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If you have an eye for the sparkle, the ship’s gift shops do have some very pretty, though pricey items.  However, the more basic gift shop usually does have some cute t-shirts and little doo-dads that are pretty reasonably priced.  Plus at the end of the cruise, some of the stuff goes on a big discount, especially if it is late in the season.

I’m not saying don’t buy (like I would EVER say that!), I’m just saying do your homework and figure out what might be a good deal on a nice souvenir.


By the end of the cruise, you are going to feel like Kim Kardashian with all the photographers chasing you around.  Again, there is lots of money involved, so they are going to be fairly persistent.  However, a polite, but firm no thank you will usually do the trick.

If you DO decide you want some photos, go for it.  I actually LOVE photos, so it’s something I don’t mind spending a bit on, and they actually aren’t much more than a regular photographer.  Be smart and ask the staff which photographer is the best one.  We found a good photographer and took some nice formal shots on our anniversary trip.  We got them for like $15 a sheet – that’s actually a pretty good deal for nice portraits.


There is at least one of these going on every single day of a cruise.  I’m thinking this is yet another way to wheedle a few extra bucks out of your pocket.  No matter what they tell you, I can pretty much guarantee there are NO deals to be found at these things.  Shuffleboard – now shuffleboard is a good deal!  Shipboard auctions – NEVER a good deal.


Some people get a little bent about the tips.  They are automatically added to your account – typically $12-$15 per person per day even for children.  It IS a big bite, but your waiters and room stewards work very long hours for their tips – 12-14 hour days is the norm.  You can ask to have them reduced, but I usually let them go through.

Helmet Dive



Now for the good part – the excursions.  These are the one thing I DO suggest spending your hard earned money on.  Ziplining, scuba, parasailing, horsebackriding, or even visiting historic sites.  These are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and they are definitely worth purchasing.  I have gotten to do some fabulous stuff on my cruises like the helmet dive shown above in Cozumel.  We sailed on an actual pirate ship in Mexico – it was a wonderful day.

Sidenote:  Helmet dives are WONDERFUL options for people like me who don’t swim well.  You have a guide, you are tethered to an air hose, you only go down about 15-20 feet, and you have a set path to travel.  Very safe, although you can’t do it if you have ear problems, high blood pressure, are pregnant, etc.

Yes, you can save few bucks if you book them directly with companies or individuals onshore, but your safety is very important to the cruiseline.  The people who do regular business with them will make every effort to keep you safe and be sure you get back to the ship safely and ON TIME.  Most of the people I’ve dealt with in ports are just regular folks looking to make a few bucks, but there definitely are some bad people out there.  So I tend to spend a bit more for the safety factor.


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28 Comments on Enjoy a Cruise Without Going Broke or Getting FAT

  1. We are planning a cruise for next year, my first one ever! I haven’t read about choosing the cabin location above or below the dining room! I’ve written that down and plan to go through the other cruise posts for golden eggs like that one. I don’t like being unprepared for travel so I appreciate the helpful tips!

    • I’m so happy I could help. That’s why I love writing these posts – to help first-time cruiser like you. Hope you have a LOVELY time!

  2. I’ve been on one cruise and it was with a group and we had a great time. The only thing that bugged me was having to ask for water at breakfast and lunch. I don’t drink soda and it seemed like they were bothered when the “may I have some water? ” request was made.
    Other than that, it was a fun experience that we’d like to repeat.

    • That’s awesome. Cruises are so much fun. I’m dying to go on another one, but we needed a new fridge this year – ours was older than my oldest son, so it was time!

  3. Adrain, I got so much help reading your cruise helpful hints. I am getting ready to go on my very first cruise ever. “sister cruise” with quite a few women in our family. I am so looking forward to it. I thought I would let you know something I found out by talking to the man that is setting it all up for us. He informed me that they no longer let you take your own water bottles on board. Too many people were exchanging the water for clear booze. So they will throw the water away. This is what he told me on 1/18/2016. But the price for a case of water that can be delivered to your room is $2.99. That is not bad at all, really. Well, just wanted to give the heads up about the water.

    • That sounds SO fun! I bought the case of water last time I was on board and I found it very helpful, especially as I’ve recently given up soda and I’m not much of a drinker, so feeling like I needed to use it all up gave me good encouragement to stay hydrated.

  4. Adrian, I have never been on a cruise, but you give a ton of amazing information here. I don’t think I could ever do an interior room because I’m claustrophobic. The balcony sounds right up my alley. I also don’t like the concept of being nickeled and dimed for everything. Does it feel that way?
    I do love the picture of you underwater. I would definitely buy one of those. And no wi-fi on the ship? Is that true? I think that would be difficult for a travel writer. Any wi-fi alternatives you can think of?
    I’m still on the edge about taking a cruise. I really like to control my own itinerary and I don’t know if I could be on someone else’s schedule (yes, I’m completely type A, LOL).
    Great post, stopping by from SITS!

    • Hi Kirsten – Yes on the balcony. You would feel very crowded in an inside room. If you follow my tips, I don’t think you will feel nickeled and dimed. It is nice to not have to be tipping people all the time like you do at a resort or elsewhere. There is WiFi on the ship, but it’s very pricey. What I usually do is visit the ships Internet cafe a couple of times during the trip. You can buy a package of so many minutes, so I set a timer on my phone and only allow so much time. It’s not cheap, but what you can do is create your post on a tablet or something and then just upload it. I would say go ahead and give it a try. You are never required to stick to any particular schedule – there are always different choices, and a cruise is just so wonderful!

    • Prepare your posts and have them ready. When you are in ports, use their wifi. Ask crew where they go to use wifi. If you must use wifi on the ships, use it very late, or when others are off the ship. It can be very slow, which makes it more expensive during prime usage times.

  5. We are considering our first cruise in 2016. My husband is very leery about the whole thing, but I’m looking forward to it. Noise is always my biggest problem when i travel, but I’ve learned to bring my Bose earphones along and that helps. Thanks for all of these tips. Maybe I’ll check back in as we get closer:)

    • I hope you really enjoy your cruise – they are SO wonderful. I did notice a bit of a problem with noise because I was right by a metal plate in the hallway and I would hear people dragging their wheeled bags across it sometimes, but I could always have asked to be moved to another stateroom and they probably would have moved me. If there’s anything I can help with, by all means, let me know. There are also chatboards with the cruiseline where you can ask any kind of cruise-related question and the really experienced cruisers will help you.

  6. I’ve never been on a cruise, they scare me a little. All of the things you listed sound like a good idea to me. I would’ve never thought to use my flier miles.

    • Awww, don’t be scared – all that stuff you hear about on the news is like one out of a thousand cruises. They are perfectly wonderful most of the time.

  7. I love cruising! You included some great tips. Sometimes I like to organize my own excursions before the trip. It is often much cheaper, and I can have more flexibility with my time. But I also love the convenience of not having to worry about that. Just set it up and let the ship organizers deal with it. Either way, splurge on the ports of call. Best advice!

    • I agree. I do about 50/50 and I’ve never gone wrong, but I think for first-time cruisers they will feel more comfortable going through the Excursion Desk. But yes, defintely enjoy the ports – there are so many wonderful experiences waiting!

  8. I’ve never ever been on a cruise, and don’t know if I’ll ever make it onto one, but if I did go, I know that having the coolest experience for a not-insane amount of money would be really important to me. The idea of having a balcony room sounds amazing!

    • Rachel – I hope you and Angel can make it onto a cruise one of these days. They are so much fun and they really can be pretty affordable if you’re smart about it. I would love to take one of the Chinese cruises that goes around to all the major seaports – that would be marvelous.

  9. This is such a complete, and useful post. We’ve never been on a cruise. (well since I was on one with my parents as a little girl) Now that our kids are older, we started considering them. I love how you broke down your room choices, the restaurants, and excursions.Great post! Saying hi from Sharefest. XOXO, Elif

    • Thank you Elif – I’m so glad you visited. And I’m pleased that you enjoyed my post. I hope you will have a chance to make use of these tips.

  10. Great post, Adrian. Good reminder as we’re taking the kids (now adults) on a family cruise next January. You’re right about the food – I think you have to go into training to eat the amounts they set in front of you.

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