Cruise Lines Don't Want You to Know These Money-Saving Secrets

Before you set sail, check out these secrets that can help you enjoy the trip more.
Last updated June 2, 2023 | By Jenny Cohen Edited By Chris Kissell
huge cruise liner with pools and outdoor facilities cruising the Atlantic blue ocean

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Cruises are a great way to visit different ports on one vacation, as well as partake in any onboard fun like rock climbing, or daily trips to a pool or spa. And of course, there is plenty of yummy food and delicious drinks to enjoy.

But there are also a few secrets the cruise lines may not tell you that can bump up your enjoyment on the ship and relieve some money stress. Check out a few tips and tricks that could make your next cruise extra special.

Email newsletters can contain great deals

Pixel-Shot/Adobe Young man with tablet computer checking his e-mail at home

As soon as you consider leaving land and begin planning your trip, sign up for email newsletters from several cruise lines and read them whenever they show up. You might catch a deal specifically for subscribers, or a quick pick that can save you money if you pounce on it before it expires.

Ships might not wait for you at port

vladim_ka/Adobe large luxury cruise liner moored in the port of the Adriatic Sea

When a cruise ship sails into port, there are plenty of options for you to explore. Perhaps you want to sign up for an excursion organized through the cruise line. Or maybe you want to try something a little different on your own.

Be aware that if you’re part of an organized cruise trip and you’re running late, the ship will wait in port for you. But if you choose to do something on your own instead, you may watch your cruise sail away with you on shore if you don’t make it back in time.

Pro tip: Book your cruise with one of the best credit cards with travel insurance to get rescued if you're stranded at port.  

Hidden cruise costs can sink your budget

Tyler Olson/Adobe waiter's hand giving vanilla ice cream to boy in parlor

There are many hidden cruise costs that may surprise you. For example, soda may be a daily expense you didn’t factor into your budget. Excursion costs also can add up. And there may be extra fees for Wi-Fi.

Cruise lines are counting on you having too much fun to notice the bill you're running up until it’s time to get off the ship. So, try and keep track of these things.

The daily onboard newsletter might contain more savings

william87/Adobe couple with digital tablet and newspaper

Cruise lines may include a newsletter under your door each night about the next day’s activities. Such newsletters often include information about excursions or details about which restaurants will be open and when.

But cruise lines may also include small notes about freebies, special events, or discounted items. Read up on the news and see if you can find out about those little secrets that your fellow passengers may not be paying attention to.

The main dining room isn’t always the best option

VanderWolf Images/Adobe Cruise interior restaurant

One of the common cruise mistakes people make is to head to the main dining room the first night on the ship. But with so many people going in that direction, some of the specialty restaurants on board may be close to empty.

That could give you the perfect chance to get a seat and enjoy a special selection for a quiet dinner. Do this early in the cruise, because if the restaurant is good, word will get around. Then, you might have to fight for a reservation at the same restaurant later in the trip.

Bad behavior can put in you jail

Thomas/Adobe Prison guard escort inmate throught corridor in jail

Have fun on your cruise, but be aware that you can have too much fun — and it might cost you. If you do something illegal, the cruise line may throw you in the jail that is on their ship.

When the cruise arrives at the next port, they might hand you over to the authorities. So, try to moderate your fun, or your cruise might be over much sooner than you expect.

You can get a deal on a repositioning trip

fizkes/Adobe Euphoric young indian girl celebrate online victory

Sometimes, cruise lines want to move their ships from one group of ports to another. Perhaps an Alaskan cruise goes south to Hawaii for the winter, or a ship may simply go to a different set of ports to cruise around for a few months. Book one of these repositioning trips and it might save you some cash.

Pro tip: You could save even more when you book your trip with one of the best credit cards for cruises

The drink package isn’t always a bargain

barmalini/Adobe Waiter pouring Champagne

Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a veteran, you might think it’s great to pick up the drink package for your trip. But before you do that, make sure you do some calculations and check with the cruise line on their policies.

Some cruises may include wine at dinner or might allow you to bring a few bottles on the ship that you can open and have your waiter re-cork for your nightly meals. If so, those factors can be an argument against getting the drink package.

You aren’t limited to one menu option

goodluz/Adobe Young trendy people in restaurant looking at menu

When you go to dinner in the main dining room, you may be given a menu with several items to choose from that night. This might include a few appetizers, main courses, or even some desserts.

But don’t think you have to limit yourself to one of each. If you see two entrees that sound delicious for the night, try both of them. Or get a few desserts to share among your group instead of limiting yourself to just one. Any additional plates you order often are included in your dinner, so why not indulge while on vacation?

Bottom line

Biletskiy Evgeniy/Adobe  cruise ship during sunset

A cruise can be a fun way to see the world and get away from the daily grind for a few days. And if you know the secrets that the cruise lines may not share, you can increase your holiday fun.

Try to find cruise lines and itineraries that fit your level of fun and head out on the water for a good time. And don't forget to book your voyage using one of the best travel credit cards for more potential savings.

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Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and