18 Ways People Waste Money on Their First Cruise

Waste Money on Cruise: While nobody plans to waste money on a cruise, hundreds of people regrettably wind up doing just that.

It can be difficult to figure out the nuances of cruising, regardless of experience level. Although your basic cruise cost includes a lot, most passengers wind up paying more for extras like spa treatments, shore excursions, and alcoholic drinks.

Though what seems like a waste of money to one passenger may be “worth it” to another, there are a few certain ways to overspend. Here are 15 of the worst ways individuals blow money on cruise vacations, from buying photo packages to buying forgotten stuff at onboard stores.

18 Ways That Cruisers Waste Money on Their First Cruise

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1. They Don’t Buy a Drink Package

On cruises, drink packages are quite common. About alcoholic drinks, these packages are basically “all you can drink.” For a single daily fee, you can simply go to the bar anytime you get thirsty. In this approach, you can forget about the price of each drink separately.

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Purchasing a package rather than paying for each drink separately on a cruise might save passengers who enjoy drinking a lot of money.

For example, a bundle on Carnival is approximately $60 a day, while individual beers go about $7. If, therefore, you intend to consume more than eight beers in a day, the package will save you money. Other drinks, including wine, cocktails, soda and more are also featured. You may be tossing money out the window if you drink your portion without a box.

See if our Drink Package Calculator is worth it for you and for further information.

2. They Buy a Drink Package

Norwegian's drink packages

We just said that skipping a package costs consumers money. Some do, but for others, purchasing the beverage bundle when they won’t fully benefit is more of a waste.

You have to buy the package for every day of the cruise. Further discouraging sharing, several cruise lines require every adult in a cabin to purchase the package if one does.

Even on days when you are in port or use it sparingly, a drink package is a significant expense at $60–80 per day (and occasionally even more). Should you not make the most of it, it may become quite expensive. Before you buy, do the arithmetic.

3. They Buy Souvenirs When They Aren’t on Sale

Shopping on the cruise ship is plentiful, with everything from pricey watches to inexpensive mementos available. Yet exercise caution. When you are in a store on a ship in the middle of the sea, you cannot easily jump online to compare prices as you can at home.

If there is a memento you want, hold off until the ship is selling it. There are few people on the ship at any one time, hence sales are frequent. Being a little patience allows you to get something for less money than you would otherwise.

4. Not Bringing their Wine

Should you be a wine or champagne drinker, remember to include a bottle for boarding. Just about every cruise line allows you to carry on at least one bottle of wine or champagne per cabin, but you should always confirm with your particular line.

Anyone who intends to drink wine and forgets to pack their bottle is wasting a ton of money, given that it’s typical to pay $8–12 per glass while on board the ship.

5. Covering ATM fees

While no one loves to pay ATM fees, occasionally they are the cost of having access to cash. That price can seem downright absurd on a cruise liner. While using an ATM on land might cost you $2–3, there are machines at sea that charge up to $6.

Put otherwise, be sure you pack enough money for your journey. And should you run dry? Well, attempt to make only one trip to the ATM.

6. They Forget Items at Home

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DayQuil costs $17.99 and dental floss costs $5.25 on a ship.
While items sometimes get forgotten, you should make every effort to remember anything you could need while on a cruise.

Rather, you will have to make do with what is in port or on the ship. That usually translates into paying exorbitant costs for necessities. We have seen costs of $5.25 for dental floss and $17.99 for a bottle of cold medication, for instance. Instead, make sure you bring every one of the practical things you can find here—more than a dozen you wouldn’t think about.

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7. Overindulging in shore excursions

You don’t have to schedule a shore excursion at every port, despite what you’ll learn at onboard port briefings. In many well-known cruise destinations throughout the world, such Barcelona or Venice, it’s simple to see the main sights on your own by foot, by utilizing public transit, or by using ride-hailing services such Uber. This can be both far less expensive and perhaps more fun than taking a group tour.

For example, the Antoni Gaudi-designed Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, my favorite landmark in Barcelona, is just a few bucks away by subway. Adult tickets to the basilica cost 26 euros, or roughly $28.38; senior and student tickets are cheaper; children under 11 are free (purchase your tickets in advance to guarantee entry). Weigh those expenses against the $100 or more per person that a regular four-hour cruise trip to the basilica will cost.

8. If you only purchase excursions through your cruise line

Getting a shore excursion straight through your cruise line is simple. Just tick a box on an online form either before or while on board, and everything is set up. But you don’t have to schedule tours via your line, and it’s not always the greatest choice. When you reserve shore excursions through independent tour operators in ports or a tour booking site like Viator or ToursByLocals, you may frequently save a lot of money and have a better touring experience.

Independent travel is frequently much more intimate than direct bookings with cruise lines. Maybe they travel to the same location in a little van rather than a large motorcoach. Rather than about forty additional individuals, you might only have six or eight on a tour. It might be great to arrange a private tour with an independent tour operator if your group is large enough.

9. Not packing every toiletry you can need

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On a cruise ship, you will, find Band-Aids, aspirin and sunscreen. You will pay, though. Considerably. You are a captive audience, hence cruise companies price their onboard stores appropriately.

I pack everything from cold medication to seasickness tablets in a little “go bag” of over-the-counter medications into my baggage for every cruise. Seldom do I make use of any of it. I never, ever get slapped with an outrageous toiletry fee, though.

Remember to pack additional batteries for your camera if you are carrying one, while we’re talking about sundries.

10. For onboard expenditures, not using a rewards card

I take it you anticipated this one? Considering that TPG started out as a points-and-miles website, we would be foolish not to encourage you to use your credit card points as much as possible while making cruise-related transactions. One approach to achieve this is to link your onboard account to a credit card that provides bonus points for travel purchases. Perhaps the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which (apart from the yearly $300 travel credit) gives 3x Ultimate Rewards points on dining and travel. The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card also earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points when dining and 2x points when traveling.

11. Purchasing lavish spa treatments

Oceania Cruises' Spa Deck
(Credit: serapool)

All cruise liners have one thing, and that is exorbitant spa prices. A 75-minute massage at a cruise ship spa can easily cost up to $199, and that’s before the gratuity that is now automatically included on board many ships. Again, before an optional gratuity, a manicure on some vessels might cost you close to $50.

Many astute cruisers wait for spa treatments to go on sale as one tactic. A ship is frequently in port when this occurs. Because so many passengers are out sightseeing on port days, cruise ship spas struggle to draw clients and frequently lower prices to increase demand. The night before a port call, you may receive cabin newsletters that promote port-day spa discounts, and on port days, spa staff will be in the hallways advertising the offers.

12. Tipping twice for a spa service

As was already mentioned, certain cruise liner spas now automatically include a gratuity in the price of spa treatments, frequently between 18% and 20% of the total cost. When you go to check out, though, that’s not always obvious. Before you add additional 15% or 20% to the amount, be sure you’ve asked if a gratuity has already been included. You could wind up tipping twice otherwise.

13. On board shopping, for practically anything

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On cruise cruises, folks buy the weirdest stuff. There are stores on almost every ship larger than a tugboat, often several, that sell everything from tiny replicas of your ship to gold necklaces that are sold “by the inch.” There’s art, which is sold at auctions (how did this become a thing on cruise ships?), all the tanzanite you’ll ever need (for some reason, this is a cruise ship thing too), and a plethora of trinkets, jewelry, watches, and clothes—the latter of which frequently has the cruise line’s emblem splattered all over it.

That’s great if you’re into all this. Despite what the salespeople may attempt to convince you, it’s not always a deal. The cruise lines are aware that, as was already indicated, you are a captive audience.

14. Not using the airplane mode on your phone

Online, some of the biggest cruise ship horror stories are about novice cruisers who ran up thousands of dollars in phone bills while on board. When you leave your phone on and, instance, view videos online, this can occur. Talking, texting, and data on cruise ships are not included in many phone plans—even international plans—and you will have to pay outrageous roaming fees for these services, which will appear on your phone bill weeks later.

From ships, there are still ways to get online and make calls without going over budget. You may purchase a Wi-Fi package, for example, that allows you to stream movies and make FaceTime calls over Wi-Fi (on some ships) without using phone data. You can purchase cruise-specific plans in ahead of a trip from certain phone companies as well. I never, however, take that path. I don’t complicate. The instant I go on board a ship, I just put my phone in airplane mode and never turn it back on. I then activate the Wi-Fi on the phone, purchase a Wi-Fi package, and use it for all of my calling, messaging, and internet browsing. That way, an unforeseen charge cannot catch me off guard.

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15. Purchase of picture packages

On several cruise lines, photography is a major industry. When you arrive on a cruise, you can frequently find ship photographers waiting for you, usually close to the gangplank. They want to take your photo against one or more ship-related backgrounds. They’ll later reappear at the gangplank for port visits, in restaurants for supper, and on formal evenings in the hallways, snapping away. After that, all of these images show up in chargeable ship photography galleries.

As many TPG readers who cruise advise, look but don’t buy. While some of the pictures could be entertaining, the cost of most ship photos is ridiculously excessive. For a single digital picture, you may easily spend $20; you won’t even receive a print. Packages with several photos can cost in the hundreds of dollars. When you initially view the pictures at the shop, you could be ecstatic, but when you receive your ultimate bill after the cruise, you won’t be as happy.

16. Not booking your cruise with points

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Paying for a trip with points and miles isn’t always logical because securing a stateroom frequently takes a large amount of them. That does not, however, preclude you from using points and miles to schedule your travels to and from a ship.

Here at The Points Guy, you’ll find lots of tales on how to, say, spend $1,330 in points for a $16,000 ticket or plan a $27,000 round-the-world trip for only $168 in cash outlays. You might never pay cash for a cruise ship ticket again if you browse around a little.

17. Not requesting comps at the casino

Like casinos on land, those at sea frequently provide special benefits to their most devoted patrons. Make sure you introduce yourself to the casino manager at the beginning of your voyage if you want to play a lot in a shipboard casino, and find out if the line offers a casino players card. Free beverages, free dinners in extra-charge restaurants, free internet time, an onboard spending credit, or even a free future cruise could all be awarded to you depending on the line.

For example, Norwegian Cruise Line offers a formal Casino at Sea rewards program with five tiers, the highest of which can include free drinks while playing, private transfers from your home or hotel to the ship and back, and a waiver of your onboard service fees.

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18. They Don’t Walk Another Block to Save Some Money

There are stores, vendors, taxis, and more as soon as you step off the cruise ship. Though they typically charge tourist rates, all of these folks are there to serve cruise guests.

Rather, you might save some money by taking a little longer walk and taking a taxi or going a little farther to a store. In many ports, bargaining for prices is typical, so don’t be reluctant to tell someone what you want to pay rather than what is stated. It can spare you even more.

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