It's not hard to understand why cruises are so popular. You can sit back by the pool, enjoy amazing shows, and eat fantastic meals, all while the ship sails to its destinations. But there are some little-known hacks that can take your onboard vacation to the next level without spending the big bucks. Keep reading to see what crewmembers and experienced travelers recommend before booking your next onboard vacation.
Get Discounts on Your Next Cruise by Booking While Still on Board
If you find yourself on a cruise and really enjoying the experience, then you might want to consider going ahead and booking your next vacation. You can book your next cruise while you're still on your current cruise to take advantage of discounts. The best part about this hack might be that you don't even need to book a specific cruise or destination. All you usually need to do is put down a small deposit.
You can decide exactly where you want to go later. That cruise line is just trying to lock you in for another cruise, and they'll offer some pretty sweet deals and discounts to do so.
Don't Book Rooms Under the Pool or Next to a Nightclub or Elevator
As with anywhere else, there are some do's and don'ts when it comes to booking a room on a cruise ship. Do book a room with an ocean view (isn't that half the fun of a cruise anyway?). Don't book a room underneath a pool, next to a nightclub, or situated near an elevator. These types of rooms tend to be the noisiest since, well, they're near noisy places.
It also doesn't help that the cabins on cruise ships are not the best at insulating rooms from outside noise or vice versa. So, most travel experts will recommend not going anywhere near these rooms.
Use Your Cabin's Metal Walls for Extra Storage
The cabins on a ship aren't like the typical rooms you'd find in a home or hotel. Instead, they are made of metal, like much of the rest of the ship. So, many who take cruises regularly will use this little hack to get some more storage space while they're out on the open ocean. Just bring a magnet with you to hang things like notes, menus, and even your room key.
You'd be surprised how handy it can be to be able to leave a note for others staying in your cabin, especially considering you probably won't be able to use your phone on the ship.
There's a Secret "Sleep Menu" Where Everything Is Free
This usually isn't mentioned in the brochure, but most cruises offer their guests a secret pillow menu for all of their sleep needs. This also sometimes includes other things like top sheets. All you need to do is ask a crew member after you board the boat. Depending on the cruise line, the menu may differ, but they can include pillows of different softness, as well as special pillows, such as full body pillows.
Oh, and did we mention that these pillow menus come free of charge? So, why not take advantage of pillow menus for the best night of sleep you've ever had?
Fine Dining Restaurants Often Offer Discounts on the First Day of Cruising
Waiting to indulge at one of your ship's fine dining venues might seem like a good idea. After all, everyone knows that a nice steak and a bottle of wine are best enjoyed far out to sea. However, the best day to splurge is actually the first day on the ship. That's because most people wait to go to these types of restaurants. As a result, plenty of cruises offer discounts on the first day.
They do this in order to keep the restaurant as full as possible since slashing prices is still better than not having people in the restaurant at all.
Use Off-Site Parking to Save Money
An easy way to save some money on your cruise is to opt for parking options that are "off-port." Every cruise ship will offer on-site parking that's usually very close to the ship itself, but these can be expensive. Independent parking lots can sometimes be as much as 50% cheaper than their official counterparts. You might have to walk a bit further, but the savings will be well worth it.
However, you should research a bit ahead of time, as not all off-site parking options are created equal. Some offer more security than others and will even drive you to the terminal.
Windowless Room? Put the Bridge Cam Station on Your Tv and See Outside
You don't have to have a crippling fear of the dark to want to use your T.V. as a nightlight. There are plenty of cabins on a ship that don't come with windows. So, the televisions on most cruise ships can be used as a sort of nightlight that will also let you know when it's morning. All you need to do is turn it to the bridge cam station.
Turn the T.V. volume all the way down, and you now have a nightlight that also ensures you don't oversleep in your windowless room. It's not as great as a real window, but it works.
Find Out a Cruise Line's Cancellation Date Policy and Try Booking During That Time
To get steep discounts on cruises, you need to either book while you're still on the ship or book at the very last minute. Doing the latter is a little riskier, but the rewards can be worth it. A good practice is to call around and inquire about cancellation policies. Once you know when the cutoff date is, call or check online during the cutoff date to snag the best deals.
Cruises will slash prices during this time as people drop out and they try and fill up their cabins. However, you might want to try doing this with a couple of different cruise lines since there's always a chance a ship won't have many people drop out.
How to Score Free Internet for Your Cruise
Sure, you could pay a lot of money for internet packages from the cruise line, or you could get some steep discounts for your trip. To get free and discounted internet, try and buy early. Some cruise lines will also offer discounts if you buy online, but this varies by the cruise line. Many cruises will also give you free credit you can use to purchase internet packages while out at sea.
Try and compare different sites, including the cruise line's own site, when searching out deals that involve onboard credit. Most cruises charge around $100 for a week's worth of internet.
Need More Places to Plug in? Ask About Your Room's Secret Sockets
You might be going on vacation to get away from everything, but that doesn't mean you're not going to need a couple of outlets to charge things like phones and tablets. Your cabin will come with a couple of visible outlets, but that might not be enough. Luckily, there are usually some hidden outlets in your cabin that are used when the cabin gets cleaned. All you need to do is ask a member of the crew where they're located.
You can usually find them hidden underneath the bed or away in the closet. You can also look for them yourself before asking a member of the crew.
Hit the Newer Attractions Later in Your Cruise
You don't have to have ever stepped onboard a cruise ship to know that the ships themselves are massive and packed with things to do. Cruise lines are always opening new attractions on their ships to see what guests enjoy doing most. However, you should avoid going to these attractions early if you want to save a bit of money. They'll likely be at capacity during the start of a cruise.
That means there won't be any discounts until the long lines die down, and staff needs to keep the attractions operating at capacity. This will also help you avoid long lines.
Many Shops Offer Free Food - All You Have to Do Is Ask
There are going to be a ton of little shops selling delicious-looking food onboard cruise ships. However, many of these shops will also offer free complimentary treats and sandwiches. All you have to do is ask the person at the counter. This is an especially helpful hack since many of these shops won't be included in food plans and can quickly cause you to run up your tab while on a cruise.
Even if you're the type of person who doesn't like asking questions like this, just remember that the complimentary food is there for passengers like you, and the worst that can happen is that you get a polite no.
Beware: Cruise Casinos Have Different Rules Than on Land
Hitting the casino might seem like a tempting activity while onboard ships, but you should be a bit warier of these casinos than their land-based counterparts. That's because, in many instances, they're not governed by the same rules as casinos that are on land. We're not saying they're going to play dirty or anything, but the payouts are usually a bit lower on a cruise ship than they normally would be.
And as with any casino, whether on a ship or on land, you should gamble responsibly. It can be easy to lose track of time while sitting inside a casino.
You Can Bring (Some) Alcohol on Board
While there are plenty of packages that include paid drinks, most experts warn against these as you usually pay for more than you drink. That leaves drinkers with only one option: buy drinks while you're on board. However, these can usually be pretty expensive. It turns out that while things like beer and liquor are prohibited from being brought on board, guests can bring a couple of bottles of wine with them.
The exact rules vary by cruise line, so be sure to check. But bringing your own wine or champagne is a great way to save money on drinks, even if it's only a couple of bottles.
Many Cruises Offer Free Daycare
While it can be fun to take the whole family on vacation, it can also be quite stressful. There might come a time when you and your partner just want a bit of free time to yourself. If that happens, just know that most cruise ships come equipped with a daycare that's usually completely free. The cruise lines know that parents might want to go out to dinner by themselves one night, and they don't want anyone simply leaving kids alone in the cabins.
However, it's always a good idea to check ahead as some companies, such as Carnival, offer different services at different times, depending on a child's age. For example, their daycare for kids under two years of age has specific operating times.
Save Some Money By Going to a Free Local Beach Rather Than the Cruise Beach
While cruises can be a lot cheaper than other types of vacations, they still come with a lot of fees. When you get to port, odds are you're going to want to spend some time just relaxing. You can take a stroll through the beach town or simply stay at a free local beach all day. However, this one requires a bit of research as most cruises have their own areas where they charge an entrance fee.
You can check on social media and travel sites or just ask around when you get there to find the best free beach. It might require that you take a taxi, depending on how far it is, though.
No Reservations For A Show? Just Show up - Odds Are High Someone Didn't Make It
For many, part of the appeal of taking a cruise is all of the fantastic shows they have on board. However, most of these shows will require that you book a reservation before you show up. And if you're anything like us, then odds are you're not very good are remembering to do things like that. Luckily, there are always going to be a couple of people that book and decide not to go.
Because of this, it's usually worth going to the show and asking to see if you can get it. If there are any empty seats inside, then there shouldn't be a problem.
Crew Members Recommend You Keep Bikinis in Your Carry-On
This one all comes down to organization. No matter what kind of trip you take, you're going to want to stay organized. That's why it's important that you're careful about what you put into your carry-on. You'll want to put things like medicine, electronics, and swimsuits in this bag. Putting your swimsuit in your carry-on allows you to hit the pool as soon as you get there and skip the check-in.
You can always go back to get your other bags, but why not wait and let everyone else fight over bags while you're lounging by the pool? The line will also be a lot shorter when you go back too.
A Lot of Cruises Offer Free Room Service
While you're never going to be out of options when it comes to food, it's still good to know all of your options. Most larger cruise lines offer free room service to all of their guests. So, if you want to spend some time in your room away from crowds, why not take advantage of the free room service for a night of dinner on the balcony or a morning of breakfast in bed?
As we said, though, not all cruises offer free room service, and it seems to typically be reserved for larger cruises and longer voyages. It can also depend on your cabin.
You Can Get Free Ice Cream On Board
Use this hack on a hot day to get some free ice cream. It might be tempting to shell on at that Ben & Jerry's booth, but you actually don't have to spend any money to get your hands on an ice cream cone. You can usually get free soft serve wherever it is that you would normally go for dinner, such as the buffet. However, check ahead because some cruises have recently changed their policy.
For example, Carnival no longer offers the service. Although, other cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, still allow their guests to serve themselves up a free ice cream cone as long as it's not name-brand.
Special Packages Include Genies That Will Do Anything and Everything for You
No, we're not talking about genies of the magic variety. Instead, cruise ship genies are more like personal staff who are there for one thing and one thing only: to make your dreams come true. These genies can do everything from bringing you a personal breakfast in bed to snagging you tickets to sold-out concerts. You can basically ask your genie to do whatever, as long as it relates to your trip.
However, this service is paid for, and not every package comes with a genie. It's also worth researching what others have asked their genies to do in order to get some ideas about how to use the service.
If You're Feeling Seasick, Ask the Crew for Help
One of the big drawbacks of cruising is seasickness. Luckily, cruise lines know this, and they'll go out of their way to help passengers suffering from seasickness. In most cases, you can simply talk to whoever is at the service desk and pick up some meclizine, which is a seasickness medicine. You can also ask for some ginger, which has been shown to help people cope with the effects of seasickness.
In many studies, ginger has actually outperformed typical medication used for seasickness, so it might be worth giving that a try first, especially if you're looking for a more natural solution.
Empty the Mini Bar If You Need a Fridge
There aren't going to be many opportunities to do your own cooking while onboard a cruise ship, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't save leftovers for later or store your own champagne bottles. You can do this by emptying your minibar of whatever the cruise line has put in there. Just be sure to put it back in when you're done or ask staff to keep the items so that you don't run up a bill.
The last thing you want when you're trying to save money is to be hit with an expensive bill at the end of your journey when you didn't even drink the items inside the minibar.
You're Almost Always Being Watched
This one is kind of an open secret, but cruise ships have cameras in nearly every public area on board. While rare, crimes are committed on cruise ships, so it's important that crew members, security, and authorities have something to look to when trying to figure out exactly what occurred and who committed what crime. Without cameras recording nearly every square inch, that would be impossible on board a ship.
However, don't fret too much because these cameras aren't placed in more private areas, such as a bathroom or cabin. That said, most ships do cover the balconies for obvious reasons.
Never Leave the Ship Without All the Contact Details
Whenever you get to the port and get a bit of time to roam around, you're going to want to make sure you carry your ship's contact details with you. That's because it can be easy to just get carried away while drinking on the beach or in a local bar and lose track of time. And even if you're not drinking, being in a new place always seems to make time go by faster.
So, be safe and keep your ship's contact details written down and hidden away in your pocket or another safe location in case you need to call back.
The Crew Has Strict Rules Against Getting Flirty With Passengers
A cruise might seem like a great place to get flirty — after all, you're stuck on a boat with nearly unlimited amounts of alcohol. However, it's really not, and the crew, both male and female, have strict rules against getting with guests. If they get caught, then there's a good chance that they could lose their jobs. Because of this, it's just a better idea not to try and hit on crew members.
We're also pretty sure that crew members probably get hit on all the time, so just do them a favor by not adding to the long list of people they have to constantly turn down.
Remember to Pack a Power Bank With Your Other Essentials
It's always a good idea to remember to pack a power bank when you're going on a cruise. You'll have outlets in your cabin, but sometimes these just won't be enough. And odds are you're going to be spending a lot of time lounging by the pool or off exploring the ship, so it's just nice to have a little bit of extra charge on hand, especially if you have a Wi-Fi package.
Not to mention, you'll be spending some time in port, where you'll wish you'd had a charged phone to do things like check the time or call the boat if you need to.
Crew Members Use Secret Code Words
You might not even notice it when you're on your cruise, but the crew members are actually using secret codes all the time. They do this to communicate quickly and ensure everyone remains calm in case there is an emergency. For example, they could use a code word like "Bravo" to indicate that there's been a spill. They often use the word "Oscar" to indicate that someone has fallen overboard.
Most of these code words indicate pretty harmless occurrences, so they're nothing to fret too much about if you hear one of them while you're on a cruise ship.
Be Picky About What Cruise You Choose
There are tons of different types of cruises out there, from normal destination cruises to cruises that offer a themed experience. So, it's important that you choose the right cruise for you. It's also important that you take into account where a cruise is departing from. For example, if a cruise is departing from somewhere in California and you don't live anywhere near California, you should consider the airfare to get there.
The cost of having to buy a plane ticket to get to the ship should directly factor into how much you want to spend on your vacation and what cruise ship you book.
Always Remember to Enable Airplane Mode
Not many people think about this one, but it's absolutely imperative that you enable airplane mode on your phone when you board a cruise ship. That's because of the simple fact that not doing so could leave you footing a very expensive phone bill when you return home. You see, your phone could incur all kinds of roaming charges while you're out on the open ocean, and you'd never even know it.
Luckily, most cruise ships now have Wi-Fi that they get from satellites. Although, you might have to pay for a package (but don't worry, there's a hack for that on this list).
Cruises Are Filled With Subluminal Messages
At the end of the day, cruises are there for one reason and one reason only, and that's to make money. That's why everything about a cruise is thought out, and that includes the messaging. Cruises are known to throw events near the casino when profits aren't quite what they need to be or offer promotions to clear crowded areas. You might even spot them making announcements with a Starbucks cup in their hand to encourage people to buy coffee.
Another common subliminal message on cruise ships is a jingle that encourages guests to wash their hands because outbreaks tend to get pretty difficult to contain on cruise ships.
Crews Are Always Prepared for an Outbreak
As was seen during the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, outbreaks can spread fast on a cruise ship. That's why there's always a plan in place, and crew members are trained to deal with sick passengers. Due to the often tight confines of a cruise ship, one sick person can quickly infect entire portions of a ship. If that happens, the crew is supposed to know how to monitor and quarantine affected passengers.
Cruise ships also come equipped with their own doctor's office and medical staff, in addition to hazmat gear. There are also plenty of announcements encouraging people to wash their hands.
Don't Take More Than You Need
It might be tempting to pack a lot of clothes and other items when you're going on a cruise, but it's much better to pack light. You're going to be on a ship, so all you really need are some flip-flops and a swimsuit. When it comes to nights out at the restaurant, you really only need one nice set of clothes as you can do laundry on the boat.
Of course, this doesn't mean skipping on the basics, such as light t-shirts and underwear, but it's better to pack light when going on a cruise than to pack heavy.
Research Online Before You Go
Okay, so this one might seem obvious, but it really does help to do a little research online before booking or boarding a cruise. Specifically, you're looking for people who have been or are going on the same cruise as you. Because of this, it's worth checking things like Facebook groups and forums, as well as typical travel sites. You're basically just looking for tips from others who've been on the same cruise.
Who knows, you might even make some new friends and meet others who plan on boarding the same ship as you when it comes time to set sail.
The Amount of Food Onboard Is Unbelievable
Depending on the cruise ship, there can be thousands of guests on the same ship at any one time, and that's not even counting the crew. So, it would make sense that a cruise ship would need to be stocked to the brim with a ton of food. However, the sheer amount of food on board might actually be surprising if you've never been the person placing or filling the order.
At any one time, there can be around 100,000 eggs on board the ship. And depending on the cruise, guests usually consume around 3,000 bottles of fine wine during their voyage.