14 Tips to Saving Money on a Cruise and 3 Things We spent Money on That was Totally Worth It

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We are back from our cruise! We had a lot of fun and enjoyed our 5 day vacation on a ship. While we were on the cruise, we discussed the differences between a cruise ship and an all inclusive resort. I like both, but the views from the ship are just amazing that I would suggest that you don’t pass up an opportunity to go on a cruise.

Being on the cruise, it got me thinking about all the money that you can just throw away. I saw people after people just throwing their hard earned money down the drain in the name of a good time. My wife and I had a great time all without spending loads of money.

Based on my experiences from being on a cruise, I have created a list of ways to save money while on the big ship that can become a money pit!

Strategy #1: Book Late or Book Early

My wife and I did not use this strategy, because we had a one week window to book and couldn’t chance not getting a room on a boat over spring break. However, according to Matt at nomadicmatt.com, you can find cruises for $30 per person per day by booking late and having flexibility. That’s much better than the $125 per person per day that we paid for our cruise.

In terms of what you get, I don’t think $125 per person per day is too bad. Your food is all included, drinks at all meals are included and all the amenities of the ship are included.

Strategy #2: Use Points to Fly to the City of The Cruise Port

We chose to cruise out of Tampa, instead of Texas. By doing this, we needed to find a flight. Luckily, we had built up points on our credit card to get our flight to Tampa for free (except the government fees of $22).

Strategy #3: Book a Cruise Close to Your Hometown

Yes, we used points to fly to the cruise port and saved on the flights because of points, but a cheaper option would be booking your cruise close to your home. Going out of Galveston would have been cheaper for us, because we could have driven one-hour to get to the port.

However, flying and driving are comparable, because parking at the Tampa Port was super expensive ($95 for 6 days). Our flights (using points) and Uber rides were cheaper than the price of parking ($22 [flights] + $22 [Uber Ride to Port] + $40 [Uber Ride to Airport] = $82). Once you add in airport parking ($48 for 6 days), traveling to a different port is more expensive ($48 + $82 = $132).

Strategy #4: Avoid the Specialty Restaurants

I did not understand the reasoning for having restaurants that aren’t included in the price of the ship. I am already paying to be on the ship and then you want to charge me more for a fancier restaurant? The pricing at the restaurants were crazy. They were an extra $40 per person to an extra $100 per person.

It just didn’t make sense to me, therefore my wife and I ate all of our meals at the included restaurants. That means that we paid nothing extra to eat on the ship.

Strategy #5: Bring Your Own Water

This tip was given to us by my father-in-law. It was a great idea as the ship offered a case of 12 waters for $9.99. However, we brought on a case of 24 waters in one of our bags. This only cost us $1.99. That’s double the amount of water for $8 less.

Having the water in our room was a huge benefit. There were times that I was thirsty and having the water in the room was a lifesaver. We also took the water to land each time we left the boat. It allowed us to tour the cities and islands without worrying about finding water!

Strategy #6: Avoid the Drink Packages

I just could not justify getting a drink package on the ship, especially since the drinks at the meals (water, tea, lemonade, and coffee we included). The ship offered two drink packages.

  • Premium Drink Package (Any drink you want): $40 per day per person

  • Regular Drink Package (Does not include alcohol): $20 per day per person

Both my wife and I are not big soda pop drinkers, therefore, I didn’t see the benefit of paying $40 per day for an extra drink package. On top of that, we don’t really enjoy drinking alcohol, therefore the premium drink package did not make sense to us either.

Thus, we avoided the drink packages and were perfectly happy drinking water, tea, lemonade and juices at our meals.

Strategy #7: Use your On-Board Credit to Purchase Internet

Having kids at home, we want to be able to stay in touch with them. Therefore, we purchased internet for one device. It was perfect, because it allowed me to write an article last week and it allowed my wife to e-mail with her mom and sister.

This allowed us to keep up with our daughters while on the ship. We had an on board credit of $25, thus the internet for one device cost us $30 for 5 days on the ship. ($55-$25). I know that $6 per day for internet is a lot, but to be connected to our family while we were gone, I thought the $6 per day was worth it!

Strategy #8: Avoid Purchasing the On-Board Photos

They kept taking photo after photo of us on the ship. We went and looked at the photos, but we really didn’t find any that stood out to us. Therefore, we saved $20 and didn’t purchase any photos. We have the photos from our phones for our memories and didn’t really need an over priced 8x10 to bring home with us.

Strategy #9: Avoid the Casino

We walked through the casino to find the the theatre on the ship, but other than that we avoided the casino. I avoid gambling at all costs, because casinos are designed for you to lose money. Sometimes you may win, but over the long haul you will lose your shirt.

Not only that, but the casino was a place that you could smoke. Since my wife and I are not fans of cigarette smoke, we didn’t want to hang out in a smoke infested room to throw our money away.

Strategy #10: Pack enough Clothes

Pack enough clothes to avoid sending your clothes off to get washed. The cruise ship that we were on offered laundry service for one laundry bag at $35 per bag. By packing enough clothes, we saved $35!

Strategy #11: Avoid the Airport Transfer

The cruise line offered us an airport transfer for $25 per person. Instead we took an Uber and saved $10. However, there were also shuttles to the airport at $8 per person from an independent company. That would have saved us even more, but we had used all of our cash on our trip.

Strategy #12: Avoid the Art Auction

I am a fan of art and I would have wanted one of those amazing pictures, especially a Terry Redlin. However, we avoided the art auction, because we didn’t want to spend our vacation money on a painting. One couple told us that there were paintings going for $2,000 or more. I know artwork can be beautiful, but I can’t bring myself to spend $2,000 on a piece of artwork.

Strategy #13: Get Your Massages and Your Hair Done on Land

Yes, it is great that the ship offers spa services, but it comes at a much larger price tag!

Strategy #14: Enjoy The Free Entertainment!

The cruise ship has amazing free entertainment to enjoy. My wife and I enjoyed as much of the free entertainment that we could find. From the nightly events at the theatre to the dance parties at the center of the ship to the sports tournaments, we were never bored.

You paid for a room on the ship, you might as well take advantage of all the free stuff they offer!

What was totally worth the Price Tag?

Item #1: Shore Excursions

When we started on the cruise, we decided that we weren’t going to get any shore excursions. However, we changed our minds at the last minute and we were glad that we did. The excursion that we did was a lot of fun and offered us the ability to travel to the other side of the island (Cozumel).

Some people suggest saving on the excursion by finding your own excursions, but I find that there is a lot less hassle to book the excursion on the boat. We were able to pay for it on the boat and just enjoy once we got off the boat. We enjoyed the excursion and it was a lot less hassle than trying to find our own way to the other side of the island.

Now, you may not want to do an excursion at every stop as that may get pretty pricey, but one or two excursions is totally worth it in my book. We only booked one excursion and just wandered around George Town during our stop there.

Item #2: Tipping the Staff

This is not a number that is charged to you, but a number that you decide to spend. The cruise was my first cruise and I wish I could have tipped the staff a little better. Next time we go on a cruise, I will make sure to bring more for tips as I discovered that the staff is on a ship for months at a time. One staff member told us that their contract was for 7 months straight. Another staff member was on a 4 and a half month contract.

They work hard and work dang near everyday of their contract, therefore, I believe that they deserve a good tip. They deserve to be recognized for their hard work! You may feel differently, but I feel like tipping is one of the most important ways that you can spend money on a ship.

Item #3: The Cruise

That’s right, I believe that the amount of money that we spent was totally worth it. We got 6 days of ocean views. I was amazed everyday that we went to breakfast and just saw blue. It was beautiful and very relaxing. It was something that I had never experienced before in my life and I recommend it to anyone. It is just something that you can’t beat.

The experience was amazing also. My wife and I went to every show and almost every dance party on the ship. We had a blast dancing, and watching the shows. The shows and dance parties are very planned out! The amount of entertainment that you get on a ship is worth the price of just being on the ship!

Have you been on a cruise? Do you agree with my tips? Would you add anything?

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