Tips And Tricks That Will Help You Get More Out Of Your Cruise And Save You Money – Taking a cruise is a great experience but as with anything the more you do it the better you get. After a couple of dozen years of cruising and with thanks to some fellow cruisers here are a few of our favorite hacks.
How To Clear Money Off Your Onboard Account
If you have cruised much you have probably experienced onboard credits on your account. They can happen in a number of ways from refunds, advance payments, incentives or gifts. In some cases those credits will evaporate at the end of your cruise if not used. Rather than going on a spending spree there’s a way to quickly turn credits into cash onboard.
Most cruise ships now have digital accounts in the casinos for playing slot machines. No more buckets of coins and no more pulling handles. The usual process now is to use your onboard account to put money on your casino account. To play a slot machine you insert a ticket or your room card and load money onto the machine. When you’re done playing or want to switch machines you cash out and the machine prints out your balance on a ticket.
Even if you aren’t a gambler you should take advantage of this hack. To cash out your onboard credit simply put it on the casino play account. Then to cash out simply take the balance ticket to the casino cashier and take the cash out.
Carry A Bottle Of Wine Onboard
Even with drink packages and those drinks included fares this is still something that shouldn’t be overlooked. Many cruise companies allow each person when boarding to bring on one bottle of wine (check with the cruise company or your travel agent). For a couple that saves $50 to over $100 during the cruise compared to buying wine onboard. Don’t forget that corkscrew and your stateroom attendant can bring you wine classes. There are also a growing selection of chocolate and coffee wines available today and they’re a good substitute for that evening aperitif instead of a $12 to $15 glass of Baileys.
An Inexpensive Solution For Seasickness
Getting seasick can take much of the fun out of your cruise and people spend lots of money on patches, pills and even acupuncture treatments. Here’s an inexpensive approach we find really works. Take ginger capsules. Before discovering this treatment my wife had a serious issue with seasickness and her doctor recommended she try this. Now, starting a couple of days before and all through the cruise she takes three ginger capsules a day with food. In over 50 cruises she’s had no issues with seasickness.
Beating The High Cost Of Phone Calls
Onboard telephone service can cost $6 plus per minute with cell service only slightly cheaper. Talking with family or friends can cost hundreds of dollars while at sea, but there are options. First before you go cruising be sure and check with your cellular service provider and find out what services are available on cruise ships and what the costs are (learn more about cell service at sea HERE). Next, plan ahead and work out options with those you would like to stay in touch with. The best approach is to set up cell phone apps and coordinate using VoIP services. All cruise ships offer internet in various packages or by the minute that make VoIP service significantly less expensive than cellular. Even ships with slower internet are usually good enough for just voice calling.
Here’s some top apps for making free VoIP calls:
- WhatsApp – Cost: Free. WhatsApp is popular for messaging, but something most people overlook is that it supports video and voice calls. The service is popular and quality is very good. If you need to call actual phone numbers though, this app might not be the best option.
- Facebook Messenger – Cost: Free. A great application, Facebook messenger includes support for SMS messages, voice calls, and video calls. It works best for text messages, the voice quality quality depends on how fast your Internet connection is. There is also Facebook Messenger Lite which often provides better voice service but only provides text and calls.
- Google Duo – Cost: Free. Another video calling application Google Duo supports regular voice calls well. To use Duo everyone needs to be on the app. The voice quality is superior and it’s very simple to use. It’s free and is available on iOS devices and is often pre-installed on some Android devices.
- Google Hangouts – Cost: Free. If you’re looking for more features like sending pictures, Google Voice number for phone calls, voicemail, and SMS texting this is a good choice but for simply making calls Duo may actually perform better.
- Magic Jack and MagicApp – Cost: $10 to $15 per year. One of the more popular SIP/VoIP apps around, it uses a an actual phone number to make calls. The app includes SMS support, landline support, and cross-platform support.
- Skype – Cost: Free. It’s one of the most popular VoIP apps in existence with direct support for both Facebook and Microsoft and a massive user base. You can also use this app to send text messages and to make video and voice calls. And for a fee you can call landlines. It’s also available as a desktop application but seems to require more bandwidth for good voice quality than the above choices.
Always Book Another Cruise While Onboard!
All the cruise ships have future cruising offices onboard ready to help you plan your next sailing with them. Oddly too many people just ignore this option. Maybe they would rather deal with their travel agent or don’t think there’s any real savings to be found. Perhaps they haven’t decided where they want to go on the next cruise. Actually all of those excuses don’t have much merit.
In the world of travel we seem to be bombarded constantly with bargains of the day. Save 20% today only. Book now and get free stuff. We have an exclusive discount with XYZ cruises. It’s hard to take most seriously and the truth is you shouldn’t. Usually the deals are available to everyone regardless of who you deal with. There are some exceptions to this and booking a cruise on board is one of these. Common specials only available when booking onboard include reduced deposits, extra onboard credits and stateroom upgrades. Even if you’re not sure what you want often to book, there are future cruise coupons you can buy while onboard and select your actual cruise later.
Next time you cruise go and have a chat with the “future cruise” staff. You might be surprised…
Know Your Excursion Options Before You Cruise
This is important for a couple of reasons. First, deciding on tours before your cruise and booking can save you money. Cruise ships need to plan ahead for each cruise in order to schedule resources and often offer a discount for booking shore excursions ahead.
Next, a little research can allow you to go ashore on your own, do what you’re interested in and save a lot of money. A day at the beach is a great example. Instead of paying $50+ each for a beach excursion, you can catch a taxi, rent beach gear, have lunch and take a taxi back to the ship and save as much as 50%. See more HERE.
Bring Along Your Own Cabin Upgrades
While the newer ships are catching up with the times some older cruise ship staterooms are missing some important features. Get in the habit of packing a few essentials to avoid dealing with stateroom shortcomings.
A Nightlight – Newer ships now usually have a nightlight in the bathroom but you should’n’t expect older ships to have this feature. There are a number of motion activated, battery operated nightlights on the market and they don’t take up much space. Our favorite is one that recharges off a USB power port.
Power Strips – Traveling with cell phones, tablets and laptops requires a lot of charging and older ships are seriously short on power outlets. Adding a power strip to your suitcase can reduce that charging logjam. Our favorite is a compact strip with a small extension cord and a couple of outlets and two USB charging ports (at Amazon HERE). One word of caution – sometimes ships have rules about extension cords and multi outlets and while there are situations where it could be an issue, the voltages involved with charging phones and tablets are low and not a proble. Just in case get in the habit of storing these in a drawer during the day to avoid problems.
Never Enough Hooks – Like coat hangers there are never enough hooks in rooms when you travel. On a cruise there’s an easy fix considering you’re likely to be there for a week or so. There known as Command Hooks from 3M. They install on any smooth surface in seconds and come off clean. We never travel without a pair in our suitcase.
Clothespins, Hooks and Laundry Soap – Rinsing out a few things while cruising can help you pack lighter and can save you money too. Packing a couple of travel packets of laundry soap like Sink Suds takes up no room (at Amazon HERE).
Plastic Clothespins can help not just with hanging up some rinsed out items but come in handy keeping that beach towel in place on your pool lounger.
It’s amazing how important these items can be, so make up a small package to add to your suitcase before your next cruise.
Save While Dealing With Wrinkles And Dirty Clothes
A Wrinkle Release Trick
You can buy and carry a commercial wrinkle release product or you can make you own for just pennies. We carry a small 30ml spray bottle when we travel with just a small amount of ingredients inside. When we need to use it we just fill with water, shake and mist the wrinkles. Here’s the recipe:
To a 30 ml Bottle add the following ingredients
- 1 Teaspoon rubbing alcohol
- 1/4 Teaspoon uncolored fabric softener
Once you get to your room and start unpacking, just fill the bottle with water, shake and spray. If you run out, just plain water can also do almost as good a job. Just mist lightly and hangup the clothes to dry.
A Commercial Alternative Offers A Bit More
Downey Wrinkle Release All In One: Wrinkle Remover, Static Remover, Odor Eliminator, Fabric Refresher, Ironing Aid. Removes most wrinkles without using an iron. Great for college students, business travelers, and last minute touch ups. A pack of twelve 3 oz spray bottles from Amazon for less than $20.
Save On Laundry While Cruising
Some ships have self-serve laundries but most don’t and sending laundry out can be expensive. The first thing to reduce laundry expenses is to travel with clothes that are easy to rinse out and dry quickly. Polyester and poly-blend shirts and tees are getting very popular for casual wear. They’re light weight, breath to keep you cool and many brands promote the moisture wicking features of their product. Our favorite characteristic of these poly-blends is they’re easy to rinse out in a sink and dry super fast. Like us, if you spend a month or two traveling and cruising these are a must.
Our Favorite Inflatable Travel Hangers
These rugged hangers pack flat and inflate providing a broad shape to prevent those puckers that flat hangers can produce on shoulders of blouses, shirts and T’s.
Soap Packets For On The Road
Handy packets of mild laundry detergent to rinse out clothes in a sink. There are a number of choices but these are easy to carry and get the job done.
More About Wine
You can also save on wine by giving yourself a bon voyage gift of a bottle of wine to have it in your stateroom when you board. All cruise companies have an online Bon Voyage shop for buying gifts and keeping a bottle or two in your room allows you to take a glass with you when you go out in the evening. Your cabin attendant can also have a bottle transferred to your dining room.
On most ships it’s often much cheaper to buy the bottle than wine by the glass. If you don’t finish the bottle the ship waiters will mark the bottle with your room number and save it for another night, even if you’re having dinner in another onboard venue. Because there’s no prohibition against carry drinks with you be sure and get your glass filled before leaving the dining room. Bring glass of wine with you to the lounge or show to avoid paying by the glass.
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