifi package. When receiving these push notifications, you will not be able to respond to any messages, without purchasing 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.
So put your phone on airplane mode, then enable your wifi to see if you may be able to potentially receive push notifications on your phone during your cruise.
13) How to Get Wifi on a Cruise Ship for Free: Use 29 Seconds Per Session
For cruises that sell wifi packages by the minute/hour, we’ve discovered that they will only deduct usage from your account if you’ve been logged onto the wifi for 30 seconds or more.
We first noticed this when logging on to Celebrity’s wifi for 29 seconds or less and saw 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 to save money if you only need to occasionally check or send emails.
14) 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 popular show times. 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, Holland America provides complimentary access to nytimes.com. So we use the ship’s online portal to browse this news site for free. We’re doing so not to actually read the news, but rather to simply 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.
15) Get Your Wifi 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 on in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to find that pages didn’t load after waiting several minutes. After trying many times, it unnecessarily burned through the precious small allotment of wifi minutes we’d purchased. When I addressed this with the Internet Desk Manager, he confirmed that there was indeed 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.
16) 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 moderately expensive. Occasionally cruise port terminals will 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.
17) Use Phone Data on the Cruise to Access Internet When Near Land
Typically, you should always ensure your phone is set to Airplane Mode when on a cruise to avoid expensive rates that phone plans can incur if it connects to the shipboard data networks.
However, when 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 200 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’ve 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 land’s 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, you do so outside on your balcony or on deck. We’ve found that cruise ship walls can sometimes block data signals to the interior spaces of a cruise.
18) 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.
Here is how to share wifi on a cruise ship: 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, pair this portable travel router to the cruise wifi network to create a new mini wireless network right within your cruise stateroom. Essentially it acts as a wifi repeater bridge, allowing you to share your wifi package and 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, is small/portable, and is priced 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.
Check prices and reviews for the Opal Secure Travel WiFi Router on Amazon
If you buy a travel router like this for your cruise, it is recommended that you set it up at home before your cruise. At that time, connect all the devices you’re taking on the cruise to your travel router. That way, once you get on the cruise and connect your travel router, then all of your devices will automatically connect without the need to spend time on your vacation setting up each device.
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, and other illnesses can easily spread. But we have one simple little trick to help thwart illness from ruining your cruise vacation.
19) 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. Avoid cabins in the bow, which tend to experience the most motion.
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, was plagued by seasickness. Yet we had a cool, lower-midship cabin and felt just fine!
20) Go To these Surprising Spots on a Cruise if Feeling Queasy
Not in a 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 to become 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 too. If feeling nauseous, go there.
If feeling nauseous, you may not want to deal with the buzz of the slots. So perhaps an even better move is to locate the ship’s casino and then a pleasant space near there to relax.
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 help with the disagreement your inner ear is having that’s causing the seasickness 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.
21) 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 seasickness medicine is 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. On other cruises, they 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 inexpensive 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.
22) Cruise Tips to Prevent Getting Seasick in the First Place
The aforementioned can be helpful to ease your discomfort is seasickness happens. But the best strategy is to avoid getting seasick in the first place. If you’re prone to seasickness, use preventative tactics!
Here are a number of easy tips that you can employ to lessen the chances of you getting sick during your cruise:
- Choose a larger ship. The larger ship, the more stable it tends to be. You’ll notice less rocking and rolling.
- Choose a newer ship. Most all cruise ships are equipped with stabilizers that can be deployed to help for a smooth voyage. Newer ships have the latest technology in their stabilizers and since their new, can are less likely to fail.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of water can help prevent dehydration, which can worsen seasickness symptoms.
- Consider acupressure bands. They apply pressure to specific points on your wrist. They’re inexpensive and many cruisers swear by them. Try these Sea-Bands, which cost less than $10.
- Avoid screen time. Staring at screens can worsen seasickness symptoms, so those prone to seasickness may want to minimize screentime.
- Get some fresh air. Often passengers find that fresh air can help reduce symptoms and the tried-and-true method of staring at the horizon really does work!
- Avoid greasy foods. Eating light, non-greasy meals can help to avoid seasickness.
- Take medication before you embark. If you are really prone to seasickness and are going to take some sort of medication, consider taking it before you even step foot on the ship. It can be more difficult to reverse symptoms once they already begin.
23) 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, 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 any sick passengers who touch their hands to their face or cough, then return to the buffet for seconds, are potentially 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 throughout every public space. 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
24) 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 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 cruise 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 sometimes 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 may not be 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 you’d like it removed.
Where to book travel insurance for a cruise: There are many third-party travel insurance companies to book travel insurance with. Yet few travel insurance policies specialize in coverage specifically geared towards cruises. That’s why we like to recommend: CruiseSafe by VisitorsCoverage to US residents traveling on a cruise for less than a month.
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. Get a quick quote and compare plans now.
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!
25) 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!
Of course, be mindful of food waste and only order what you can eat.
26) 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!
27) 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. Sometimes the coffee shop’s desserts are even superior to what’s on offer in the main dining room!
28) Get Free Room Service on a Cruise
Room service is often associated with high fees in hotels. Yet unbeknownst to some new cruise passengers is that many cruises offer some room service complimentary to guests.
As of 2023, Princess, Celebrity, Holland America, and Disney all still offer a full room service menu that is entirely complimentary. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Celebrity also offer a complimentary selection of continental breakfast items for room service during the morning hours, although they now charge for hot breakfast items in addition to lunch, dinner, and snacks.
So if you’re sailing with any of those aforementioned cruise lines, do not hesitate to order a big pot of coffee and some pastries to be delivered to your room to help get you moving in the morning.
And even the cruise lines that charge for room service, it can still be a decent value if you play your cards right. Do note that all cruise lines, except Carnival, that do charge a fee for room service – charge by the order, not the item. So make it count! Whether you just order a simple cheese plate or two dinners with generous appetizers and desserts, you’ll be paying the same fee.
An additional room service cruise hack that we discovered on Virgin Voyages is that they’ll waive their $5 room service charge if you order a drink to your room. So just order a drink and then load up on the room service food
Do check to confirm whether your cruise has complimentary room service. Or just look for the menu in your stateroom. As of March 2023, here are the room service policies and fees.
|Cruise Line||Breakfast Room Service||Room Service Fees|
|Carnival||Free continental breakfast||$3-$7 per item + 18% gratuity|
|Celebrity||Free continental breakfast||$9.95 per order + 18% gratuity|
|Royal Caribbean||Free continental breakfast||$7.95 + 18% gratuity, per order|
|MSC||$3.50 fee for Bella passengers, free for everyone else||$3.50 fee for Bella passengers, free for everyone else|
|Virgin Voyages||$5 fee, but free if a paid drink is ordered||$5 fee, but free if a paid drink is ordered|
|Norwegian||$4.95 + 20%, per order||$9.95 + 20% per order|
29) How to Get Free Candy on a Cruise
Have a sweet tooth? Don’t buy the overpriced bag of M&Ms for $8 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!
30) 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 to dine in the Main Dining Room. This leaves specialty restaurants with several open tables. Therefore 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! After getting on the ship, check the Day 1 itinerary for such a promotion, 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. Don’t do it, it’s a trap! Formal night is the worst possible time to splurge on a specialty restaurant. On formal night, the main dining room always serves its 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.
31) Skip the Buffet on the First Day
When you board a cruise ship mid-day, it can be all too convenient to relieve your hunger by heading directly to the buffet. All hungry passengers have the same idea. So the buffet inevitably gets crowded and hectic during the lunch rush on Day 1. But don’t follow this herd mentality once you board the ship!
Most cruises have a handful of 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.
32) 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 on 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 walking all around a large ship. So this can give you a well-deserved excuse to have a cheat day of gluttony while cruising.
33) 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 many more). So set a firm rule to never use the elevator.
By avoiding the elevator, 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. This holds particularly true if your cruise ship has many aging passengers who must use elevators or lots of 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.
Keep track of your steps and the number of calories you’re burning with a smartwatch. You may be surprised at just how much walking you can inadvertently do on a big ship! If you don’t already have a smartwatch, check out Apple Watches or more affordable FitBit watches.
34) 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, then go ahead and 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!
35) 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 post explaining all the different tips to get free & cheap alcohol on a cruise.
We show how to get hooked up with a beverage package and 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 for those who want better coffee without paying inflated specialty coffee prices, we show how to be-your-own barista!
If you like to drink on a cruise, then be sure to check out this full article 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.
36) 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 leisurely 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.
Free morning coffee delivery is available to all passengers on the following cruise lines in 2023:
- Holland America,
- Princess, and
- Royal Caribbean
37) 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 cruise’s 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 about the location. Once you have a solid game plan, then you can simply hop off the ship and sightsee on your own.
In some cruise destinations, 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 and negotiate, where appropriate. 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, which then results in a back & forth email exchange to actually book the tour and possibly the unnerving task of blindly sending funds as a deposit. Instead, we recommend this next tip…
38) 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 at 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!
Western Caribbean, Bahamas, & Mexico
- Nassau, Bahamas
- Freeport, Bahamas
- Key West, FL, USA
- Cozumel and Costa Maya, Mexico
- Cayman Islands
- Jamaica (Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, & Falmouth)
- Roatan, Honduras
- Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
- Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos
Europe & Mediterranean
- Rome, Italy
- Naples, Italy
- Venice, Italy
- Barcelona, Spain
- La Havre, France
- Marseille, France
- Cannes, France
- Athens, Greece
- Santorini, Greece
- Mykonos, Greece
- Dubrovnik, Croatia
39) 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, and other shipboard freebies too. If so, that will be listed in the ship’s daily program. So check it out and you may find they’re giving away something that’s worthwhile to attend.
40) 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 to all passengers. Sometimes they’re handed out at the port lecture, so you may find them there.
But don’t 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.
41) 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 $6 for a bottle of water. 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.
Pack a simple inexpensive water bottle like this.
42) 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 them once you’re on the island. Often cruises will rent out snorkeling equipment for $15-$30, or even more. Meanwhile, this popular Mask & Snorkel Set is a great mask that costs about the same to buy then it would to rent for a day when you reach the islands.
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 an umbrella regularly runs about $30-$50 and higher throughout most Caribbean ports. For about 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 its Neutrogena Beach Defense SPF 70 Sunscreen. 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
43) How to Turn Onboard Credit into Cash Money
If you have onboard credit and you don’t spend it, you will lose it. Onboard credit is a promotional perk, commonly offered when buying a cruise, that is a dollar amount you can use once on the cruise on things like drinks, specialty restaurants, excursions, etc. But you must use it for shipboard expenses and 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 small amount (a dollar, a nickel, whatever) 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. In doing so, 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 2023: 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 worthwhile before you get off the ship.
44) Use This Cruise Hack to Get Cash on a Cruise without 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 me 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.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean charges a 5% fee to buy casino credits with your credit card. And while that’s still cheaper than the ATM, there’s a loophole to get cash on Royal Caribbean with no fee. We’ve found the 5% fee is applied when getting it from the casino cashier, but not at the slots. So when sailing RCL, load up your casino credits on a slot, then cash out. In doing so, you’ll be accessing cash with no fee!
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 is to simply get to know your ship. Check out the ship’s deck plans before you get on board and use the following cruise hacks to help make the most of the ship itself. Avoid the crowds and enjoy the cruise to the fullest!
45) 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.
46) 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 generally 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.
47) 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.
48) Tips to Avoid the Crowds while Cruising
Cruises tend to get a bad rap 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 effort.
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, the club 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 it 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 pool. 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 strolling all around the ship on embarkation day to discover such hidden nooks.
On the upper decks, take some time out of 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 escaped the crowds!
49) 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!
50) 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 a better place to shower than your stateroom! The showers at the spa tend to be much bigger than the small shower spaces in your cabin. Many ships also have complimentary steam rooms and saunas in the spa too.
Heading to the spa for showers can also be convenient! If there are two people in the same cabin who need to get ready quickly for a formal night, the spa’s shower facilities can allow for someone to shower up there. You’ll find towels, hairdryers, and everything you need. 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, while indulging in all extra complimentary perks.
51) 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 28 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’ve seen lots of creative uses of these magnet hooks on cruises! Hanging something on the outside of the door makes for an easy way to identify your room too.
52) 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 the ship you’re on is about to change itineraries or if you’re on a repositioning cruise.
Check the daily program on the final full day of your cruise (the day before you get off) to see if there will be a big sale. Towards the last full day of a cruise, we regularly see sales in which all items in a certain store are priced at $10 or $5 and below. If you have an onboard credit remaining, this can be an ideal time to use it.
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 the colors available and prices here.
- Bottle of wine – Most cruise lines (Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Princess, RCL, Virgin) allow you to bring aboard 1 bottle of wine per person. Take advantage of that. You must pack it in your carry-on 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 to pack a pair. These Bushnell Falcon binoculars are great quality and the price is pretty incredible. Check prices and recent reviews.
- Portable Travel Straws – Did you know that most cruise ships have phased out straws, as an environmentally friendly initiative? Some have switched to paper or provide straws by request. Yet these reusable travel straws will allow you to sip your piña colada the way it was intended!
- Water bottle – Stay hydrated on shore excursions without buying expensive bottled water. Pack a refillable lightweight water bottle like this.
- Sun Protection – Don’t forget to pack a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. 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 sunscreen.
- Mask & Snorkel – Don’t pay inflated prices to rent a nasty used snorkel. Buy one in advance. This popular traditional Mask & Snorkel Set is a great mask that’s often on sale for less than it would cost to rent it when you reach the islands.
- 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 your baggage is under the weight restrictions imposed by airlines, after buying souvenirs. We use a little travel luggage scale to keep tabs on our bags’ weight.
- An empty bag – If you do plan to buy lots of souvenirs during your cruise vacation, don’t forget to pack an empty bag so that you have extra luggage room to bring back your haul.
- 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.
- Tracker – Toss an Airtag (iPhone) or Tile (Android) into your cruise luggage to help ensure your bags don’t go missing and also to track when they reach your stateroom.
- 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!
Wait, don’t leave us just yet. If you liked these cruise hacks, let’s stay connected!
If you’d like to receive more travel tips and inspiration, the best place to continue receiving updates from us is over on Facebook.
Be sure to follow Roaming Around The World on Facebook to see where in the world we are now and receive updates about future blog posts.
Also, if you cruising and would like to read more of our blog, check this post out. We 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 of 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
Lastly, with so many cruise tips in this post to remember, be sure to bookmark this page or “pin” the image to the right to your Pinterest boards to save for later.
Happy cruising everyone!
Publishing note: This Cruise Hacks post is continually updated, most recently in March 2023.
I would like to find out which cruise lines have it so you never have to get all dressed up for dinner. We are more simplistic and would like to keep everything very casual. Thank you for any input you may have.
John Widmer says
Among the larger well-known cruise lines, Norwegian is one that does not have any formal nights. It’s casual every night there. Most of the other cruise lines typically have 1-2 formal nights for a week long cruise, and keep it casual on the other nights. But don’t necessarily let a formal night or two completely dissuade you from one particular line. Those who don’t want to get dressed up for formal night can always choose to remain casual by simply eating dinner at the buffet, instead of the main dining room. It’s always casual at the buffet. But if you want to eat in the main dining room every single night and still keep it casual, then Norwegian is probably your best bet.
Sara Grimes says
How do you “MONITOR PRICES”? I booked thru a travel agency and cannot find any website that will actually give me the rates. I would like to try to upgrade, but I can’t find out what the rooms are currently going for (or if the one I am currently booked into has lowered in cost.
Sorry to not know much,
John Widmer says
Good question – happy to provide a little more detail. Personally what we do is simply find the exact cruise listing on an online cruise agency, like CruiseDirect. Once I have I have the pricing page pulled up, I simply bookmark it in my browser. That way, it takes all but 5 seconds to simply click that bookmark and see if the price has changed. It’s a quick and easy task we’ll usually check each day.
Alternatively you can try asking the cruise agent you booked with to monitor. Some of the really good agents will do this, but it’s not the norm.
Lastly, there are some cruise fare monitoring services you can try. There’s a free app that you can download – Shipmate – that will alert you of price changes. Or you can try services like CruiseFish.net or CruiseFareMonitor.com that will alert you of price changes. We’ve never used these firsthand, so cannot personally vouch for them. Also, sometimes the perks/promos will change but not the prices and I don’t believe you’d be alerted in those instances. Thats’ why we just like to manually monitor prices and see and changes.
Hope that helps! 🙂
Carnival has lowered my fare 3x simply by my own fare monitoring. If I find the same itinerary at a lower price, carnival has never argued. I cruise Feb 2022 for 530$ total for 2ppl , 5 day cruise in a cove balcony. My rate 6 months ago was over 1300$
Do your leg work and don’t give up, it will be worth it.
So if you find a lower price, do you call or email them? Does it matter?
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Mark Filip says
Great tips! We appreciate this information and will add some of these to our trip checklist. I’d like to give back by suggesting some of our own tips and one comment.
Comment: On a RC cruise last year my electronics bag (laptop/phone accessories) was inspected and my power cube (small 3 outlet cube you get at Home Depot) was taken from me. It had not surge protection, just a simple 3 outlet cube. They said there was potential for fire hazard if too may power plugs were used in cabins. Maybe this is a RC thing?
We have a checklist for each trip that includes columns for the period of time before a trip/cruise (ie: 2 weeks out, 1 week out, 3 days out, up until day of trip) Each column has a checklist item that might need to be done (update apps/laptop, stop mail/paper, copy files/videos/movies to laptop, etc.) In all we have probably 100 things, most of which are in the separate “what to pack” column. You’d be surprised, when you add up everything you need to do before the trip and what to remember to pack how many things there are to do!!
Regarding tips for a cruise: we also have used magnets and they work well however the command hooks work exceedingly well on most surfaces and are totally removable. We re-use the actual hooks and only buy the two sided adhesive strips. We use them on backs of doors, inside the shower, or anywhere we need to hang something. They come in a variety of sizes and designs for most needs.
We also pack a “fly bag” or “cruise bag” which contains items we need to use before we have access to our luggage (phone chargers, toiletries, hand sanitizer, etc.)
Again, great tips, thanks!
John Widmer says
Yeah, the cruises can be strict on some of the outlet devices. Usually it’s the surge protector that causes issues, but there can be other reasons. The power-strip device we recommend is approved for RC and all major cruise lines. We’ve never had issues.
As we’ve just packed for our latest cruise that we’re on right now, we can definitely relate to all the many to-do’s involved to prepare for the voyage. 🙂 The checklist by time period is such a great idea – love that! We love the magnets but may need to try those hooks out too. The cruise/fly bag is such a smart move! Not only to have the items you need immediately, but also just in case of lost luggage issues.
Thanks so much for the suggestions and happy cruising! We’re always updating this post and may have to add in some of your ideas!
Toni Allison says
We’re are traveling on NCL to Alaska at the end of September. This article is great! In your article, you mentioned their app for staying connected to each other on the ship. The price you stated was $7.95. It is now $9.95 per their onlie FAQ. It is also called Cruise Norwegian now, not Norwegian iConcierge. Just keeping you up-todate. Thanks for the helpful info!
John Widmer says
Thanks so much for the update! Much of this info is always changing, so really appreciate being alerted to such changes. We’ll update this post to reflect the new pricing. Thank you!
Love the blog!!
Would you happen to know why NCL restaurants close while at port? Looking at a Western Caribbean out of Miami and the ports are all back to back for four straight days. It forces everyone to one, 24 hour restaurant. Any tips?
John Widmer says
I’d guess they close many of the restaurants during lunch hours on port days because there is significantly less demand for lunch on the ship. They’ve likely figured that the majority of passengers will be onshore on these port days, so it may make sense for them to close some of the restaurants. It’s been our experience on NCL that they usually keep at least one sit-down restaurant open (like the main dining room) and the buffet when the ship is in port. If your ship has one of NCL’s pub on it, that’s usually open for lunch too on port days, even though that may not be listed. It has some good burgers, sandwiches, wings, fish & chips, etc. So you may have a few options after all. Have a great cruise!
Thanks for blogging. I felt like a student I took so many notes! We’re traveling for my step daughter’s 18th and high school graduation so these space & money saving tips will come in handy!
Reynaldo A says
HI, great Blog. I have a cruise planned for this July, would be my third. But my first with my wife, we will be taking the cruise as part of our honeymoon. A 12-day cruise to the Greek Islands. Do you have any recommendation for a newlywed couple to get the most out of the cruise? Thanks for all the recommendations.
John Widmer says
Congratulations on your marriage! Enjoy your honeymoon cruise – it should prove to be amazing. Having gone on a Med cruise for our own honeymoon, one thing I can suggest is to see if the cruise might have some sort of honeymoon celebration package that you can add on using the cruise line’s online check-in portal. Check to see if your cruise may have something like that. We did this with cruising with NCL and they brought together all the other honeymooners with a really nice spread and lots of champagne. What was even better than the champagne was the opportunity to meet other honeymooners, some of which have become life long friends of ours that we would have never met otherwise. Have a great honeymoon cruise!
Reynaldo Azpurua says
Thanks for your recommendation, we will try to do that. THanks again for your congratulations. Reynaldo
Alice Marie says
We have been on many cruises and developed some of these same hacks over the years. I so much appreciate having them all in one place and more than we came up with!
We are going on a family reunion cruise and I will definitely share this with them. I also have a travel group that follows me, and so I will share with them, hoping they will also follow you.
The only thing I can add has to do with how we pack. You know those plastic covers that pillowcases, sheets and blankets come in? They make excellent packing cases for travel. Some have zippers. I pack like things in a case, then pull out the case and throw it into a drawer when we arrive on the ship. Also, cruise ships usually offer discounts on laundry. With two of us in the room, we each get a discount bag and send our laundry down twice during the cruise. That way we pack less. Consider the cost of an extra bag is usually 25+ on an airline. With the discount, cruise laundry is usually $20 a bag, and we can really stuff that bag. Of course you can always do your own laundry on most ships.
John Widmer says
That’s great and what a great idea of reusing those plastic covers as a cruise packing hack to help stay organized. Love it! We’ve been relying on “packing cubes” to help keep us organized and use a similar technique to dump our stuff in the drawers and closets once we get on the ship. And yes, those stuff-the-bag laundry promotions can be great! We find that the per-piece pricing tends to be very high, so it’s really nice to take advantage when those promos come around. 🙂
Is this discount bag for laundry something obtained on the ship or something you’re bring on-board from home?
John Widmer says
It’s obtained on the ship. Not all cruises do it, but most cruises we’ve been on do. Basically, they provide a medium size laundry bag and will wash everything in it for a semi-reasonable set price instead of the priced-per-item list that most cruise lines use. These laundry bag promos are never announced ahead of time, so you can’t really plan for it. Info about the laundry bag promos can usually be found in the dailies or in the material the stateroom attendant leaves. At the beginning of the cruise, you could ask your stateroom attendant if he/she knows if and when they typically do a laundry bag promotion.
Cruising makes it easy to visit several places in a single trip without the need to repack your belongings and sit in a car/train/bus/plane to travel to each one; your hotel room comes along with you, and even provides the transportation. This will surely save lots of money during the trip.
Room service on Royal Caribbean now has a $7.95 charge…..unless it’s continental breakfast (a hot breakfast will cost you though).
John Widmer says
Thank you for pointing that out. 🙂 I’ve just updated the post to reflect that.
Stacey Connor says
Awesome post! Thanks for sharing such useful information
MJL Things says
You have smartly covered every single topic and your tips are awesome. Thank you for these real money saving tips.
Great tips & Hacks! I will defitnitely check out the resources to use on my upcoming crusie! Just wanted to reiterate on the “Cruise Checklist” for bottled wine. I have cruised several times on Carnival and each time I carried aboard one bottle of wine (per adult), water, and sodas.
Below is Carnival’s Beverage Policy:
Bringing Liquor and Beverages Onboard – Embarkation
Guests are prohibited from bringing water, sodas and other non-alcoholic beverages onboard that are packaged in bottles.
A small quantity of non-alcoholic beverages (i.e., sparkling water, sodas, juice, and milk) packaged in cans or cartons may be brought onboard on embarkation day and must be in the guest’s carry-on luggage. A small quantity is considered a maximum of 12 sealed, unopened cans/cartons of 12 ounces each or less per person.
Guests are prohibited from bringing alcoholic beverages on board with the following exception – At the beginning of the cruise during embarkation day only, guests (21 years of age and older) may bring one 750 ml bottle of sealed/unopened wine or champagne per person in their carry-on luggage. All liquor, beer, other forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages outside of this exception are strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked luggage and such items will be confiscated and discarded and no compensation will be provided.
John Widmer says
Yup, it’s such a great tip to legally bring some vino onboard! We always check the alcohol policies to see what’s permitted. Most of the major cruise lines (NCL being the exception) tend to allow either a bottle of wine per person or two bottles per stateroom. Always a good idea to take advantage of that! 🙂
John D. says
Regarding travel insurance, you should check your credit cards to see if they include insurance as part of their benefits. Most credit cards targeted to travelers include coverage for trip cancellation, interruption, lost luggage, etc., and it’s included in the card’s annual fee. If you’re a Costco member, their card is free and includes $3,000 of coverage per traveler, with no limit on the number of travelers. Others, like Chase and AMEX travel cards (United, Sapphire, etc.) cover up to $10,000 (and some up to $20,000) for two people with some restriction on the relationship of the travelers. The only requirement is that you pay for the travel with the credit card. We took a particularly expensive Galapagos cruise last year and we paid for it using three different cards so that, in aggregate, we were able to cover the full cost of the vacation without spending an extra dime for coverage. Each card will reimburse however much you’ve paid on it, and it’s totally legit. We have had to make only one claim in the last 10 years, and it was virtually no-question-asked, just provide proof (a doctor’s note, cancellation notice, death notice, or the like), and the receipts for the expenses, and the insurance is paid as promised. I highly recommend this approach as travel insurance is a money-making scam for the travel industry. Not to say it isn’t good or necessary, only that it’s overpriced, rarely used, and is a big commission maker for agents, who will almost never tell you to consider whether you already have insurance via your credit cards. I know, because I’m a part-time agent and see how the agencies push the insurance. I always tell my clients to check their cardsl–it’s one of the biggest money-savers you can use to reduce the cost of your cruise. If you don’t have a travel-based credit card, go get one. The small annual fee–usually about $95 to $150–gets recovered on the first cruise you take without having to pay for the supplemental insurance. You also earn points toward travel, so the cards are a double win!
John Widmer says
I can only partially agree with this. Yes, a good travel credit card that includes travel coverage can be very beneficial, such as trip cancelation and lost luggage benefits that many do include. But, first of all, not everyone has a good travel credit that includes this coverage. We do, but we still ALWAYS take out a travel insurance policy and recommend. Why? Because credit card’s travel coverage does not include any overseas medical coverage, travel accidents, assaults, theft, natural disasters, emergency evacuation, and other cruise-specific coverage. If you need to see a doctor on a cruise, you’re looking nearly $200 just for a simple, quick check-up, let alone something more serious which could run into thousands of dollars. Your credit card coverage isn’t going to reimburse you for that, but travel insurance most certainly will. The trip cancelation and luggage coverage that many popular credit cards have is a great benefit to consider using when booking a cruise that we’d likewise recommend. But we prefer to have more than just our cruise cost and baggage covered, to ensure our health & safety is insured, which no credit card coverage includes to our knowledge. If we have a medical emergency out in the middle of the ocean, we’re relieved to know that our travel insurance will help us out.
Shannon Morgan says
I have not read through everything and I am loveing it all so far so thank you! I was just reading about the messaging service instead of a walkie talkie and I was wondering if you have heard of the Voxer App which turns your cell phone into a walkie talkie then you don’t have to pay for the service. I use it for my small business and communicate with everyone in the US. They have another app for international messaging that does the same. They are Free!!
John Widmer says
Yes, have heard of Voxer but it wouldn’t really work well on a cruise ship. Push-To-Talk apps like Voxer are free to use but require a data or wifi signal in order to send and receive messages. So it would work on a cruise only if you purchased an unlimited wifi package for each phone, which would end up being a very costly way to use the app, given how expensive wifi plans our on most cruises. The ships’ own messaging apps would likely be a much more inexpensive messaging solution.
Jamie Cordon says
I’ve been wanting to have a vacation on a cruise ships and this is probably the best cruise tips i’ve read so far. This is really helpful.
John Widmer says
So glad to hear this post has proved helpful to your future cruising!
Sue Dallas says
What a great find! We are taking our first 2 week cruise out of Amsterdam through the Baltics. I found some great ideas on here. I have a hint about cabin space, specifically bathroom storage space. Two cruises ago, I purchased a 12 mesh pocket over the door , (shoe) storage hanger from Amazon (MISSLO Heavy Duty Over the door Storage with 12 Mesh Pockets (White)) . There are 3 sizes available. When my husband and I get into our cabin, we unpack immediately and store our luggage under the bed. Then we unpack our toiletry kits. I use one side (6 pockets) of the mesh pocket hanger and he uses the other 6 pockets (he even stores some of his electronics in these pockets). We leave this on the inside of the bathroom door and it saves space on the small countertops. It comes with 2 removable hooks that fit over the top of the door. If it doesn’t fit, you can hang it by 2 strong magnets. We have used this on 2 cruises and also in hotel rooms when we are going to be there for more than a few days. My husband loves it! No more packing and unpacking toiletries, make-up etc. and the bathroom stays uncluttered. Thank you for all the work you did into putting this list together. We found it very helpful. Love your around the world cruise plan…have fun.
John Widmer says
Oh yes, we love those mesh hangers and travel with one ourselves. Although we’re not quite as organized with a his-&-hers section, but love that idea and we may have to now implement that! You’ve also just given me the idea of adding a hanging organizer to our section of packing suggestions for the next time we update this article. Thank you! Will have to look into the Misslo one you mention – it sounds perfect! Hope you have a wonderful Baltics cruise ahead – bon voyage!
Glad that wine and gelato made everything better. I got a chance back in the 90s to explore Northern Italy but we only went to Milan. I really need to go back and explore Venice and the islands. Sorry you didnt find George but Lake Cuomo is beautiful.
Like most people, we are cruising more and finding out the benefits of cruising compared to conventional holidays. And we are loving it.
Thanks for your additional tips and guidance. Really helps us.
Several of the suggested packing lists I have seen mention packing a pressure extension rod. What use with this have on a cruise ship? Thank you!
Heather Widmer says
That’s a new one for me and had to Google it myself. I read that some cruisers pack a tension rod to have extra space to hang clothes in the small closets of their cabins. I can also see it coming in handy to put in the shower to hang wet clothes. Thanks for the tip!
Such a nice blog i have come across. great article with some amazing images. Cheers!!
Heather Widmer says
Thanks for the kind words Manish, much appreciated!
These are some really GREAT Tips! We have cruised several times and have discovered several of them on our own, but learned many new ones!
An unusual question. We have been beginning to talk about going on a “Bucket List” retirement World Cruise, but our research so far has shown that the typical daily costs per person are MUCH higher than for other cruises. Do you have any thoughts or tips regarding these long cruises??
John Widmer says
Glad you found them helpful! 🙂
Regarding the world cruise and costs, we’ve found it to be a much more affordable approach to string together repositioning cruises and smaller segments of world cruises, taking advantage of ones with deals and/or promotions. That’s essentially what we’re in the midst of right now. We cruised from Vancouver to Japan, now traveling independently to Hong Kong, will cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, and then likely Singapore to Dubai, Dubai to Barcelona, Barcelona to NYC – for what will amount to 2.5 months on 5 cruises. We’re estimating that our daily cost will be somewhere around $75 per person, per day, for the cruises specifically (including taxes, fees, and gratuities). So a bit more than $5,000 total per person for the cruises, which is a fraction of the price we’ve seen on world cruises. We spent a lot of time researching, had some luck catching deals, and are lingering in countries in between cruises (which is not for everyone and incurs additional costs, albeit lower per day than on the cruises). Anyhow, once we finish this journey later next year, we plan to write a very detailed account of our costs and strategies on how we managed to do this. But in the meantime, hope this reply may give you a few ideas for your bucket list retirement world cruise! 🙂
Mike Smith says
When we cruise, it is always more economical to find a local when at port and book a cruise with them. The prices are always way less expensive than going directly thru the cruise line. We visited Roatan and saved over 70% by using local tours. Common sense goes a long way when wandering around in another country. Just be respectful and mindful of your surroundings and have fun.
John Widmer says
We completely agree with that. In fact, the last time we docked in Roatan we simply rented a car and drove all the way from the cruise port to Camps Bay. It was a great experience!
Carol Jordan says
Thank you so much for such a wonderful blog full of helpful tips. Found you through Pinterest. I have only been on one other cruise before; a 3-day to Nassau about 12 years ago, but am going on my second cruise, a 5-day to Costa Maya/Cozumel leaving 10/16. I am single, going with a group from church. Thank you for the drinks tips especially! I don’t drink enough to justify $50 A DAY for their Cheers package; although the $46 for the week for all other non-alcoholic drinks is well worth it. Your blog has me stoked for a really great time! I am a little jealous of your traveling. Give me 10-12 years, maybe I’ll be that Granny living out her retirement on a cruise ship! 😀
John Widmer says
Am so glad you found these cruise tips to be helpful and we hope you had a great cruise to the Yucatan! Yes, it’s important to weigh out whether the drink packages are worth it or not, depending on how much you drink. We also usually find that it’s not worth it for us, but it is nice when we can find a cruise that includes it as a perk! We’ve read about those stories of people living out their retirement on cruises – in some cases, it can be even more affordable than retirement on land!
very well written post …great collection of pics…and very great and helpful Tips.Thank you
John Widmer says
Glad you found the post helpful. Happy cruising!
[email protected] says
Very great tips, I like the all of you suggest, its quit help at cruise holidays
[email protected] says
Superb cruise hacks and tips, its very helpful cruise holidays post for the people who travel pr planning their first time cruises holidays.
John Widmer says
Thanks! Yes, we hope this resource helps first time cruisers and hope that even seasoned cruisers may still pick up a tip or two! 😉
These are great tips! We have been on several cruises but never with our little one. I can’t wait to take him on one, saving these for later!
John Widmer says
Glad you found them helpful. Hope you and the little one get on a cruise soon to put some of these tip to use! 🙂
Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche.
Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!
John Widmer says
Thanks and we’ve glad you found us and stopped by. Best of luck in your volunteer efforts!
This tips are awesome! I am planning to take a cruise soon and I find this very useful. Thanks for sharing this!
John Widmer says
So glad that you found these tips useful. 🙂 We hope you have an an awesome cruise and these tips help to make your trip even better! Bon voyage!
Yilliang Peng says
Thanks for the advice on how to arrive at your cruise ship with style. I had never thought of using a taxi or some kind of shuttle to make sure I get there safely and on time. This information would be perfect for anyone who might be stressed about their cruise and maximizing the fun.
Heather Widmer says
Thanks for the comment. We firmly believe in maximizing our time at the ports of call!
Bright Joe says
Whew, thanks for sharing this tips. Basically, I have a dream to travel the whole world with my 3 bros! I often read your blog, thanks for sharing all these! 😀
Heather Widmer says
Thanks so much for the kind comment. Traveling around the world with your three brothers would be amazing! So glad to hear that we’ve provided some travel inspiration and thank you for following us along on our journey 🙂
Great blog, really enjoy all of your tips. Question regarding turning credit into cash. You mentioned to do it before you hit US waters. What if our cruise is to Alaska? How does that work?
Heather Widmer says
Hey VW, thanks for the comment and question. Your Alaskan cruise route is likely going to be at least 2 miles offshore at periods of time during your sailing. During this time, the ship will be in international waters and the casino will be operational. You’ll then have an opportunity to turn your credit into cash.
Enjoy your cruise!
Maria Morris says
My husband and I are looking into a cruise for the first time and we can’t seem to come across answers to a lot of our questions. Love this article! Helped us incredibly! Couple more though if you don’t mind.
Does it cost any money to just get off the ship during regular stops, and hang out at the beach?
I expect to be spending some extra money on tips. I’m sure not only is it expected, but I’m sure the crew relies on it as a part of their income.
I would expect the typical 15-20% on dining. What is a typical tip for a free meal? Or room service, and turn down services? Where else am I expect to tip that I’m not thinking of?
John Widmer says
Hi Maria! So glad you found this to be helpful! We’re happy to answer your questions…
No, it doesn’t cost anything to get off the ship and walk around independently, go to the beach, etc. That’s often what we do! 🙂
As for tipping, the cruise will automatically add “gratuities” to your onboard account, which is charged to the card you have on file on the final day. The exact amount varies by ship, but usually it’s somewhere between $10-$15 per person, per night. These gratuities cover your tips for the wait staff and your stateroom attendant (cleaning, turndown service, etc.) It’s not necessary to tip the wait staff on top of the gratuities they receive, but you can certainly adjust the gratuity amount higher or lower, if you desire, based on the service you received. The only other place you would generally tip on the ship is the bar staff and casino staff. They are not covered by the gratuities, so you can tip them directly.
Hope that helps and you have a fantastic experience on your first cruise!
We’ve taken at least 10 cruises and yet I still found many of these to be very helpful! Thanks!
Heather Widmer says
Hey Cyndi, thanks for the comment! We’re thrilled to learn that you found some of our cruise tips helpful, especially coming from a seasoned cruiser 🙂
Matthew Ervin says
Wow, this is truly amazing. Y’all are so cute together! So happy for your experiences and for going out of your way to share them with us! I have learned A LOT from this blog. Again, thanks! About to read some more!
Heather Widmer says
Hi Matthew, thank you so much for the comment and kind words! So glad that you have learned a bit from our travel experiences.
Here’s to you and future travels!
I loved all the information you have in this post. It has been most helpful as I am preparing myself and my boyfriend for our first cruise for the end of this year. I am an avid planner and all of these tips and tricks are exactly what I have been looking for to get started and are great for my piece of mind. Now I have an idea on where to start as I tackle this huge trip we are taking (it’s only 6 days but in my mind it feels like months).
I do have a question, I have traveled from state to state before by airplane but I have never taken a cruise and honestly I am deathly nervous. So nervous I don’t even want to to go, but we are going no matter what and I need some advice on how to turn my nervousness into excitement (at least some of it). I need some help; with it being only months away if I don’t change my view I won’t be able to plan correctly or pack correctly or be able to generally enjoy myself when it comes time to go. 🙁 If you have any sort of ideas or advice I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you very much.
John Widmer says
You have nothing to worry about 🙂 Cruising is one of the most fun and relaxing travel experiences out there. You may be nervous now, but once you board that ship you’ll find that all your concerns will just melt away. There’s a stat out citing that ninety-something percent of first time cruisers say they’ll return again to take another cruise. That’s quite the satisfaction rate! The biggest hurdle to get over is just taking that first cruise in the first place. The only thing to be nervous about is the possibility of being hooked on cruising and not wanted to leave the ship after your six days. Get excited! 🙂
Hi there. I had to check your post a few times to make sure I hadn’t written it myself!
We went on our first cruise a few years ago. I’m a bit of a deal maven and got super caught up in a terrific deal I’d found. In all of my excitement of booking the steal, I neglected to acknowledge that I was *terrified* at the thought of the cruise! Some of it was logical – worries about seasickness or not being able to get off the boat. And some of it was illogical – dreading open water, falling overboard, etc.
As we boarded on our departure day, I was near tears. The enormity of the ship overwhelmed me and I felt like I was stuck doing this thing I didn’t want any part of. Like you I wanted to be excited but was too nervous to think straight. We immediately bought the liquor package (wise) and took our pina coladas to the top of the ship. I was panicked and annoyed with myself and my bf was dutifully trying to calm me. But as the fun music started playing and the boat pulled away with a lot of waving and fanfair, my anxious blubbering quickly turned to giggling and clicking glasses.
The truth is, the ship is truly akin to a floating Vegas hotel. It feels very safe and the extra traveler insurance I purchased made me feel that we’d be set in case of an emergency. Knowing wifi is avail (if expensive) helps you feel connectivity is possible. And, truthfully, the vibe was so fun and the activities so numerous, we were constantly occupied.
I scoured the internet for someone who might say the right thing to calm me. You’ve probably come and gone on your cruise by now, but if there’s another fearful adventurer, hopefully this aids in alleviating some of that extra anxiety.
I even contacted a friend who had been aboard that Carnival ship that got stuck without power for several days. She said she’d have no qualms about returning in a heartbeat, even with that mess.
It truly is fun and relaxing…even a bit silly. We had a blast and surprised ourselves.
John Widmer says
Thank you Lauren for giving your personal story. From trembling to giggling – love it! Perhaps the person who initially wrote this comment has come and gone on her cruise, but am sure someone else will likely stumble across this thread and I do hope your heartfelt words will appease them, and help to get them on the ship so they can go through the same transformation as you have. Cheers to you and we hope you have more happy cruising adventures in the future! 🙂
Great tips – going on our 2nd cruise, this time with Carnival, in February.
I am “amending” my list of items to take, because of some of your suggestions.
Heather Widmer says
Hey Carrie, thanks for the comment! So glad you found our suggestions to be helpful. Enjoy your cruise!
I am actually pleased to glance at this webpage posts which carries tons of helpful data, thanks for providing these data.
Heather Widmer says
Thanks so much for the comment, we’re thrilled that you found our Cruise Hacks to be helpful!
Going on our first cruise in January. These tips have been very helpful. One question: Can onboard credit be used for gratuities? Thanks.
Heather Widmer says
Hey AJ! Thanks for the comment, so happy you found our tips to be helpful. Yes, most of the time you can apply on board credit toward gratuities. However, this my vary by cruise line and the type of credit you’ve received. We’d recommend calling your cruise lines to confirm. Enjoy your first cruise!
These are great tips! I especially enjoyed the wifi section. I just returned home from a cruise and I was happy to see some push notifications come through.
I totally agree about checking out the hot tub during the rain – it’s the only time we got to enjoy the hot tub kid-free.
On the first few nights of a cruise, I find it helpful to deploy a thin glowstick on the step-up to the bathroom. It’s easy to stub a toe in the dark until you get used to it.
John Widmer says
That’s a great tip – thanks for adding! 🙂 Not only is it great to not stub you toe but also I hate turning on the bright bathroom lights in the middle of the night because it always wakes me up and is hard to go back to sleep. Your glowstick idea definitely solves that. Will have to give it a try next time. Thanks!
J Sherwin says
There’s no need to turn on those BRIGHT bathroom lights in the middle of the night if you bring along a couple of cheap battery operated votive lights. We attach super strong neodymium magnets to them.
John Widmer says
Also a great idea and another perfect use for those super strong magnets!
Janet Comer says
I have read lots of cruise tips and yours are the best! We are going on Royal Caribbean in Oct I have prepurchased the wifi and was planing to use it with our Laptop. to watch movies, emails and keep up with kids and grandkids I’m going to buy minutes from AT&T for my husband and I to use for finding each other on ship I’m a little nervous about using both correctly. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for your help
Heather Widmer says
Hey Janet! Thanks for the kind words!
As far as the wifi, we wouldn’t recommend streaming movies on the laptop, as that will quickly us up whatever minutes you purchased. Also, the bandwidth may not be strong enough to stream movies, but Royal Caribbean has recently upgraded their wifi, so maybe it will be. Any other wifi usage on your laptop should work just fine. As for the phone, I’d need to know your AT&T package to comment, but you can connect your mobile device to the ships wifi too. Be sure also to check your AT&T package to understand your exact coverage to avoid costly roaming charges. Have a fantastic cruise!
Spy Gear says
Cool tips! One of my most effective hassle-free and money-saving must-haves during travels is a pair of two-way radio. i use this when with a friend or loved one so we can communicate more easily when we’re apart.
Heather Widmer says
Hi! Thanks for the comment! The two-way radio is an excellent idea, thanks so much for sharing!
Matthew Ervin says
I have wondered bow well two way radios work on the ships through all the walls and nooks and crannies. Have you had good success with communicating by walkie talkie?
Heather Widmer says
We’ve never personally used walkie talkies, so can’t comment from firsthand experience. However, we do see fellow cruisers using them on occasion. I think most people use the cruise line’s app (where available) to stay connected.
Mike Klubok says
Thank you so much for sharing these Wow tips! I will be sharing them with friends and family!
Heather Widmer says
Hi Mike! Thanks so much for the comment and sharing!
Interesting article, im looking for wifi tips and this is it! Thank you
Heather Widmer says
Hi! Thanks so much for the comment. So happy you found the tips to be helpful!
Always on the move says
Thanks for this informative post,
One thing that I noticed last cruise was that when people arrived back to the ship after a day at port, they would bypass the liquor check-in by placing one alcohol bottle in their backpack/purse and checking in a different set of bottles being able to take the unchecked bottle to the room. There are some vendors that deliver the liquor to ship after purchase but there are still a few vendors that leave that task to the customer. I still think that it is easier just to buy the beverage package and not have to worry about it and fully enjoy my vacation.
John Widmer says
Interesting observation and thanks for sharing! And having a the beverage package during our last two cruises, we completely agree with your sentiments there. It’s often so worth if you’re going to have more than a few drinks each day. And then you don’t have to worry about your spending – just relax and have fun! 🙂
Julie Charles says
This is well thought out, well organized and extremely valuable information. We’re going on our 5th cruise in August and I’m still very interested in “hacks” or any kind of tip that might enhance my trip. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I too, am a firm believer in treating crew members with the utmost respect and dignity and I often tell them on the first night not to worry so much about our cabin.
John Widmer says
Thanks Julie! There seems to be so many cruising hacks out there so this was our attempt at gathering some of our favorite hacks and putting them in one place. Happy to hear you found them valuable. And yes, definitely important to treat crew members well. Often, they’ll treat you well in return! 🙂 We sometimes make friends with the crew, as often times they’ll be surprised to learn that we’ve visited, or temporarily lived in, their home countries. It’s always a fun icebreaker for us. Funny, we do the same as you with our cabin steward. We’re not THAT messy that we need to have our room cleaned twice daily, lol. So we always let them know that it’s A-ok if they ever miss our room. This always seems lift some weight off their shoulders and is our little way of letting them know that we won’t be high maintenance. Hope you have a great 5th cruise in August. Enjoy!
Oh ya, that’s what I’ll do as well namely hang the “don’t disturb” sign outside and leave the room. I don’t need the room cleaned everyday and it’ll make the Room Steward’s life easier. I worked on cruise ships so I know just how long they’re in their boots everyday.
#18, 19, 24, 25… Among others… How to piss off the crew who serve you and come across as a grade-A cheap-o jerk. We talk about how awful you are in the crew bar every night.
John Widmer says
Really? I’m actually quite surprised by this comment.
#18 Get your minutes refunded. When I spend 10 minutes ($5) for a page to load and it doesn’t load, I would expect to be refunded since I did not receive the service I paid for. If you ordered a beer at a bar and only received an empty cup, would you not complain to the bartender and ask for the beer that you ordered?
#19 Ask crew for best wifi location. I treat crew members as friends, not servants. And so having a friendly chat with a non-busy crew member about wifi onshore doesn’t seem like I’d be putting them out much and it’s info I appreciate very much.
#24 Order two entrees. The only reason why I even suggest this is because half of the servers we’ve had on cruise ships absolutely insist on bringing me two entrees despite me only wanting one. This often seems to make them happy to somehow over serve me. I’m actually on a cruise right now and it happened to me last night. I insisted on one, but he insisted on bringing me two because he really wanted me to try a dish he thought I’d like.
#25 Request an entree as an appetizer. Again, this is another move that is often suggested by the servers themselves. I fail to see how this would make someone a grade-A cheap-O jerk.
I realize that there can be some very rude cruise passengers and have witnessed it firsthand. I’ll apologize on their behalf if they have left you jaded and bitter, which it seems that they have. But not all of us are “awful” nor do I think these cruise hacks contribute to that. Cruise passengers are often spending large sums of money that they’ve worked hard for and saved hard for to be delivered an incredible experience. This post is an attempt to help passengers make the most of their experience and enjoy cruising, which I’ve received much positive feedback that it, in fact, does.
Well stated! I thank you for the time and attention to detail and for sharing all of these wonderful tips. I’ll be going on a cruise at the end of the year and I’m looking forward to implementing all of them. Best wishes…⚓️
I am confused about why crew members would mind letting a passenger know where to find wifi at higher speed or lower price?
John Widmer says
Yup, was also confused by that!
Matthew Ervin says
Kiki, that sounds depressing that you can’t find anything better to discuss with your fellow crew members. I feel sorry for you, and those like you. Maybe some research, or a few visits to a therapist, could enrich your life if you could learn how to be more positive and appreciative. Or, if you really can’t learn to love and appreciate your job, what’s keeping you there? YOLO, find something you enjoy, perhaps. Be happy!
These tips are amazing! I have never been on a cruise before but these will for sure insure I have an amazing time without having to hassle around much because of a lot the tips! Can’t wait for this trip now. Thanks for sharing!
John Widmer says
So glad to hear these tip were helpful! Thanks so much for letting us know. We hope you have a great first cruise and that these tips help to make it even more enjoyable! 🙂
Rick Scholz says
Thanks for the great ideas… you gave me a couple new ideas I never heard before.
FYI, I’ve read multiple reports on Carnival that while power strips (in good condition) are permitted, surge protectors are not (and can be confiscated). Apparently the surge protection interferes with the ship’s electrical system.
(The Belkin model you recommend is a surge protector, so it would not be allowed under this policy).
John Widmer says
Glad we could give you a few new ideas! Some of these tips are tried & true, so we’re always happy when we can share a few fresh ideas.
Thanks for the heads-up about the surge protectors on Carnival. We’ve used this particular Belkin model on Celebrity, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean and it has worked beautifully. I have not personally used it on Carnival and don’t know much their surge protector policy. However, I can report that a friend of ours used this exact model on a Carnival Cruise in November 2015. He reported that it worked fine on the Ecstasy and that it was not confiscated. So not sure if it may vary or perhaps they may just be looking to confiscate those big bulky surge protectors / power strips. Either way, thanks so much for the heads-up on this! I’ll send Carnival an email to see if they can provide a finite answer.
Alice Marie says
Did you get an answer to this from Carnival? We frequently travel on Carnival and have purchased two of the units that you recommend for future cruises on RC and NCL.
John Widmer says
Actually, we had previously suggested a different power adapter. But we can confirm that Cruise Power Strip now recommended in this post “Adheres to Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Norwegian and all major lines’ terms & conditions.” It is “No Surge Protector & Without Extension Cord to be fully cruise ship compliant.”
John F Bremer Jr says
Hey John and Heather,
I’m really enjoying your blog! The quality of the information you’re providing and your presentation are outstanding. My wife and I love to travel and we’ve traveled yearly to Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean for the past 40 odd years. About 5 or 6 years ago we started cruising and have done a couple of Spring transatlantics. As a result we’ve taken up Zumba and Salsa and have become quite good dancers. When you consider that a dance lesson or a Zumba class at home can easily run you $10-$20 an hour per person, dancing for free on board is a great value! As you suggest, we’ve found the wine packages on board and the in-room bottle service a great value, but have still managed to push a 15 night bar bill on Celebrity > $800, but when you’re only paying $700 per person for a balcony, that’s still a good overall value. We’ve also take your stairs only advice and usually manage to gain less than 5 pounds per week 🙂
I’ve recently started a blog targeted at cheap around the world cruising for retired folks and I’ve been planning an example 1 year cruise for < $50 per day. I've been using the VacationsToGo.com searches and sorting by the nightly cost as you describe, and then I've also been using other search tools looking for 7 day cruises for < $500 which some cruise engines will let you do in an advanced search. By the end of the year I'm planning to deploy my own search engine and app that will automate a lot of the process of planning a year long cruise staying under a user specified per night budget.
Thanks again and happy travels!
John Widmer says
Hey John! Thanks so much for stopping by our blog. We wholeheartedly agree with the incredible value of cruising. Although we haven’t been able to get as much out of the dance courses as you have. We tried learning Tango on a repositioning cruise to South America and failed miserably. I totally blame our lack of coordination and not the dance instructors, lol. And $700 pp for a balcony on a 15-day Celebrity cruise is reason enough to splurge on some cocktails in our opinion! That’s fantastic.
This search engine and app that you’re describing sounds brilliant. Feel free to send us an email if you need any beta testers. Love the concept! All the best on the development and we’ll keep abreast on the blog. Happy to connect and happy travels to you too!
Alice Marie says
Any more word on the cruising around the world app? We are both retired and looking to add it to a future cruise. Have 3 in the works right now, but want to do an around the world.
Love this! The only tip I would add is to bring Febreeze for the bathroom in the stateroom:)
John Widmer says
Oooh, great tip! Sometimes things can get a little stinky in those tight corners 😉
Went on a ladies trip sharing cabins with different relatives. One of them brought those little jars of poo-pouri and handed them out as gifts to each lady. They were a hit and worked like a charm!
Heather Widmer says
Hey Jaquel, thanks for the comment. What a wonderful gift idea and a great way to keep the cabin smelling fresh, thank you for sharing!
Angela Karitis says
Poo~Pourri is so perfect for cruises! It traps odor and it’s all natural and safe to flush! Love the 10mL size for travel and of course the 2oz scent “Ship Happens.” 🙂
Steven Weber says
Room service breakfast is free on Royal Caribbean so long as you don’t request delivery during off hours (midnight to 5 am I think). Not sure about other room service food options but it’s great to avoid the crowds and get off the boat early on port days!
John Widmer says
Thanks for the update Steven! On our last Royal Caribbean cruise, it wasn’t included but it seems this has changed. I’ll edit the article to reflect that. Thanks again for pointing that out. Completely agree with you sentiments about room service breakfast on port days. Eat in and beat the crowds! 🙂
Wow. These are fantastic. I have bookmarked this awesome resource for future reference. Can’t wait until my next adventure now. Thanks so much!
John Widmer says
Thanks for the feedback. Its so nice to hear these tips are proving useful! Hope you enjoy your next adventure wherever that may be. Happy travels!
I would like to find out which cruise lines have it so you never have to get all dressed up for dinner. We are more simplistic and would like to keep everything very casual. Thank you for any input you may have.
John Widmer says
We share your sentiments and Norwegian cruise line is probably best for that. They don’t enforce a formal night like most other cruise lines. On NCL, they tend to have one night during the cruise that you dress up only if you want. Most other cruise lines you can still go fairly casual except for the planned formal nights.
We just got back on 5/13/2018 from a cruise to Bermuda on the Norwegian Escape and there was no formal night