You may have cruised many times already, but sometimes this just means you get into your own habits and don’t realise what else is on offer! I’ve created this extensive list of best cruise tips and tricks which I have discovered over the years, I hope you find some useful for your next cruise vacation!
1. The jury is always out when deciding the best time to book a cruise. You can get the ‘early-bird’ deals, the seasonal specials or wait for last-minute bargains. My best advice is to think which offer is most important to you when booking (discounts, free drink package, two-for-one, kids go free etc) and wait for it to come out. A good cruise-specialist Travel Agent can help you with this, they will keep an eye out on your preferred offer and notify you.
2. An older ship is always going to be cheaper than the newer one doing the exact same itinerary. If you’re not bothered about being on the latest and greatest, this is an easy way to save some money (or redirect it to a dining or drinks package!).
Not sure of the age of your planned cruise? I have a breakdown of them in these comparison posts: Large Ships, Mid-sized Ships.
3. Have you considered booking a guaranteed cabins? If you are really picky about where you want your cabin to be located, this isn’t the option for you, however, if you don’t care so much, but love the idea of a possible upgrade, then definitely give this a go. Just be prepared for an obstructed cabin, or one that’s a long way from the elevators.
4. Do you like getting a drinks package, but not paying full price for it? Generally, there will be a sale on them at some point, often emailed to you after you’ve made your booking. So, don’t buy it straight away, wait for that sale, or even keep an eye on exchange rates, as this can often have a big impact on how much you are paying for these extras.
For more advice on saving money, check out my post Are Cruises Expensive? Not if you avoid these costs!
5. Check what other drink packages are available on your specific cruise that may be more suitable for you. Some have coffee cards and wine only packages which you can buy once your on board.
6. Ensure you book the dining time that you want for your cruise. It is possible to be wait listed in the one you want isn’t available immediately. Alternatively, if you can’t get the dining time you want when booking, go to restaurant as soon as you board (and arrive early, contrary to my tip of arriving late below!)
7. If you’re not sure which is the best cabin to book, get expert help! You will probably want to avoid being under the sports deck, and hearing banging above you when you’re having an afternoon nap! For the same reason, I’d recommend you avoid being above the nightclub, or under the buffet (chairs scraping!). Scan the deck plan to see what works best for you and ask a Travel Agent to help you secure the best cabin (they can often call their cruise rep to secure a cabin which looks booked to the public).
Photo courtesy of Silverseas
8. If you want to avoid the queues when you get to the port, I recommend you arrive two hours before the ship departs. This allows you to get through check-in and security easily and also go straight to your room without sitting around waiting for them to be ready. You’re missing out on an insanely busy lunch buffet…is it such a big deal?!
9. Have a lanyard or some kind of case for you card prepared at check-in. You will be given all kinds of information when you board, and the card is one thing you need to keep handy – and don’t lose amongst the other bumph!
10. Check if your cruise line allows you to upload your own ID photo. This can save some time when boarding, and will probably be better than the quick awkward capture they take as you’re juggling hand luggage, sunglasses and baby Billy!
11. Can’t wait to try the iFly by RipCord, or Go Karting? Neither can everyone else… Check if these activities can be booked in advance, and if not, try to book them as soon as you board. Some cruises also have provision for ‘standby’ guests for when booked guests no-show. The best times for this is usually early (people oversleep!) or late (they’ve had too many cocktails and forgotten!). I’ve had many a ride on the North Star by simply hanging out at the bar underneath and being called to fill in a spot!
Photo courtesy of NCL
12. Don’t forget to pack the correct clothing for activities too. Check the website for what is required, probably long pants, socks, soft shoes or something similar.
13. One of my fave on board activities is Sushi making (or any type of cookery class come to that!). Check out what is available when you board and get it booked asap.
14. To get the best deal on your beauty treatments, try getting an appointment on port days when they are quieter. It will also be a great time to use the spa afterwards when you may have it to yourself.
15. Been to a port before? Or maybe it doesn’t really appeal to you? Don’t forget that staying on board could be more enjoyable, without the crowds and hustle and bustle of other people!
16. If you love the spa, book an Aqua Class cabin on Celebrity, or Spa Suite on NCL to have easy access to the relaxation facilities. Entry to the Spa is complimentary for the duration of your cruise and you’ll receive heaps of other cool benefits like specialty dining options, herbal teas, mineral water and priority access on board.
17. If you love your shopping, wait till the end of the cruise. This is when discounts are best as the ship knows they are running out of time to get your money – and they have targets to meet!
18. Want to find some solitude? There will be space on the ship which isn’t signed and the masses haven’t flocked to! Have a look at the deck plans to find an area, usually seating mid ship if there’s an atrium, or for outside areas go low. Royal Caribbean often has a small sunbathing deck up a small staircase above the pool bars on older ships which are generally quiet too.
19. Most ships also have an adult-only area, often with an extra charge, but they could be well worth it if there are a lot of kids on board and you want some peace! Don’t wait until the last day to check them out – they are often one of the best spaces on the ship!
Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
20. Did you know you can eat all of the food in the dining room?! Seriously, can’t choose between 2 desserts? Have them both! Don’t want a main? Choose 2 starters instead. Craving a good Indian meal? Ask your waiter and it will probably be arranged for you within the next 48hrs.
21. Don’t forget there are usually more breakfast options than just the dining room, buffet and room service. Check out the cafes and other eateries which will likely have lighter options like ham and cheese croissants, granola yogurt, toasties, fruit bowls and in the case of RCL’s Quantum class, the Cafe Two70 does fabulous breakfast burritos!
22. Hate that premix concentrate orange juice? Ask your waiter if they have freshly squeezed – it’s generally available upon request.
23. Always go to the same side of the buffet restaurant? You could be missing out! Often there will be one or two sections which have something a little different, such as a sushi station or pizza station you may be missing. Do a full lap before you make your choice!
24. Can’t face the buffet on embarkation day? Check out other venues which will be serving food. You’ll find them to be much quieter! Also, don’t be afraid to take you plate out of the buffet to eat it somewhere quieter – just grab some cutlery on the way out.
25. If you’re a foodie like me, enquire whether your cruise has a Chef’s Table. Often, because there is such limited seating, they don’t advertise it widely, but if you’re willing to pay for what will be a higher cost than most other specialties, you will have an incredible experience which could be the highlight of your vacation!
26. If you’re on a budget but still want to experience a specialty restaurant, try booking for a lunch instead of dinner. They generally have a reduced price and smaller menu, but it’s great for something different with the family.
27. Want a glass of wine with dinner, but know it works out cheaper to buy a bottle? You waiter can keep the bottle for you to pour the following night. This is a great option for couples who don’t drink the same wine too!
28. Speaking of wine, most cruise lines will allow you to two bottles of wine or champagne on board, per cabin. They will charge corkage if you want to consume it in public, but there’s no cost for enjoying in your cabin.
29. Got the midnight munchies but don’t want to pay for room service? There will usually be an outlet open for you to get complimentary snacks, such as pizza and sandwiches or cookies. Some cruise lines still offer late night buffets which you absolutely have to check out – they’re usually pretty amazing!
30. Don’t miss out on afternoon tea! Almost all ships have some version, even if it’s just sweet treats available in the buffet. Have a lighter lunch, or late breakfast and skip lunch altogether at least once so you can fully indulge in the gorgeous little delicacies and sugary delights! If you ever come across Royal Caribbean’s banana crumble, please enjoy some for me! It’s a rare find, but when they do it, it’s incredible!
31. Remember that ships are made from metal, which means your cabin walls are metallic! Take some magnets with you for holding up the daily planner, some photos or anything else that is better off on the wall and out of the way!
32. Cabins are designed with storage in mind. Take a really good look around your cabin to find hidden spaces behind mirrors, above wardrobes and under desk tops. Just don’t forget to check everywhere when you’re packing to leave!
33. Feeling seasick? Call guest relations who can organise green apples or crackers to be sent to your room, plus they usually have complimentary sea sickness tablets.
34. Not happy with your bedding? Ask your steward to change your pillows, add a mattress topper or provide extra blankets for you.
35. You can also ask your steward to remove things from your room you don’t need – stools, trays etc to give you a little more space.
36. Travelling with the family? Many families will book the parents into a balcony cabin and the kids into the cheaper interior opposite. Due to some cruise guidelines, you may have to officially allocate one parent and one kid per cabin when booking, but as long as the kids aren’t too young, there’s no issue with you swapping once on board.
37. Another tip for family travels is to use the gym or spa shower instead of all queuing for the one bathroom. These generally have fresh fluffy towels and toiletries and are free to access.
38. Did you know that you don’t have to leave your bags outside your room the night before you disembark? This is highly recommended, and most people do, but if you’re like me who needs ALLL of the things in the morning to shower and get ready, you can keep you bag with you and walk it off yourself. Just don’t expect to get any help, this is your choice.
39. Personally I prefer to not get up stupidly early on my last day! With my bags already with me, I get ready at my own pace, enjoy a nice breakfast in the buffet or a cafe (with most guests already left early, they’re quieter) and then head off with the last people to leave. Just don’t be that annoying last guest they’re calling on the tannoy to get your butt off so they can get the new guests on – yes, I’ve been that person, haha!!
40. There’s nothing worse than coming off a fabulous relaxing cruise and waiting in line for a taxi for hours! Book yourself a car/transfer and depart in style!
I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know if there are any other cruise tips and tricks you recommend? I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, and more I can definitely learn!
Thanks for reading, see you next time!
Wendy A x
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8 comments / Add your comment below
Thank you so much Peggy! x
Thanks for the wonderful tips for those of us that have forgotten some of the things that differentiate a great cruise from a good one.
Thanks so much Peter! We really hope we can cruise with you both again one day…
Brilliant as always! No one better to learn the insider tips from than an insider herself!
Can’t wait to return to cruising and seeing your happy face.
Aww, thank you so much Dodie! I really appreciate your kind words. Looking forward to seeing you onboard again soon 🙂
Wendy, you know EVERYTHING about cruises! I love this post. I never thought about bringing magnets or not booking a cabin under the dining room because of scratching chairs! You are seriously a wealth of knowledge!
Haha, thank you! I’m sure there’s still plenty to learn, but I do like to think I know more than the average cruiser! We’ll get you and Mark onto a ship one day…! x