Some travelers may not be savvy to the tips and tricks that can help them get more out of a cruise vacation. Doing some research, especially if you’re a first-time cruiser, can go a long way to improving your holiday. Otherwise, your dream vacation could wind up being a little less dreamy. From sneaky fees to less-than-desirable cabins, here are some of the secrets your cruise line won’t tell you.
Hidden Fees Everywhere
It’s important to understand that even supposed “all-inclusive” cruises have hidden fees and aspects where you might be nickeled and dimed. Look whether your rate includes daily gratuities, as those can add up quickly as tips are per person, per day. Some cruises may charge you an automatic gratuity, while others will let you decide how much. Most beverages are usually not included in many cruise fares, which means you need to pay per-drink prices or go for one of the packages. And, be warned — drink packages for non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages are usually separate.
Other fees you may not realize aren’t part of your cruise fare are internet, shore excursions, specialty restaurants and some onboard activities. Specialty restaurants are usually part of an upsell, and some special events onboard may also require a separate fee.
You Can Book Excursions Cheaper
Cruise ships don’t want you to know that you can book excursions for less when you go with outside companies. The hook they lure you in with is that no one else guarantees your arrival in time for port departure. And, while it’s true that the ship won’t wait for you if you’re on a private tour that doesn’t make it back in time, the fact is that many of these private companies have been working with cruise ship passengers for years. They have a stellar reputation of getting guests back before the cut-off time, so there is minimal risk.
Choose Your Cabin Wisely
Just like there are guides that help you determine the best seat on a plane, the same exists for cruise ship cabins. Do your research before selecting a cabin location or you could find yourself in the middle of a nightmare. Choosing one below the disco or other non-cabin space could be noisy around the clock. Cabins near elevators and stairways, connecting cabins and those near main hubs on the ship will also be among some of the noisiest. If you’re prone to motion sickness, avoid cabins at the front of the ship.
Most Cabins Lack Sufficient Outlets
Years ago, only having one or two outlets in a cabin was not a big deal. Today, with all the electronics each person totes around, there aren’t sufficient places to charge everything. Don’t automatically pack your power strip before checking whether your ship allows them or not. Otherwise, you’ll want to bring a charging station to maximize your charging capabilities.
Crime Does Happen
Don’t turn a blind eye and let your guard down on or off the ship, as crime does happen. And, some cruise ports may not be in the nicest part of town, either. You shouldn’t let your guard down and assume it’s smart to just go ashore and wander the closest neighborhoods.
Not All Cruise Lines Have Lifeguards
It often comes as a surprise to some travelers that some cruise lines do not employ lifeguards at the pool. It’s up to you to watch your kids at the pool, which you should be doing anyway even when there is a lifeguard present. If you want to ensure there are lifeguards onboard, consider options like Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line.
Order a Bottle of Wine Rather than Glasses
If you don’t purchase a drink package, you are likely better off buying wine by the bottle rather than by the glass. Some people don’t think about buying the whole bottle, because there’s an assumption you must finish it that evening. What you may not realize is that cruise ship bartenders and servers can mark the bottle with your name and room number, and you can finish it another night — even at a different venue.
You May Miss Out on the Best Ports
Booking a particular cruise itinerary is subject to change in the event of mechanical or weather issues. There are times when a storm comes up suddenly, or high winds cause the ship to divert from its intended itinerary. If your cruise is visiting an area currently experiencing political tensions, the cruise line may reroute to a different port or give you an extra day at sea. Wondering if you’ll get any compensation for this? No, there is no compensation for skipping a port or changing routes, except maybe a refund of prepaid port fees.