Thursday, April 26, 2012

Saving at Sea

The cruising infographic I shared several weeks ago presented several suggestions for saving money on the ship (see section 5), and while they were good suggestions, they can stand to be expanded upon and I have a few tips of my own.

Keep track of your drinking and gambling expenses - This seems like a no-brainer, but you can actual control some of this before you ever set foot on the boat.
  1. Know yourself - I'm not a huge alcohol drinker. I may purchase two cocktails during the course of a cruise. Don't get me wrong, I'll have a couple of glasses of rum punch during the previous cruisers reception (and let's be honest, they're a lot more "punch" and a lot less "rum" at those things) but it's just not a place that I'm willing to spend a lot of money. What I do love is soda. That is my weakness. I don't drink coffee. I get my caffeine via Dr. Pepper. I figured out that if you're going to drink more than two or three a day, it's worth it to get a soda card. I know on Carnival, you can find out the price online, but I've gotten them enough that I know about how much it'll be. If you do some google searching, you can sometimes find drink menus that include prices so you can see how much your favorite might be.
  2. Bring your own - I know on Carnival, each adult who is of age can bring a bottle of wine in their carry-on luggage (DO NOT check it. It will be confiscated and returned at the end of the trip. My mother-in-law made this mistake last time!) There is a corkage fee if you want to take your bottle to the dining room and have it with dinner each night, BUT there is nothing preventing you from carrying in a glass of something from somewhere else. If you order something, just hang on to your glass. Pour up a glass in your room before dinner and just bring it with you! You can also bring sodas with you, but I think it's limited to one case per person, and it's just a headache to try to carry and keep up with that, so I never do. I know several people who have. It's a personal choice.
  3. Share - I guess because of people passing around soda cards, the past few times they've been sticklers for swiping it and checking to make sure I'm the one using my card to get a soda, and I'm ok with that. However, even in a restaurant at home Jeff will often pick up my soda and take a sip, and so I am happy to let him do that on vacation, too. This also works the other way when he has a cocktail or something and I just want a little taste of it!
  4. Use cash in the casino - until my last cruise, I could always use quarters in the slot machine (which is the only thing Jeff or I have ever played in the casino) so it was never an issue of charging to our account. This last time the quarters weren't an option in the machine but I THINK (so don't be mad if I'm wrong) you can go to the casino cashier, at the very least, to get chips for table games. If that's your thing, just use the cash and avoid using the account. When you're out of money, you stop playing. It's not a hard concept.
Use ship's phone and internet sparingly. Rates are usually steep. - Yes, they really are. However, you don't have to be completely cut off while you're on vacation (although personally I recommend it!)
  1. Turn your phone on "airplane mode". If you can't stand the idea of turning it off for the week (or like me, you have games, music, books, and all you "fun stuff" on it) keep it on airplane mode to avoid charges for the call or text message from that person who forgot you were gone or sent something to everyone they know.
  2. Use your phone OFF the boat in port. No kidding, you have to get off the boat and usually off the pier for the carrier to change (this was especially true in Mexico). If you HAVE to call home or check messages, it's cheaper to pay for that international coverage than the "cellular at sea" service, which is an option also.
  3. Share with someone. The last cruise we took, there were about 12 of us who were all flying home together. And we all wanted to do the online check-in the day before. So rather than everyone individually buying a minimum of 15 minutes (or whatever it was) to do something that took maybe 2 minutes, each person chipped in a few dollars and we had one or two people that took care of checking everyone in online.
  4. REMEMBER - IT'LL ALL BE THERE WHEN YOU GET HOME (or when you get back into port)
Always pay attention to your running balance on the ship. - I really don't know that I could break this one down into anything simpler, but I do want to suggest a couple of ways of doing this.
  1. Keep ALL your receipts. Yup, even from the bar (for some people, especially from the bar!). At the end of each day, before you go to bed, add them up and see what you spent for the day. Maybe keep a running list in a journal or notebook somewhere so you can also see what you've spent OFF the boat to know your totals.
  2. Check in at the purser's desk. There's almost always someone there and they can tell you your account balance at any time. Some ships now also have a sort of "on-demand" in room tv system that allows you to do this as well.
  3. Limit charging privileges. You can have everyone in your family linked to the same account but only one or two people have charging privileges. This can help those who are prone to impulse purchases if they must consult with someone else!
  4. Carry cash. No, you can't use cash in the gift shop or at the bar. But you can make payments at the purser's desk at pretty much any time. If you want to check in every day and make a payment every day, that's certainly an option. When you run out of cash, you have to stop charging! And if the casino won't take those rolls of quarters, never fear because the purser's desk will be happy to take them and apply them to your account!
A few more thoughts - Here are a few more tips not mentioned on the infographic, but are worth considering.
  • If you're going to book a spa treatment, do it during a port day. It's generally cheaper. Also keep an eye out for daily specials
  • Although room service is included, tipping for that is not. Make sure you have a little bit of cash for this if you think that's something you want to use.
  • Bring your own water bottle to refill. The water on the boat is fine to drink (and take with you to shore) and while you can buy bottles on the ship, they're expensive.
  • I always bring my own cup for my sodas rather than buying the cup they're selling (some cruise lines buying the cup is the only way to do their unlimited soda program, so know that before you carry one). I don't ever ask the bartenders to fill my personal cup, and I was warned by one that some wouldn't do it, but many of them will see the cup in my hand and offer so I will happily accept. Even if they don't, I can just dump it immediately from one cup to the next and not have to keep up with the glass! It's also the only way you can take something (not in a bottle) off the ship!


  1. I've always wanted to go on a cruise, but then I start thinking about being in the middle of the ocean and I get freaked out! But if we ever decide to go on one, I'm calling you!!!

    1. You should absolutely go on one. I'm trying to convince everyone I know with kids to take a Disney cruise so I have an excuse to go, too!