50 Cheap Cruise Travel Hacks You Need for 2024

cheap cruise travel hacks

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Cruise prices have been on the rise, so finding cruise deals & saving money when cruising is more important than ever. These new money-saving cruise hacks will help you save money & cruise more in 2024!

From cruising with travel points, to saving money on cruise drink packages, I’ve included some of the best travel hacks that will help you have a better cruise this next year!

I’ve compiled 50 money-saving cruise hacks from avid cruisers that can potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your next cruise adventure.

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Money Saving Tips and Tricks for Cruise Travel

1. Bring Your Own Snorkel Gear

Bring your own snorkel gear, especially if you’re headed on a Caribbean, Mexico or Bahamas cruise. This can save you a significant amount by avoiding expensive rental fees during excursions and beach days.

2. Drive to Cruise Port

Consider driving to the cruise port, especially if it’s less than 10 hours away. This can result in substantial savings compared to expensive flights, particularly for families.

3. Skip the Drink Package

Instead of opting for a pricey drink package, bring your own drinks on board within the cruise line’s regulations. Many cruiselines allow passengers to bring onboard one bottle of wine per adult, and a small amount of canned soda, on embarkation day.

If you’re a light drinker, this will result in saving you money on beverages.

4. Book Excursions During Promotions

Take advantage of cruise line promotions and sales to book excursions and package upgrades before your cruise. This can lead to significant discounts, sometimes up to 50%, offering substantial savings.

5. Reprice and Refare

Regularly check for price drops on the price of your cruise, as most cruise lines honor lower prices up until final payment is made. To make it easier, consider setting up price drop alerts on websites like Cruisewatch.com, Cruiseline.com, and Cruiseplum.com.

Many cruisers find this to be one of the best strategies to save money, while still booking the cruise and cabin they want.

6. Get Shareholder Benefits

Did you know that cruise lines have shareholder benefits for cruise passengers? While this isn’t for everyone, one way to get extra onboard cash credit every time you cruise is by being a shareholder.

You’ll need at least 100 shares of Carnival, Royal Caribbean or NCL shares to qualify for shareholder benefits onboard the various cruise brands.

7. Money-Saving Cabin Tips

Explore various cabin options to save money, including choosing an inside or ocean-view cabin, opting for guarantee cabins, or bidding on cabin upgrades during off-peak seasons.

If you’re used to cruising in a balcony cabin and opt for an interior or oceanview cabin, you may be able to use the savings to cruise twice as often.

8. Save Spending Money

While many money saving travel tips focus on the initial price, its a good idea to save up spending money as well. You’ll want cash on hand to use in cruise ports of call for taxis and excursions, souvenirs and for tips.

Tip Jar

This easy money-saving hack can be used all year! Place all one dollar bills in a “tip jar” in the weeks and months leading up to your cruise. Then, you’ll have a stack to use to tip bartenders during your cruise.

Cash Envelope System

Use a envelope system to save cash gradually before your cruise. You may want to set up a schedule to save a few dollars each week. Saving just $20 a week will add up to over $1000 in a year!

9. Sign Up for Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Maximize travel rewards by signing up for credit cards that offer points or miles redeemable for cruises, hotels, and airfare.

10. Join Hotel Rewards Programs

Participate in hotel rewards programs, such as Marriott, to accumulate points that can be redeemed for free nights or discounts on accommodations. This can save you money on pre and post cruise hotel stays.

11. Save on Drinks

Look for ways to save money on alcoholic drinks such as:

  • Buy a bucket of beer (usually 5 beer for the price of 4)
  • Happy Hour specials
  • Attend past passenger parties and other events with free drinks

12. DIY Sangria and Mimosas

Create your own drinks onboard by making DIY sangria with wine (that you brought onboard), fruit, and juice or crafting inexpensive mimosas using a bottle of sparkling wine and orange juice.

You can pick up glasses from any bar and bring them back to your cabin. Don’t forget to ask your cabin attendant to keep your ice bucket filled.

13. Look for Travel Deals

Explore various travel deals, including preferential pricing and additional perks, by booking through travel agencies or consultants rather than directly with cruise lines.

14. Skip Cruise Line Parking Lot

Consider alternative options to expensive cruise line parking lots by choosing off-site parking or park and cruise hotels, offering significant savings.

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15. Cruise Line Wi-Fi Multi-Device Package

If purchasing cruise line Wi-Fi, consider purchasing a multi-device package to share among your party members, reducing individual costs.

16. Take Advantage of Embarkation Day Specials

Maximize savings by capitalizing on embarkation day promotions, including discounts on specialty dining, spa treatments, and package upgrades.

17. Get Travel Insurance

While it might seem like an expense, should an emergency occur, having travel insurance will likely save you thousands of dollars.

18. Cruise Line Credit Cards

Consider getting a credit card affiliated with the cruise line. Many cruise lines offer credit cards with perks like onboard credits and discounts after accumulating points.

19. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle

Carry a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the cruise. Cruise lines usually charge for bottled water, and having your own bottle can save you money.

20. Skip Cruise Line Transfers

Skip cruise line transfers before and after your cruise, and instead opt for an Uber, taxi or even the train. Unless you’re a solo cruiser, most options are going to be less expensive that shuttle service offered by the cruise line

21. Explore Ports On Your Own

While cruise line excursions are great, the cost can add up. Consider which ports you can explore destinations on your own.

22. Book 3rd Party Excursions

Booking a reputable 3rd party excursion can help to stretch your dollars on a cruise! Non cruise line excursions are often sold for 25-40% less than cruise line excursions. Do your research and read reviews to help make your decision.

Related: Pre-Excursion Checklist: 16 Things to Do Before a Cruise Port Day

23. Pack Over the Counter Medication & a First Aid Kit

Having some basic first aid items and over the counter medication can be a life-saver when traveling! Visits to the ship’s medical center are not cheap, so being able to treat minor medical issues on your own will be helpful.

24. Pack Snacks

Consider bringing your own snacks for the cruise. While there is a lot of great food included on cruises, snacks like candy, chips and chocolate sold in a convenience store will be expensive.

Related: What Food and Drinks Can You Bring on a Cruise?

25. Off-Peak Season Cruises

Opt to cruise during off-peak cruise times. Cruises sailing during less popular times can be significantly cheaper. Check for deals during shoulder seasons or when schools are in session for the best deals.

26. Attend Cruise Line Events

Participate in onboard events and activities provided by the cruise line. They often include freebies, discounts, or exclusive offers for attendees.

27. Avoid Cruise Line-Recommended Shops

When shopping at port destinations, you may want to be wary of shops recommended by the cruise line. These shops may have higher prices due to commissions paid to the cruise line.

28. Use Onboard Credits Wisely

If you receive onboard credits as part of a promotion or package, use them wisely. They can be applied towards onboard purchases, excursions, or even gratuities, to maximize your savings.

29. Book Repositioning Cruises

Consider booking repositioning cruises, where cruise ships move from one region to another. These voyages often have lower prices per night since they aren’t traditional round-trip itineraries.

30. Check for Resident Discounts

If you reside in a cruise departure port city, inquire about resident discounts. Some cruise lines offer special rates for local residents.

31. Utilize Military Discounts

If you’re a member of the military, check for military discounts offered by cruise lines. These discounts can apply to both active-duty personnel and veterans.

32. Look for Last-Minute Deals

While last minute cruise deals are less likely these days, they do still happen. If you live close to a cruise port and can get away with short notice, sign up for last minute deal alters on the cruise line website.

33. Book Group Cruises

Consider organizing a group cruise with friends or family. Many cruise lines offer group discounts or additional perks for group bookings. In fact, if you’re the one organizing the cruise, you may just cruise for free!

34. Dine at Specialty Restaurants for Lunch

Some cruise lines offer specialty restaurants for lunch at a lower cost compared to dinner. Enjoy the same quality of food at a more affordable price.

Alternately, check for first and second night special offers, from discounts to a free bottle of wine.

35. Bring Ziploc Bags or Reusable Containers

This cheap cruise hack will help you to avoid expensive room service delivery fees. Pack your favorite snacks from the buffet to bring back to your cabin for later. Use plastic baggies or a resuable container to keep them fresh.

36. Visit the Cruise Ship Spa on Port Days

Spa services are often offered at discounted rates on port days when many passengers are exploring ashore. Take advantage of lower spa prices during these times or even on embarkation day.

37. Attend Art Auctions for Free Champagne

Art auctions on cruise ships often provide complimentary champagne. Even if you’re not interested in purchasing art, you can attend the auctions for the information and free drinks.

38. Laundry Specials

Most cruises offer laundry bag specials at some point during a cruise. Use these opportunities to get your laundry done at a discounted rate and come back home with clean clothes!

39. Monitor Your Onboard Account

Keep a close eye on your onboard account to track your spending. Correct any mistakes or discrepancies promptly, and be mindful of unnecessary expenses to stay within your budget.

40. Book Onboard for Future Cruise Credits

Many cruise lines offer special deals and incentives to passengers who book their next cruise while still onboard. Look for a next cruise consultant on the ship to explore exclusive discounts, onboard credits, or other perks for booking your next cruise early.

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41. Enjoy the Free Onboard Activities

Take advantage of the cruise line’s free onboard activities and entertainment. From fitness classes to trivia nights, these complimentary activities can enhance your cruise experience without additional expenses.

42. Book a Guarantee Cabin

Consider booking a guarantee cabin, where you select the category but allow the cruise line to assign the specific cabin. While this is not the best option for those who are picky about cabin location, this can sometimes result in a free cabin upgrade or lower fare compared to choosing a cabin outright.

43. Join Cruise Forums and Groups for Tips

Join online cruise forums or communities to share and gather tips from experienced cruisers. Members often share insights into maximizing savings, finding the best deals, and making the most of your cruise vacation.

44. Take Advantage of Onboard Sales

Watch for onboard sales, especially towards the end of the cruise. Cruise lines often discount merchandise, clothing, and other items in onboard shops to clear inventory.

45. Attend Cruise Line Seminars or Events

Cruise lines occasionally host seminars or events where they share insights into upcoming itineraries and promotions. Participating in these events can sometimes unlock exclusive discounts or perks for attendees.

46. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beach Towel)

While cruise lines provide towels for onboard use, bringing your own lightweight beach towel can be practical for shore excursions, beach days, or avoiding potential charges for lost or damaged towels.

47. Use Cruise Line Loyalty Programs

Enroll in cruise line loyalty programs to earn points or status, leading to exclusive benefits such as cabin upgrades, priority embarkation, free drinks or a wifi credit.

48. Research Status Match Programs

Taking advantage of status match programs offered by cruise lines like MSC and Virgin Voyages can be a savvy way to enhance your cruise experience and potentially save money.

49. Follow Cruise Lines on Social Media and Sunscribe to Emails

Cruise lines frequently share exclusive promotions and discounts by email on their social media platforms. Stay updated with their pages to catch limited-time offers.

50. Cruise Wear Savings

Shop for cruise wear and cruise gear in advance and take advantage of savings both in store and online. For example, if you’re going on an Alaska cruise, get a puffer jacket at the end of the winter season to save significantly.

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