The cruise lines have their own trip tips on their websites and you can find a multitude of other websites with cruise tips online. It is worth reading up on some of these articles before you even book your cruise. Why? Because you can maximize your dollar, save money, and enjoy your cruise more. Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Shop Around Online for Cruises
Shop online for the best cruise prices. If you go straight through the cruise line website you are probably paying more. I know because I personally did a price comparison of several cruise lines. We booked our group cruise trip via http://www.vacationstogo.com and got a great deal. I am not advertising for them, as I get zero compensation. I am just really pleased with the deal we got and their customer service was great! We used Agent Coffee White from this company and he was on top of any issues or questions we had.
2. Arrange Your Dining Time in Advance
Every cruise I have been on will give you a set dining time for your group. That time is the same for each night you are on the cruise. I have had late dining times and I hated it. This last cruise we arranged the 6:00 PM dining time ahead of time though our agent (Agent Coffee White at Vacations to Go) and it was perfect for our group. We ate and then we went to the evening shows. If you book a later dining time you have to go to a show first (if you want to see the big evening show) and then do dinner. It always felt awkward going so early to the show and I was often starving by the time I got to dinner.
3. Take Advantage of the On-Board Entertainment
You already paid for the entertainment when you paid for your cruise. Most ships have very few activities that are an extra charge. We didn’t have any additional activities cost us anything (with the exception of Bingo, but that had a cash prize). The games and gameshows have been very entertaining for every cruise I have been on. The main performances have always been sensational too! Go to them, but plan your schedule ahead or at least each morning. It is easy to lose track of people if you have a group. Cell phones don’t work on board and the ships are huge, so if you don’t have a meeting place and you get split up then you can literally be searching for hours. Arrange the schedule at breakfast and everyone take a photo of the schedule so they have it on their phone. They don’t have cell reception, but they work to take photos! We did this and if someone wants to opt out of any activitiy they certainly can, but at least they know where they can meet up with the group if they get separated.
4. Upgraded Rooms Can Be Over Rated
I have stayed in both the best suite on a ship as well as the cheapest staterooms. If you are like me and only plan to be in the room to sleep and get ready, then opt for the cheaper room and save your money for something else. I have never been overly impressed with the upgraded rooms. You pay 25-30% more per person just to get a balcony. I have had balconies and spent a total of maybe an hour on the balcony for the entire cruise. Get out of your room and enjoy the ship! The bathrooms are tiny in all the rooms, so expect that regardless of upgrade. Also, I noticed that in the upgraded rooms that I have had, that we didn’t get better seats by the pool or even a better dining experience. The only difference is the size of room really, so every person on the cruise in the general population outside of your rooms.
5. Watch Your On Board Spending
Off hand I can think of two cruising experiences where my on-board expenses added up to more than I spent to actually go on the cruise! No joke! Those drinks, gratuities, and shopping expenditures add up quickly! Keep track of how much you spend daily, so you don’t go into shock when you get the bill at the end of your cruise. Your room key is also your credit card for the trip, so they have made it really easy for you to spend your money onboard.
6. Bring Your Wine Along
Check into the rules for the cruise line you book. Most allow a couple of bottles of wine per cabin. Our recent Royal Caribbean cruise allowed 2 bottles of wine per cabin. Wine is one of the most up charged items on a cruise. If you don’t drink at all, that’s great!! You will have more money to keep in your pocket at the end of a cruise!
7. Buy their Soda Cup
I am a soda drinker. Most cruise lines charge for soda. Juice and coffee are included, but if you are like me then you are going to have to pay for soda on board. For the cruises I have been on, you can buy one of their cruise cups and the soft drink package. This gives you unlimited refills on Soda. It usually ends up being about $10 a day for the soda package.
8. Book Excusions in Advance
Many excusions through the ship will be completely booked by the time you go on your cruise. I learned that the hard way. Also, the cruise lines up charge their excusions. You can get a cheaper deal by using an online company such as http://Www.shoreexcursioneer.com. Read the reviews for their offerings at each port. They usually have a variety of companies to chose from. Look for good/high ratings and written reviews by previous costumers.
9. Plan Your Outfits for your Activites
Check your cruise itinerary before you pack. Most cruise lines have a dressy or formal night. This is your opportunity to break out those cocktail dresses and evening gowns. For a short cruise they typically have 1 formal night. For longer cruises there are more opportunities to dress up. If you are like our group we dressed up each night. The main dining rooms are typically fancy so why not dress up? That way you can go to the show dressed up too. For myself I packed 2 outfits for each day along with swim wear and cover ups. I had a casual/ summer type of outfit for each day and then a dressier outfit for each evening. Even with the small rooms don’t underpack! Remember you always will feel more out of place being under dressed than over dressed. I can’t tell you how many times I overhead people complaining that they didn’t have enough dressy clothes along. Not our group- we were prepared!! Luggage typically can slide right under the bed for storage, so don’t worry about where you will put it all.
10. Bring Meds and Your Passport
Pack some Dramamine and even some Zophran from the doctor if you can. One day of rough seas and a good percentage of people get some sort of seasickness. It can range from dizziness and nausea to vomiting and not being able to leave your room. Do yourself a favor and just throw in some meds in case you encounter rough seas.
Be sure to have a current passport that won’t expire for the next 6 months too! Check into renewing your passport well in advance, as it can take a while to get a new or renewed passport from the government.