Cruising can be great value but don’t be fooled by the idea of “all-inclusive” – there’s still plenty of ways to spend money once you’re onboard. Here are a few tips to cut down your costs.

Drink up

Consider pre-purchasing a drinks package before you board. These don’t just cover alcoholic drinks – you can get packages for water, soft drinks or coffees. Remember that cruise lines charge restaurant prices for drinks and a gratuity charge of 10 to 15 per cent is generally added on top of each purchase, so your tab can quickly add up. Do the maths and work out how much you would need to drink each day to make the package worthwhile.

It’s a shore thing

Most onboard experiences, like the spa or a specialty restaurant, will offer deals on port days when they expect most passengers to be off the ship. If you don’t mind missing out on the destination it can be a great day to treat yourself and save as much as 50 per cent.


Wifi on cruise ships is notoriously expensive and you could be paying up to 75c per minute. Avoid using the onboard service and wait til you’re onshore – you will always be able to find a local wifi hotspot providing free or reasonably priced access. Or you can switch off altogether and embrace the lost art of travelling without technology.

Choose your own adventure

All cruise lines offer a huge range of activities at each port, but the prices can be exorbitant. Instead of paying $50 per person for a basic bus tour of the city, see if there is a local bus you can take. Do you need to take a “tour” to the beach, or can you just take a taxi? Check out local operators offering the same experience for a better price. Most will be familiar with cruise passengers and can offer a package that will suit your budget and timeframe. The only danger here is that if you are on a privately organised excursion and you’re late getting back, the ship won’t wait for you – so keep a close eye on your watch.

Tipping the scales

Remember that a daily per person gratuity charge is added to your room account, so don’t feel the need to tip on any extras you pay for (like bar bills or spa treatments). If you thought the service was fantastic and deserves a little extra then go ahead, but don’t feel obliged just because there’s a line for it on the bill.

Cheque please!

Ships are cash-free environments, so you will have an account and before you disembark you will need to pay any additional costs that you have incurred. Check the bill carefully – mistakes can be made and you could end up paying for things you didn’t have or that were included in a package. Keep a careful record of what you buy and match it to your bill before handing over your credit card.

Images: Getty

This article first appeared on Over60.