Onboard Savings on Cruises

Here's how to take advantage of onboard savings on your Mediterranean cruise.

Once you have made your booking, this is where bargain cruises can turn into luxury cruises you can't afford. Use these essential tips to help you save money while you're cruising.

Plan, plan, plan! It really pays (literally) to plan and research as much as you can before you go.

  • Hotel and transfer packages - it is usually almost always cheaper to book these yourself. The cruise line will add plenty to book it for you. Try travel websites like www.tripadvisor.com to find the right hotel and keep your cruise price down to the bargain you want.
  • Drinks - buy drinks packages upfront (check what's available on your ship). Most ships offer soda packages (unlimited soft drinks for a set price) which are great for kids and non-alcoholic drinkers. Another cruise tip is to bring your own drinks bottle and fill up from the free buffet. Some ships also do wine packages where you can pre-order from a set list for the duration of your trip. This can save quite a bit off the normal list price (typically 20%). If you're tempted to smuggle alcohol in your luggage, be prepared for them to confiscate it if it´s discovered!
  • Speciality restaurants - many ships have alternative restaurants that charge you a premium. The standard of food available in the dining room is generally superb, so unless its really special, don't bother.
  • Art auctions - beware! The free champagne is for a reason, they want you to spend, spend, spend. If you really like something, take a photo of it and see if you can get it cheaper on dry land. Chances are you can.
  • Photographs - the ships photographers will be snapping away like paparazzi trying to get that shot you can't refuse. You don't have to buy it. Take your own camera and be creative!
  • Internet access is great to have, but charges can be extortionate. Save money by going to an Internet cafe at one of the ports.
  • Mobile phones are very expensive to use on board ship. If you need to keep in touch with the kids or fellow passengers onboard you can buy cheap walkie talkies and talk as much as you like for free.
  • Casinos - avoid them if you can't afford to lose!
  • Spas - onboard spas are a lovely luxury, but it can be a very expensive treat. If you want to treat yourself, look out for the daily promotions and don't fall for the sales pitch to buy the products afterwards. You'll get them much cheaper at home.
  • Laundry and dry cleaning - if you pay per item it can be very pricey ($4 for a t-shirt). Either take some travel wash and a travel washing line, or use the set fee for one bag laundry days that are sometimes available.
  • Onboard shops - unless the products are cheaper than they are at home, don't buy them. Bring plenty of film, medical supplies, suncream and anything else you're likely to run out of or buy them when you dock.
  • Paying your bill - use the right plastic to pay your bill if it´s in a different currency. Check out your card company's policy on paying for goods in a different currency, some of them charge up to 3% for the privilege. Apply for one that doesn't charge and you could save a fortune.
  • Tipping - this is something you shouldn't skimp on. Crew often rely on tips for their wages so its always good to pay the recommended rates. BUT if you want to make sure the tips go to the person you are tipping, give them the envelope personally.
  • Shore excursions - this is probably the biggest expense if you intend to make the most of your sightseeing. If you opt for the ship's own shore excursions you will pay a premium. The advantages are that all the research has been done for you and all you have to do is turn up. You don't have to worry about getting around or getting back to the ship.

    If however you are on a budget or just want to get away from the crowds, and you don't mind arranging things yourself, you can do everything on offer at a fraction of the cost. You will also be able to avoid the crowds and get to places that a big coach may not be able to reach. The savings you will make getting the local train or bus can be significant. Most destinations also offer private taxi's which if you take with other passengers can often be cheaper than the ship's excursion and you've got your own private guide.
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