Controlling Your Spending While at Sea … 10 Common Sense Steps

No one wants to be a cheapskate on vacation. We have all passed by the Purser’s office on the last day, noticing someone gesticulating wildly about their onboard charges. You want to avoid being a freeloader, hoping your new friends will buy the next round. What are some practical steps you can take?

2018 statistics gathered by indicate the average daily spend per passenger across all cruise lines is about $ 62/day. (1)  On a seven night cruise, that’s $ 434 a person or $868 per couple. My wife and I find we spend about $1,000 on average during a seven night transatlantic crossing on Cunard.

Here are 10 common sense steps:

  1. Understand tipping. It might be included. Otherwise, it’s an automatic charge to your account. On Cunard, it’s about $ 11.50 per person per day. Over seven nights, that’s $ 161.00 per couple.
  2. Plan for transfers. If you need to get to the airport from the ship, their transfer services is likely the most efficient way. It might also get you off the ship faster. You might prepay though your travel agent. More likely it will occur to you towards the end of your voyage.
  3. Save your drink receipts. This will likely be your biggest shipboard expense. I try to keep a running tally on a pad in the cabin. Why? Because mistakes happen. You don’t want to be paying foe someone else’s Dom Perignon by accident.
  4. Check your shipboard account periodically. Don’t be obsessive, but review it at least once midweek. This will be easy because you kept your daily tally.
  5. Have a favorite drink. Stick with it. You might order cocktails, wine by the glass and also the bottle. Your drink of choice might be a gin and tonic. When you order your first, make a mental note of the price. This way, as you order them over and over, you are keeping a mental record. Drinks onboard should be pretty reasonable, but specialty cocktails can be the exception.
  6. Know where the free stuff comes from. This should be useful if you are traveling with your family. There’s a coffee shop. Bars sell soft drinks. Assuming the Coronavirus doesn’t kill this off, there are usually coffee machines along with lemonade and iced tea available on the casual dining deck.
  7. Buy the drinks package. Your children revolt if lemonade and iced tea are the only choices. Go for the drinks package. They come in soft and hard drink versions. Since you need to buy them for a multi day period, review the terms and conditions. Put another way, if you do multiple tequila shots for fun, the drinks package isn’t going to cover every one.
  8. Buy something for your cabin. Ships have rules about what you can bring aboard. They are in the business of selling you drinks. It’s part of their business model. When you stop in port, there’s often liquor and wine sold nearby. Many ships allow you to bring back a bottle or two for in stateroom consumption. No, you aren’t being a cheapskate! You and your partner might enjoy a drink on your balcony, watching the setting sun. Ordering through your cabin steward and waiting for it to arrive disrupts the experience. Don’t forget to buy tonic onshore. You might discover the ship gets $ 3.75 for those teeny tiny bottles of tonic in the bar!
  9. Consider buying your port excursions through your travel agent. In this example, the cruise line is the middleman, taking their cut. Your travel agent should be able to book the type of tour you want, often at a lower price. Even if you book tours with the cruise line through your travel agent, this puts this expense before your voyage, not as a shipboard charge. Editor’s note: CruiseCompete links you to third-party shore excursion providers, giving you access to higher quality cruise shore excursions at substantially lower prices than the cruise lines and where you can enjoy a more intimate tour experience away from the crowds.
  10. Try to book a fare that includes some cash to spend onboard. That’s the best way to keep shipboard expenses down! Spend their money! It’s a perk cruise lines often use you offer a benefit without cutting the base ticket price.

There are many ways to keep from being surprised at the end of your trip. You are being attentive, not a cheapskate.

Cover photo: Queen Victoria Scotch Tasting, credit Bryce Sanders



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