107 Best Cruise Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Freebies

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76. Cheaper interior cabins mean more money for more cruises

Interior cabin

Many people claim they couldn’t sail in anything other than a balcony room. But interior cabins can get you on the ship for hundreds — or even thousands — less than paying for a balcony room. Considering that many people are rarely in their cabin other than to sleep, it doesn’t make sense to pay a fortune for a room that you won’t use. Instead, you can sail a lot cheaper with an interior room… and potentially cruise a lot more!

77. It’s likely (several) people have died on your ship

Whether from natural causes (heart attacks) or accidents (falling overboard), people die on cruise ships every single year. And with a non-stop schedule of sailings with thousands of people on each trip, chances are that someone has passed away on your ship.

It’s strange to think about considering that everyone steps on the ship with the hopes of a good time, but it’s a reality of cruising that doesn’t often get mentioned.

78. You can pack way more than you can on a plane

Are you the sort of person that packs for a month when you’re only going for a week? Good news is the cruise lines don’t have near as stringent a baggage policy as the airlines. There are no baggage fees, or real restrictions on how much you can bring (within reason). You also don’t have to worry about the 3-ounce liquid rule. It makes it much easier to pack and much less stressful.

That said, we’d suggest still packing light. Remember, the more you pack, the more you have to carry with you, and the more space it takes up in your cabin.

79. Some cruise lines allow you to pay to skip lines

Stand in line to check-in. Stand in line to get off in port. Stand in line to talk to Guest Services. You may think that going on a cruise is just taken over by having to wait in line with other people. The cruise lines know this and some — namely, Carnival — offer special packages that allow you to skip many of the lines.

Carnival’s Faster to the Fun package costs between $50-100 per trip for your entire cabin and lets you be among the first on the ship when you arrive, have a special line to speak with Guest Services, and much more. If you’re the sort of person who wants to spend more time on vacation and less time in line, then you’ll appreciate this deal.

80. Avoid cruise insurance sold by the cruise line

While we think travel insurance is a good idea to give you peace of mind, think twice before buying the insurance that the cruise lines offer when you buy your cruise. Yes, it’s better than nothing, but third-party cruise insurance is usually a much better deal.

The insurance offered by the cruise lines typically has low limits and is priced high. It also doesn’t offer as much protection as insurance offered by a third party. To learn more, read our article on cruise insurance here.

81. American dollars are widely accepted in cruise ports

Don’t worry if you don’t have pesos, or any other local currency. In cruise ports American dollars are widely accepted (and often preferred). That’s a huge help for cruise passengers who don’t have to worry about having different currencies. Credit cards are also accepted in many places, but you definitely want to use cash for most transactions.

82. No marijuana isn’t legal, even on an Alaskan cruise

If you’re cruising to Alaska (where recreational marijuana is legal) from Seattle, Washington (where recreational marijuana is legal), then of course you can bring your pot on board with you, right?

Wrong.

To be on the safe side, the cruise lines follow federal law — which means that marijuana is illegal to bring on board. If you really need some of the green to let loose on your cruise, you’ll have to wait until you arrive in port.

83. Get seasick? Get a cabin in the middle of the boat, as low as possible

Everyone seems to have their own home remedy for curing seasickness. There is only one method we know of that makes actual scientific sense, however. If you are prone to seasickness, then you want to book a cabin as low in the ship and as close to the middle of the ship as possible.

Think of the ship as a teeter-totter. It’s the middle of it that would move the least as the ends rise and fall. There is much less motion mid-ship, which will help you feel better when the seas are a little rough.

84. Bingo may seem silly, but can win you some serious cash

Bingo? Isn’t that for old people? On the cruise, you’ll see bingo contests being held all the time. And while it’s not as exciting as the pool’s belly-flop competition, it is a fun way to spend an hour or two. Best of all, it can help pay for your cruise.

Bingo cards are typically $5-10. All the money is then pooled and whomever wins Bingo walks away with the cash. It’s not unusual to see people pocket hundreds or even thousands of bucks playing the game on the ship.

85. Participate in on-board game shows to get free stuff

Your best way to get some free stuff on the cruise also involves a lot of fun. In the game shows (including the “newlywed” game), they require some audience participation. Not everyone can join in, but if you get selected then you almost always get some sort of prize at the end.

It’s nothing big — maybe a t-shirt and a gift certificate to the gift shop — but it’s the best way to get something for free while on your cruise.

86. Find a spot above the gangway at the ship’s return time to have a laugh

You haven’t laughed until you’ve stood on the port side of the ship close to departure time in a port of call. Keep a close eye and you’ll almost always see a few people making a mad dash back to the ship. You’ve never seen people run as fast as when they think the ship is about to leave them. On a side note, always return to the ship well before the “all aboard” time.

87. If flying, always depart for your port city the night before

Cruise ships docked next to each other

With more ports than ever operating around the United States, many people are able to drive to their cruise. Still, there are tons of folks who fly in to take their cruise. If you are taking a flight, always aim to get there the day before.

It seems like every day there are horror stories of delayed flights. Weather can delay or ground a flight. Security lines taking hours are causing people to miss their planes. Mechanical breakdown is always a possibility. And now you never know when a computer malfunction is going to ground an entire fleet.

Flying in the day before allows you a little more of a cushion to get to your port city without having to stress that you might miss your flight… or even worse, your cruise.

88. Don’t expect much on TV (Netflix is great)

We love nothing more than relaxing and watching some TV after a long day in port. Unfortunately, cruise lines don’t offer much in the way of television stations. You won’t get the basic channels you’d expect. Instead, it’s a few news stations and maybe a couple of channels for movies and a couple for cartoons.

Favorites like ESPN and other cable stations usually aren’t available.

Netflix and other services are lifesavers. Download your favorite shows ahead of time (so that you can watch without Internet access) and catch up on your programs.

89. Go to Guest Services late at night or early in the morning to avoid lines

What’s that huge line you see in the middle of the ship at the beginning and end of the cruise? It’s the line to talk to Guest Services. It’s always a hassle to have to deal with getting things straightened out with your onboard account, but it’s something you have to do.

Here’s a big timesaver. If you do have to talk to Guest Services, plan your visit either later in the evening or early in the morning. At these times the line is almost non-existent so you can talk to a rep immediately. (Guest Services are open 24 hours a day during the cruise.)

You can also purchase perks like Carnival’s Faster to the Fun to save time if you don’t want to be bothered to go at off hours.

90. Mention a special occasion to (maybe) get free stuff

Birthday? Anniversary? Honeymoon? Be sure to mention to any cruise line employee why you are there if it’s a special occasion. There’s no guarantee, but it’s not unheard of to be surprised by a bottle of champagne and some strawberries in your cabin for free. The cruise lines know that a little perk like this doesn’t cost a lot but can make your loyal for life.

91. Green apples are a natural seasickness remedy

Maybe it’s an old wive’s tale, but green apples are supposed to be a natural cure for seasickness. That’s why you’ll always find them at the buffet. Grab one or two the next time you are feeling queasy and test it out.

92. Be sure your clock is set with the ship’s time

Depending on where you sail, there will be a difference between the ship’s time and the actual time on shore. Why does this matter? If you don’t return to the ship by the right time, you could get left in port.

To make things easy, just make sure your watch is set with the ship’s time as you get off in port. That way you are matched up with the ship’s schedule and don’t risk missing the return time.

93. Bring drink flavor pouches for free drinks

Sodas and other drinks aren’t free on a trip, but tea, lemonade and water are. A little trick is to bring a few packs of those drink flavors (available in every grocery store). Drop a pack into your water to instantly make your favorite beverage for free. It’s also a good way to get the kids to drink something other than soda while on their vacation.

94. Always wait for people to exit the elevator

A quick way to be identified as a rookie cruiser is to stand right in the doorway of the elevator when it opens. Elevators are the main way of getting around the ship — they are always crowded. It’s polite to let the people on the elevator get off before before trying to enter.

Just stand to the side as the doors open. It will make thing go much smoother and other passengers will be grateful.

95. Remember to pack a fan for the room

Always pack a small portable fan for your cabin room. There isn’t much airflow in the cabins, so if you are the type that always need a breeze to be comfy, then you’ll hate sitting still in the room. As well, we like the white noise that a fan provides to drown out sounds like people talking in the hall or the weather outside the ship.

96. You can take everything out of the mini-bar to have an in-room fridge

Your ship cabin may come with a full-stocked mini-fridge. The items inside are counted after you leave, so if you want to use the fridge, you can just set everything out (or ask your room steward to empty it) and use it to keep your own drinks/food cool. Just be sure to put everything back or you’ll get charged for whatever is missing.

97. Jail on a cruise ship is a real thing

Yes, many ships have a spot to place unruly passengers. It takes more than just being a little drunk to land here, but if you do something serious on a cruise at sea, then you can expect to find yourself in this much less comfortable “cabin” until the ship reaches shore.

98. Make a copy of your passport to carry instead of the real thing

The best place to keep your passport is in your in-room safe. If you want some ID while your are in your port city, make a copy of your ID page on the passport and carry it with you. It will make due until you can get back to the cabin.

Another smart idea is to take a scan of your passport and email it to yourself. This way no matter where you go, you will have a digital copy that you can access from anywhere with Internet.

99. Credit cards are accepted in ports, but call your company first

Yes, credit cards are accepted, especially in the more touristy areas of port cities. It’s still preferable to pay for most things in cash for security purposes.

That said, if you do decide to use your card, be sure call your credit card company first. It may alert their system to fraud to see a card used in three different ports in three days, leading them to put a freeze on your account if they don’t know what’s going on.

100. Have dietary restrictions? Cruise lines can cover you

Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Food allergies? No matter your dietary restrictions, the cruise lines can accommodate. Don’t wait until you are on the ship to tell the cruise line about your diet restrictions. Call as soon as you book and speak to a customer service agent. They can update you on food options and also make a note on your account to notify the crew.

101. Always pack cool weather gear, too

Swimsuit? Check. Suntan lotion? Check. A jacket? What?!

Yes, even if you are headed to the tropics you should always pack a few items of warm clothing. If a rainstorm hits in the evening, it can get chilly on a fast-moving cruise ship with the wind whipping around. Having something with long sleeves and a hood can be a lifesaver.

102. Beaches are free ways to enjoy the day

If you don’t want to spend money on shore excursions, that’s understandable. A free way to enjoy the port cities and save some money is to head to the beach.

Every port will have some exclusive beach clubs with hammocks and drink service, but they usually charge an entry fee. Instead, do some research (or ask a taxi) on where the free beaches are. You might have to deal with more people, but nothing beats having a day on a world-class beach without having to spend a dime.

103. Avoid ATM fees at the casino with this trick

ATM fees to get cash out can be expensive on the cruise ship. If you want to gamble but don’t have the cash on hand, you can use a little trick to avoid paying exorbitant ATM fees. Cruise lines will let you charge your onboard account to get money for chips or slot machines. Be careful as it’s an easy way to spend a little too much, but it’s also easy to play at the casino without being charged extra to access your own money.

104. Always wear walking shoes when in port

It’s hot in the Caribbean, so who wants to wear shoes? Well, you’d be surprised at how tired your feet will get if you’re touring around in just a pair of flip-flops. Instead, bring a pair of your most comfy walking shoes, or a pair of water shoes that offer more support. Your feet will thank you for it at the end of the day.

105. Towel clips are worth their weight in gold

Before a cruise, we never would have thought twice about towel clips. Now, we wouldn’t cruise without them. You never really think about how breezy it gets on a cruise. With the ship in motion, there is a constant wind on the decks. That makes trying to keep your towel from whipping around an exercise in frustration.

Luckily for just a few bucks you can get some clips that will keep your towel on your on your lounger chair.

106. Get your picture taken; it’s free and you pay only if you want it.

You might not like the idea of having a stranger take your photo. On the ship, they have photographers roaming the ship taking photos of passengers to remember their trip. You have to buy the photos if you want to take them home, but not if you don’t want them.

In other words, you can get your photo taken by a professional photographer and only have to pay if you actually decide that you want the pic. If you decide you don’t like it, then there is nothing out of pocket.

107. Buy gift cards for your cruise to rack up rewards

Want a way to earn a little extra from buying your cruise? Consider buying gift cards from grocery stores to pay for your trip. Many grocery chains offer discounts on gas based on the dollars you spend at the store. For example, Kroger lets you save up to $1 per gallon with their fuel point program.

The trick is to buy your gift cards with a credit card, which gets you the fuel points and the credit card points. It’s a way to earn some serious cash back on your cruise purchase.

Bonus Cruise Tips From Cruise Experts

As a bonus, we’ve asked some of smartest cruise experts we know to provide their single biggest cruise tip. The responses below represent some of the smartest ideas we’ve heard.

Bonus Tip #1: Always bring a power strip

I always carry a small power strip to plug in all my electrical devices–phone, camera battery, tablet, and Kindle. Although the newest cruise ships usually have multiple plugs, the older ones do not. By using a power strip, all your devices can be charging while you sleep.

Linda Garrison | About.com Cruises Expert

Bonus Tip #2: Book early to save money

My best advice for saving money when booking a cruise is to book as early as you can. Cruise lines these days typically provide the lowest fares when itineraries first go on sale, and that means if you can commit to a cruise early, you get to take advantage of these lower fares. The earlier you can book, the more likely you will be able to lock in the savings!

Matt Hochberg | RoyalCaribbeanBlog.com

Bonus Tip #3: The ship is just as important as the price

More times than not cruisers are choosing based on price and that is a big mistake. Cruise lines, especially the big ones, have a lot of ships. And ships are not all the same. So my advice is to know what size ship a person will feel comfortable on and make sure to check the year the ship entered service and the last time the vessel was upgraded.  All ships are not created equal.

Carrie Finley Bajak | CruiseBuzz.net

Bonus Tip #4: Check out repositioning cruises

Take a repositioning cruise or seasonal crossing, say, aboard the newly remastered Queen Mary 2 across the Atlantic Ocean for a throwback experience akin to vintage ocean liners. Also, repositioning cruises can be great options for experiencing popular cruise ships more extensively onboard during consecutive sea days.

Jason Leppert | PopularCruising.com

Bonus Tip #5: Book with a large travel agency for perks

Book your cruise through a travel agent who is part of a large agency.  Large agencies have group bookings on hundreds of cruises, they can book you into these groups not only scoring you lower rates, but also extra amenities.  These amenities can range from on board credit, free drinks, specialty dining, and spa credits.  Not only do you get these extra perks, but you have easy access to a travel professional who can answer all of your questions and will help you have the best cruise possible.

Ben Souza | CruiseFever.net

Have a cruise tip that we left out? Have you used a tip above that worked like a charm? Let us know in the comments below.

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107 Best Cruise Tips, Tricks, Secrets, and Freebies

43 COMMENTS

  1. These were all very helpful tips, many of which we have used on our past cruises. Another tip is: The walls in the cabins are metal, even if they don’t look like it. We take magnetic clips and hooks and use them to hold all the papers that are left in the cabin mailbox as well as to hang things that might need to dry. It helps keep the cabin organized.

  2. Bring a hole punch for your ship card to put on a lanyard–some ships have them in the casino-just ask them to punch a hole and give you the lanyard–makes it easy to carry card around neck.

  3. Excellent post that was concise and highly informative. Just the recommendation to look for off port parking saved me over $100 dollars. The shuttle to the ship only took us 10 minutes and we were dropped off closer to the ship than the people that parked in the ship parking area.

  4. Leaving your car at your home airport for a week or more can run up a pretty big bill. If you have the time, consider renting a car from the airport the day before your flight. When you return it to the airport just take the auto rental shuttle to the terminal. Do the opposite when you return home. We are Costco members and can rent a near new (more likely to make it to the airport or it will be replaced if it breaks down) for $25 to $30 per day.

    • Great Idea! We’re in FL and to drive and park at any other port besides Port Canaveral (we’re 20 minutes away from that, and can always find someone to drop us off) will cost at least another $160. Gas, parking fees, etc. We can rent a car here ($35) drive it to the port and turn it in. Do the same for the trip home. We’ve just saved $90 bucks, and don’t have to worry about leaving the car in some lot, or putting up to an extra 400 miles on it! (if we go to Miami round trip that is!)

  5. Great tips people!
    Going on our first cruise in December (Princess cruises. Miami to LA. Via Panama Canal)
    Any other advice/tips very welcome!

  6. It’s good to know that breakfast and lunch are also served in the main dining room, rather than just the buffet. My wife and I are hoping that we can go on a sunset cruise tour for our anniversary. We’ll have to check out the main dining room for food, as well as seeing if there are any secret decks if we can make it on a cruise.

  7. #95. EXTREAMLY BAD IDEA! A passport can be voided if random non official stamps are in it. Only official government immigration stamps are allowed

    • That’s “technically” true, however, we’ve never heard of it happening. We’ve also personally had these stamps in our passport and never had any questions about them.

    • if you are in the Port and you ask the Port Athorites where to get your passport stamped then it is not a “voidable” stamp. Because it is issued by that countries government. Those stamps would be part of the Visa Program if the passport was NOT from the US, I.E. if the Passport was Chinese the cruises might have needed a Visa in the first place and that stamp would end up being part of the Visa.

  8. The last time I cruised, our cruise critic group had a meet & greet, a gift exchange, a slot game and a special farewell luncheon. If someone from the group gets together with the hospitality people, they can arrange snacks, special meals and gifts for your groups. This was on the Celebrity and it was fantastic.

  9. One of the worse things you can suggest and encourage is bringing fruit and food ashore. When you come into the USA, fruit and certain foods are NOT allowed to be brought into the country. Respect this when traveling to other countries. It’s the LAW there too!

    • Australia has very strict biosecurity regulations. No food of any type will be allowed in to the country. There will be a quarantine inspection at each port and sometimes even sniffer dogs will be present. This will happen at each port of call in Australia, even if the cruise visits only Australian ports.

  10. Thank you for the information as it is very helpful as well as those that offered others. We are going on our first cruise ever right after Thanksgiving. It is our 25th anniversary and we are looking forward to it.

  11. You really shouldn’t put any unofficial stamps in your passport. It even says in the fine print in the back that any unofficial markings inside could invalidate your passport. It most likely won’t ever happen unless you end up with an unforgiving immigration officer and then you’re stuck! I got off with a warning once and thankfully my passport has been renewed since then! Don’t risk it!

    • Our opinion is that it’s a decent idea, but it’s not like you’ll get amazing deals that aren’t anywhere else. They often give you onboard credit to book. Prices are around what you’ll find online.

    • Many cruise companies offer matching deposits on future cruises when booked on board. I believe Norwegian matches up to $250.

      • Yes you can get a good deal when you book whilst on board, we did, got $250 for the next cruise which we are going to use on our next cruise., used it for the deposit.

    • Not that we’ve seen. We would suggest using only non-marking items — so tape, not glue — to stick things to the door.

      • I have read elsewhere that tape is forbidden on the door. It makes a mess for the staff to clean up. I can understand that some tapes are non-marking, but you can get almost anything with magnets, or just glue magnets to almost anything.

  12. We always bring water shoes when we cruise. Some excursions require them & they’re also a less slippery alternative to flip-flops on the pool deck.

  13. Thank Youall !

    Always bring a list of what you need too.

    Duct Tape has so many uses.. Highlighter to mark the Daily Programs too.

    Now with those dang Electric Swithes when you leave your cabin.. Bring an Old Credit Card to insert and Duct tAPE THAT TOO..

  14. I have a small round essential oil diffuser that I use with lavender oil in my stateroom…so relaxing as the boat rocks you to sleep each night!

  15. It’s interesting that cruise lines will give cheap fares to people during the off-seasons. My fiance and I want to go on a cruise but we don’t make a lot of money. I’ll have to tell her that if we go during November or something close to that.

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