Money saving cruise tips from an experienced cruiser

I am fortunate enough to have a few cruises under my belt, we have been on 14 cruises. We are cruise people.....meaning we love everything about the cruise experience. We have been able to travel to some amazing places including Central America, The Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and Alaska. We've also been able to try different cruise lines but we generally stick to one in particular because we seem to find the best rates with them and cruise lines have loyalty programs so staying with one cruise line gets you VIP benefits.

I would say the first thing when deciding on a cruise is to "get a guy or gal",  call the cruise line and get a personal cruise consultant. We have a guy that we have talked to for at least 5 years that is our main point of contact at the cruise line, he calls us several times a year with deals and offers and when we are ready to book our cruise we call him and he customizes the cruise to fit our needs, price, cabin location, dinner times etc.

Cabin type and location vary depending on your preferences and how much you want to spend, we have tried interior, ocean view (window), balcony and mini suite.  An interior cabin on a lower deck is the most economical choice but keep these things in mind when considering one of these cabins..........way down low in the ship tends to be closer to the engine rooms or anchors so they can be noisy very early in the mornings when they are using the propellers to dock the ship at the ports, it is generally quiet when you are at sea.
 If you need sunlight to regulate your sleep rhythm then an interior cabin is not for you, if it's a 3 or 4 day cruise it's probably ok but if it's 7 days or longer the lack of sunlight can affect your sleep pattern. Everyone is different so you might be totally fine, I just know for me the lack of sunlight made it hard for me to sleep, I would wake up super early and constantly check the time because I didn't have light to tell me that it was morning.
An ocean view cabin will cost a little more than an interior but can still be a very economical choice with the benefit of a window or porthole.
Of course a balcony is more money and honestly I love having a balcony so much that the extra money is worth it. I have coffee delivered to my room everyone morning (that is a free service) and I sit out on my balcony and drink my coffee and just bask in the extraordinary feeling of being on the ocean thousands of miles away from everyday life.

Being prepared can save you a significant amount of money, make sure to bring your sunscreen and toiletries otherwise you will be cursing yourself for forgetting and having to pay $20 for a small bottle of sunscreen or $10 for deodorant. I always bring a lanyard for my sail and sign card, I didn't travel all this way and pay all this money to carry a purse around the ship so having my lanyard with my sail and sign card around my neck lets me be hands free.
I always bring an empty reusable water bottle with me on the ship, there are places that you can fill it with ice and water so you can have fresh water with you all the time, your free choices of beverages are coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade, juice (in the mornings) and hot cocoa. You can buy soda by the can or buy an all you can drink soda package at the beginning of the cruise if you need your soda fix, for an adult on a 7 day cruise it would cost you $61.95 and for kids it would be $40.89

Alcohol can be very expensive on the ship, I've learned a few things that can ease the pain of that final bill that they slip under the door on the last night of the cruise with all of your charges. The ship is cashless, everything is charged to your sail and sign card during the cruise and you settle up at the end with a credit card or cash, it's easy to get out of control buying drinks because you just sign a piece of paper and voila drinks appear but they add on tax and gratuities to each drink so a $10 glass of wine on the bar menu becomes a $12 glass of wine after the extra charge. 

Each adult in your cabin is allowed to bring one 750ml bottle of wine or champagne, bring it with you in your carry on when you board the ship, don't put it in your suitcases that you give to the porters. All the luggage collected by the porters and delivered to your room in  several hours is put through xray machines and if they find alcohol they will confiscate it and you won't get it back. The wine that you brought in your carry on can be enjoyed anytime in your room (bring an opener) they provide wine glasses and I walk around the ship drinking my wine and go back to my cabin to refill. You can bring your wine to the dining room to enjoy, give it to your waiter and he will open and serve it, they do charge a $15 corking fee for each bottle opened, don't worry if you don't drink it all you can take it back to your room or they will store it for you to have the next night with dinner. 

If you want to order wine from the menu I would recommend buying an entire bottle instead of by the glass, you get more for your money and if you don't finish that night your waiter will put your name on it and store it in the kitchen and bring it out the next night for you to me it won't go to waste!!
Check your "What's Happening on The Ship" for special free drink times or deals on drinks at certain bars. They always provide free champagne at the art auctions, you don't have to buy anything you can just drink champagne and peruse fine art. They also have martini tasting or craft beer tastings in certain bars on the ship, these are not free but you usually get quite a bit for a small price and you get to try things you might not have ever been brave enough to try before.  If you go to excursion talks or shopping talks in the theater they always ask for volunteers to come up on stage and they generally give you a bottle of free champagne so if you are comfortable volunteer, volunteer, volunteer!
My last tip about about drinking, there are usually a bunch of places to drink right when you get off the ship at your ports, we usually go do our excursion or tour all day and then right before we get back on we sit and relax and have several beers or drinks just right outside the ship

Excursions can be the best part of your entire cruise, you stop at all these exotic ports and you can visit ancient ruins or go zip lining or climb down into underground caves and float along hidden rivers. You can visit plantations and rum and tequila making factories, swim with dolphins or take jeeps through the jungle or snorkel on an a reef. There are so many things you can do but they can get very expensive. If you just want a city tour you don't need to pay $85 just to go shopping, take a taxi or a bus, there is usually all kinds of transportation readily available right where you get off the ship.
 When you buy an excursion through the cruise line you have the security that you will get back to the ship in time and will be safe, I recommend doing that your first few cruises until you learn what is offered at each port. We don't usually go on the cruise excursions anymore, we buy basically the same thing right when we get off the ship with private tour operators, you have to be very careful and smart about who you deal with and always triple verify that you will be back to the ship on time. We've been able to go to some really fun places because it might just be a van with 2 or 3 couples instead of a huge busload of people and the driver can take us wherever we want and customize it to our interests. Again be very careful, they should be operators that have clearance to be in the secure area right outside the cruise ship.

Spending money and shopping on the ship: You think when you buy the cruise that all your food and accommodations are paid for so you won't spend much more......that is so far from the truth. They will try to get you to spend more money around every corner. There is Bingo, casino, after hours kids club or yours want to do build a bear, there is premium restaurants that aren't included in the price of the cruise, They have a small mall where they put out jewelry, clothes, perfumes, watches, memorabilia etc..and it's on "clearance" so you need to get carnival tote bags and pj's and a gold bracelet because it's the last day of the clearance but honestly they do it on every cruise. You can pay to have your clothing dry cleaned or laundered, or you can rent a suit or gown if you forgot to bring your formal wear, you can buy flowers for your loved one and  have a special cake brought to the dining room so they will sing Happy Birthday. It all just depend on how much you want to spend, we've gone enough times that we know what it worth it and what is not. Don't forget you've got gratuities at the end of the cruise that will add on several hundred more dollars. I'm just saying all this because you need to budget to spend money during the cruise as well, not everything is included.

This small list doesn't cover everything, just a few of my tips, I can do part 2 and get into more detail.
I can tell you that we have had some of our most amazing experiences on cruises and our daughter has been able to have those same experiences which is priceless to me.

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