12 Things Included for Free in Your Cruise (You Just Have to Know)

Who doesn’t love to get something for free, especially when it’s a freebie while on your cruise? Or maybe we should clarify that since you’ve paid for the cruise, it’s not actually free… but it is included in what you’ve paid. Still, there are a number of things that you may not realize that are there for your vacation, if you just ask for them.

Beach Towels (For Use Onboard and in Port)

Cruise line beach towels
Cruise lines provide regular towels for your room, but also beach towels you can use both on and off the ship. It saves you from having to pack these in your luggage.

If you go to a hotel, you’d expect towels in the bathroom. It’s the same thing on a cruise. But one thing many people don’t realize is that beach towels are also provided. They are often in your room when you arrive or you can get one at a station on the pool deck.

These towels can be used for hanging out by the pool on the ship, but you are also allowed to take them into port with you. So if you’re headed to a beach excursion, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to get a towel. And when you come back to the ship, you can swap it out with a fresh one.

Pillows, Blankets, & Anything Else You Need for the Room

Need another blanket? More pillows? Or anything else to make your room or bed more comfortable? Don’t hesitate to ask. Just like a hotel on land, your cruise ship can supply you with lots of things that can make your room more comfy. That includes things like extra blankets, ice (there are no ice machines down the hall like in a hotel), pillows, towels, and more.

Crib/Sleeping Area for Babies

Traveling with a baby? You might be wondering exactly where they are going to sleep during the cruise. In that case, you don’t have to bring a “pack and play” or some other type of crib. That would be unreasonably heavy and bulky to bring with you, especially if you have to fly to the port.

But just like a bed is included in your room, a spot for your child to sleep is also available, and at no extra charge. Cruise lines will provide a pack and play or crib (it depends on what the cruise line has in stock). All you need to do is contact the cruise line ahead of the trip and let them know that you’ll want one. It should be in your room whenever you arrive. If not, ask your room steward and they will get you squared away.

Breakfast in Bed

It used to be that room service on the ship was included at no charge. These days, most lines charge for the service — either a flat fee to get whatever you want, or you are charged a menu price based on what you order.

What’s still included for free, however, are many (though not all) breakfast items. There are normally hang tags that you can fill out with your order and put on your door the night before. They are picked up and the next morning your breakfast is delivered.

So you can have breakfast in your bed instead of having to head to the dining room or buffet.

Kids Areas (For Children and Parents!)

If you have kids, the play areas allow you to drop them off while you go enjoy the ship. There is no charge and the kids are supervised. On some lines, you can even leave the ship while the kids play.

Any parent that has cruised before knows that the kids areas are one of the best deals in cruising. These spots are included with your cruise fare, providing a place where parents can drop off children and they have lots to do while being supervised by the crew.

So parents get a spot where they can leave the kids and enjoy the cruise on their own terms while the kids get a place where they can play games and interact with others their own age. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Best of all, these spots are included with the cruise fare and there’s no charge for most hours during the day (sometimes late-night stays invoke a small fee).

Multiple Entrees (or Appetizers/Desserts) in the Dining Room

Everyone knows that food is included in your cruise fare (though most cruise lines still have many places that are an extra charge). But what many people don’t realize is that you can order multiple entrees in the dining room at no extra cost.

When you visit the dining room, you’ll be given a menu and then asked what you’d like to eat for each course. What isn’t always clear is that you aren’t limited to just just one of each. Want to try a couple of different appetizers? Sure, go right ahead. Is one entrée not enough for how hungry you are? You can order multiples.

Now, some lines are charging for additional entrees, but it’s often free. If there is a charge, it’s likely to be minimal.

Gym/Fitness Center Access

Cruise ship gyms are large, well-appointed, and often have some of the best views on the ship. They are also included with your fare, even though they are normally located in the pricey spa area.

The ship’s spa? It can cost a small fortune for any sort of treatment. Massages run well in the $150-$200 range for a 50-minute procedure, and that’s just the start. But also in the spa is the ship’s gym.

It’s completely free to use, even if you have to walk through the spa to get there. And if you’re expecting some old gym with a few pieces of run-down equipment tucked into a corner, think again. Cruise ship gyms are nicely appointed, usually large, and offer some of the best views anywhere on the ship as they typically have floor-to-ceiling windows that look out over the water.

Specialty Diet Accommodations 

Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten-free? No matter your diet, the cruise ship can accommodate you. With literally millions of passengers each year, if it’s a special diet, then the cruise lines have seen it.

The great news is that you will have a number of options to accommodate your diet and items can even be specially made if need be. The better news? There’s no charge for the special accommodations. All you need to do is let the dining staff know (they usually ask at the start of the meal if you have a special diet or allergies) and they can ensure your meal meets whatever diet you might have.

Shuttle Rides Up/Down the Pier

Do you have mobility issues, making it harder to get around? That’s where a cruise can be ideal in that the ships are easy to get around and everything is in a relatively small space. But off the ship, it can be a little tougher to get from Point A to Point B if you have issues walking.

One nice thing that’s included is that most ports will have a complimentary shuttle that gets you up and down the pier. In some cases the pier where the ship docks can be more than 1,000 feet long and then there can also be multiple piers. It’s not unheard of to walk a quarter-mile just to get from the ship to outside the port area.

If that’s daunting to you, there will usually be a spot right by the ship to grab a shuttle ride. Not only does it save you from having to walk so far, but it’s also a faster way to get back and forth.

Luggage Service to/from Your Room

Large checked bags for a cruise
You can carry on any bags you want, but it’s free to check your luggage at the dock. Bags will be delivered to room later that day by the crew.

In flying, even the legacy airlines these days charge a fortune if you want to bring checked luggage. First things first, cruise lines don’t charge luggage fees. Bring big bags, small bags, anything in between, there’s no charge.

But one thing you might not realize is that luggage service is also included. All you have to do is drop your bags off with a porter (it’s customary to tip a buck or two per bag) and it will be taken, loaded on the ship and then delivered to your cabin later that evening.

At the end of the trip, it’s the same process. Set your bags outside your room and they will be taken from the ship and put in the cruise terminal, waiting for you when you debark.

Cruise Line App Services

All the big cruise lines will give you a number of reminders about downloading their app. While we typically grumble when we are forced to download any new app, the cruise line versions are actually pretty helpful.

These apps feature ship maps, daily schedules, the ability to check your onboard account, restaurant menus, and more. The best part is that they are free to download and while you need wi-fi on the ship for them to work, it can use the wi-fi signal for the app for free.

Some On-Demand Movies

Cruise lines will normally have a lineup of on-demand movies, with some that are free to watch. In the case of Virgin Voyages (shown here), this includes a larger selection with TV shows too.

One of our guilty pleasures? Coming back to a cool cabin after a long day in port or by the pool and just completely relaxing by watching some TV. We will be honest — the TV on cruise ships leaves a lot to be desired. There are only a handful of channels, and most of those are related to the cruise, like channels with port information.

But we’ve found most lines have on-demand movies these days and a decent portion of them are free. It’s certainly not all, but there are usually some recently released big-name films available at no charge. So if you the sort of person that always has movies you want to see but can’t find the time, taking a cruise can be a good opportunity.

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