How To Save Money On A Cruise [30 Top Tips!]

Bradley Williams
Written By:
Bradley Williams
Last Updated:
October 31, 2023
Here is a rundown of our absolute top tips on how to save money on your next cruise booking. From saving $100s to even $1000s, you will want to read this!
how to save money on a cruise

Cruising is a wonderful way to travel, and honestly, I would recommend everyone at least try a cruise at some point in their lives.

Growing up I was very fortunate to experience 30+ cruises with my grandparents.

Which was amazing, I spent all day playing with other kids onboard, exploring places around the world, and eating exotic foods.

It’s probably what sparked my travel wanderlust in my older life.

But after Cazzy and I decided to do our first cruise together onboard the Norwegian Jewel, I quickly realized one thing.

Paying for a cruise is pricey!

Not just that, but there are so many hidden/unexpected ways that they get more money out of you.

From tips to onboard purchases you didn't realize were included.

Below I want to take you through my absolute top tips for saving money on a cruise.

  • Part one includes top tips for saving money on the booking itself
  • And the second part on saving money once onboard

Let’s get stuck in…

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How to save money booking a cruise

First of all, we’re going to look at how to book a cruise and the best ways to save your cash whilst doing so! 

Below are 15 tips to help you find the best deals, so you can make the most of your money.

1. Sail in the off-season or shoulder-season

Like with any destination, cruise prices tend to shoot up during the peak tourism months.

If you’re traveling as a group or family, then this means you could be spending much more than you need to. Instead, why not sail during the off-season or shoulder season?

During this time, cruises will often have fantastic deals on as they’re wanting to fill up the empty cabins. You can benefit from huge discounts just for changing the time of year that you travel.

The deals available will differ depending on which cruise liner you choose and where you’re heading, as the seasons vary by destination. 

However, if you’re wondering how to get money off cruises and you're flexible with your holidays, this is one of the top travel tips I can give you! 

Here’s some more information on shoulder season cruise deals

2. Book your cruise early or take advantage of last-minute offers

early saver cruises

The best time to book a cruise to save money will obviously differ depending on your circumstances and your preference of destination.

The two main tips I can give you are to either book your cruise way in advance to benefit from ‘early bird’ deals or find cheap last-minute offers!

If you book early, you’ll get a wider selection of cabins, dining times, and other services. In fact, you’ll sometimes find that cruise liners will increase their prices when cabins start to sell out.

However, the opposite of this can sometimes be true as well. Some cruise companies will drop their prices or offer fantastic promotions if there are too many cabins still available.

These deals are often found a few months before the cruise is due to depart.

For more information, you can check out this helpful guide on the best time to book a cruise!

3. Use a VPN

Surfshark VPN

Now, this isn’t something that many people tend to think of when booking a cruise!

If you’re looking to travel cheaply, then having a VPN is a game changer. The name stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’ and they allow you to change your IP location.

By changing your location, you’ll be able to see how the prices fluctuate depending on where the website thinks you’re searching from! 

For example, we were in Mexico but used our VPN (Surfshark) to pay via the UK version of the website as the price worked out much cheaper.

If you then need to pay in a foreign currency because it works out cheaper, be sure to use a service such as Wise which allows you to hold and spend money in any currency without horrendous fees.

4. Watch out for sales

Royal Caribbean Cruises

This guide is full of cruise money-saving tips, but this is one of the most important! 

If you check out the official cruise line websites, you’ll likely find that many of them are offering incredible sales or promotions/packages to help you save money in the long run.

An example of this is when we booked our cruise with Norwegian Cruise Line during Black Friday weekend. During this time, they had a ‘Free at Sea’ promotion which included WiFi, extra meals, unlimited drinks (including alcohol), and tour discounts.

Other cruise companies that offer these types of sales and promotions include:

  • Royal Caribbean - they sometimes have fantastic sales that include up to $600 off your cruise and allow children to travel for free.
  • Celebrity Cruises - you’ll often have your tips included with Celebrity Cruises as well as basic WiFi and a drinks package.
  • MSC Cruises - this company offers an ‘All In’ package on some cruises that includes WiFi and drinks.

5. Consider local tour operators when booking

Tui travel company

If you don’t find any deals on the cruise line websites that catch your eye then you’re best off checking with local tour operators or travel agents.

Not only can they offer awesome deals on cruises, but you can also get a bargain with flights if you need to fly to your departure point. 

This is also beneficial if you’ll need to stay in a hotel overnight before your departure, or if you need to organize transfers.

For those in the UK, your best bet is heading to travel agents such as

If you’re in North America, you’ve got plenty of options too like

You can research many of the deals online, but sometimes if you head to the actual store they’ll have fantastic offers listed on the windows outside! 

6. Will you really make use of pre-purchased upgrades?

drinks package
We made use of our drinks package!

Most cruise lines now offer the ability to pre-buy packages ahead of time including WiFi and alcoholic beverages. 

Although these may seem like a no-brainer, you’ll want to consider whether you’re actually going to use them - enough to be worth the price anyway! 

For example, the drink packages may seem like a great option but it depends on how much you’re planning to drink.

Although you may save money, you’re likely to waste it if you’re a light drinker. 

You should also check if your favourite tipple is included. Some cruise drinks packages only allow you drinks up to a certain value, and you're favourite cocktail may not make the cut!

The same goes for WiFi as let's be honest, are you really going to want to be on your phone the whole time? My answer would be no! 

To work out whether these upgrades are worth it for you, Google the drinks and WiFi costs of your cruise liner ahead of time. This way, you can do some rough calculations.

This is one of our top cruising tips, especially for first-timers as you won't really have an idea of what to expect until you're onboard.

7. Be flexible with your dates if you can

docked cruise ship

If you’re wondering how to save money on a cruise then this is one of the things you’ll want to think about.

Although this just isn’t viable for all professions, some careers allow you to be flexible with the dates you can book off. If you’re flexible with the dates you can book, then you’re in a much better position to save money!

That way, you can just choose the departure date that's the cheapest. You can also take advantage of last-minute offers if you’re more flexible.

This is especially the case if you need to take outbound flights to your cruise port, as we all know prices differ a lot depending on when you travel.

If you do need to book flights, this is another scenario where a VPN will come in handy!

8. Consider looking at a ‘repositioning cruise’

repositioning cruise

If you’re not picky with your destination then why not consider a repositioning cruise?

This type of cruise is a one-way itinerary that will depart in one port and end in another. They’re also known as ‘transatlantic’ or ‘transpacific’ cruises and you can find some great deals on them!

Repositioning cruises usually take place during the start/end of a cruise season, as the ship needs to sail to a warmer location. 

Some of the best ways to find these types of deals are to check the cruise line websites or simply type the term in. However, you can also use which is free to sign up for and will show you the options on offer!

Just keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for a flight at some point, as they start and end in a different location.

9. Try to avoid booking new vessels

New cruise ships come out every year, and they’re often bigger, fancier, and offer more amenities than the ones that came before.

However, these luxuries come at a cost - quite literally. You’ll find that new vessels are often very expensive, so don’t be tempted by their flashy design.

The great thing about cruises is that they’re renovated all the time to stay up to standards, so you wouldn’t even notice that you’re cruising on an older ship. 

Older vessels are much more affordable and will leave you with plenty of extra cash to spend throughout your trip. 

In fact, you’ll often be able to find fantastic deals that include very similar itineraries to the new vessels, but you’ll save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

If you’re looking to save money on a cruise then this is one of the top tips that I can give you! 

10. If you’re traveling as a family, look out for special deals

family cruise deals

As I mentioned before, there are plenty of awesome deals to be found when booking a cruise ship.

This can range from ‘2 for 1’ flights, exclusive packages, and generous discounts. However, if you’re traveling as a family then there are some other deals that you’ll want to look out for! 

Some cruise companies will allow kids to sail for free, or you’ll get a hefty discount off third and fourth guests. Sometimes, this can be the case for the second passenger too.

Not only will your child have free bed and board, but some cruises also offer free babysitting services so you won’t need to pay for childcare either. What more could you ask for?

Here’s some more information on cruise companies that allow children to sail for free (up to a certain age).

11. Sign up for email announcements

Carnival Cruise Line

If you’re still saving your cruise money and you’re not in a rush to book anything just yet, then here’s another tip for you.

When you’re looking to save money on a product what do you tend to do? Well, if you’re like me you often sign up for email alerts to receive offers.

So why wouldn’t you do the same for a cruise? 

Many popular cruise companies allow you to sign up for email announcements and you certainly should. Not only will you get sent special offers, but you’ll also receive information on discounts and last-minute cancellations.

Although this may not be the best option for those looking to book a cruise right now, it’s the perfect option for those with a bit more time.

Here are some companies that allow you to sign up for email announcements:

12. Some cruise ships offer loyalty programs 

Celebrity Cruises reward program

This is more for frequent cruisers rather than first-timers, but it’s a good trick to know if you find that the cruising life is for you! 

Rather than hopping between companies, you’ll often find that you’ll be thoroughly rewarded if you choose the same company. 

You’ll reap an array of benefits this way that often includes free drinks, onboard credit, free WiFi, and discounts on alcohol packages.

However, some loyalty programs also offer special cruise fares, free cabin upgrades, and huge discounts for members.

Once you’ve traveled with the same company for a few trips, you’ll find that the points soon rack up!

If you’re interested in learning more about cruise loyalty programs, then here are some articles that you may find useful:

13. Choose your cabin carefully

balcony cabin on cruise ship
Our balcony cabin on board NCL 

Many cruise lines offer fantastic deals on cabins, but naturally, the balcony cabins will be much more expensive. Understandably so, as you tend to get much more room and epic sea views!

For those who don’t mind the type of cabin they stay in, there are a couple of tricks you should know.

For starters, interior cabins are much more affordable than balcony cabins and you can often pick them up for a couple of hundred or thousand dollars less.

Another tip is that cabins located on the lower decks are usually much cheaper, making them a great option for people who don’t plan to spend much time in their rooms.

To get a good idea of the cabins, I’d recommend checking out Cruisemapper. On this website, you can explore the cabins by ship so you know exactly what you’re getting.

14. Take a look at cruise-line credit cards

Disney credit card

You may not have heard of these before, but cruise-line credit cards follow the same principle as airline credit cards. 

Offering a ‘buy now, pay later’ approach, you can purchase your cruise on your credit card (depending on the limit) and you’ll be rewarded with a ton of points.

You can then use these points to claim big savings on future cruises so it’s a win-win! 

Just keep in mind only the biggest cruise companies offer these types of credit cards.

If you’d prefer not to use a cruise line credit card, then there are plenty of other credit cards out there where you can reap the benefits!

Here are some guides you may find helpful if you’re wanting to learn more about this:

15. You can book cruise insurance separately 

Compare the Market

First-time cruisers might not know that you can actually book your insurance separately, rather than with the cruise company.

For those in the UK, you’re best off using a comparison website such as Compare the Market or Travel Supermarket. Whereas, SafetyWing and World Nomads tend to be the most popular options for US citizens.

You can check out our SafetyWing review here!

However, some bank accounts and credit cards also offer travel insurance so you might not even need to purchase anything extra. Just make sure you check whether you’re covered for a cruise as that tends to be a specific type of insurance.

You also don’t want to skimp out on insurance and ensure that it includes all the basics. This being trip cancellation, COVID-19 coverage, medical expenses, pre-existing health conditions, and lost or stolen baggage.

How to save money when on a cruise

how to save money when on a cruise

If you’re wondering how to save money while on a cruise then I’ve got you covered! 

Below are 15 cruise tips to help you save money AFTER your departure, so you can spend your hard-earned cash on experiences and excursions. 

16. Avoid the ATMS on-board

Monzo vs Revolut
We recommend using one of these cards to save on ATM fees!

This might not be as much of an issue these days, as many cruise lines are now operating cash-free since the pandemic. 

However, if you’re wanting to visit the casino or hit the game room then you’ll need some spare cash on you.

The problem with ATMs on cruise ships is that they can charge you up to $6 just to withdraw money, so you’ll want to plan for this in advance. 

Make sure you’ve brought enough cash for the trip, and you won’t have to pay these ridiculous fees.

If you think you’ll need to withdraw money from an ATM then I recommend taking along a travel card or two like Revolut or Monzo.

They allow you to withdraw up to £200 per month fee-free making them a great way to save money! 

17. Some cruises offer a free sauna

woman in sauna

There’s no denying that cruises offer a variety of services and facilities. Many of these are included, but there are some that you’ll have to pay extra for. 

An example of this is the spa, which often has a variety of treatments available. If you’re looking to save money you’re probably going to want to steer clear of this! 

However, some cruise lines offer a free sauna which you should use to your advantage. This way, you can still relax but not have to pay for a spa treatment.

If you definitely want to visit the spa, then they often have large discounts available on port days. So, if there’s a particular location you’ve already visited or you’re not keen to go to, then that’s the day to head to the spa! 

However, just keep in mind that you can always visit a spa back home, whereas you might not get the opportunity to see these locations again (as many of us choose to go somewhere new each year).

18. Research and pre-book your own tours

tour excursions on cruise ship
We booked our own tours on Norwegian!

If you’re wondering how to save money on a cruise ship, this is one of my top tips!

Cruise ships offer a variety of ‘shore excursion’ packages and although they may seem convenient, the price is often massively inflated.

Some of these tours are often $100-$200 more expensive than standard tours, so your onboard credit (if you have any) isn’t going to go far! 

For this reason, we tend to do our own tours. An example of this is when we pre-booked our own tour time for the Curacao factory and used local transport to get there.

It cost us 50% less than the price the cruise offered so it’s definitely worth doing it yourself! 

For the best experience, I’d recommend using Get Your Guide and Viator. They are our go-to for booking tours and excursions, and they’re extremely reliable.

19. Put away your phone!

phone airplane mode

One of my top money-saving tips whilst on a cruise is to simply avoid using your phone. I mean, you’re going to be on a cruise full of things to do - so do you really need it? 

The reason for this is that onboard WiFi is extremely expensive no matter which way you choose to use it. Even if you pre-purchase an internet package, be prepared to leave a dent in your wallet. 

In all honesty, a cruise offers the perfect opportunity to disconnect for a while. Not only will you save money, but you’ll get to avoid social media and just take some time out!

If you’re worried about getting in touch with friends or family then don’t be. Just take advantage of the free WiFi that you’ll find on your shore excursions when dining at a cafe or restaurant. Otherwise, just keep in airplane mode to avoid any unwanted charges.

20. Don’t use the premium or specialty restaurants

For those looking to save money on a cruise, you’ll want to avoid dining at premium or specialty restaurants as they can be costly.

Of course, you can pre-purchase specialty dining packages and these can save you up to 40%, or you can go for the unlimited option. However, in my opinion, that’s just an unnecessary expense. 

On our Norwegian Jewel Cruise, there were 6 additional restaurants beyond the main dining room.

The package we chose included 4 free evenings in these restaurants, and honestly, they were no better - or actually worse, in some cases. 

The food on cruises is incredibly diverse and inclusive and is honestly really hard to beat. The dishes vary day by day, so they’ll always be something to take your fancy without heading to one of the more expensive options! 

So, don’t feel like you’re missing out by not paying for these premium meals, as they’re honestly no better.

21. Buy onboard credit for future cruises

Norwegian Cruise Line Cruise Next

If you’re wondering how to save money for a cruise, then this is a tip for frequent sailors!

For those who are 100% planning to cruise with the same company again, then you can buy future onboard credit during your trip.

When we headed out on a cruise with Norwegian, they had a fantastic offer called Cruise Next.

If you were to prepay certain amounts whilst on your cruise, you can then deduct this from any future booking for up to 2 years.

Not only that, but you’ll get an additional 25% of that pre-payment as onboard spending. Sounds too good to be true right?

Well, it’s not! This is great for the cruise line as they’re guaranteed a future customer, and you’ll get some nice perks. 

Although this example is specific, there are plenty of other cruise companies that offer deals like this. For more information, check out this guide to booking a cruise onboard

22. Avoid onboard laundry services if you can 

washing machines

There are plenty of ways to save money on a cruise, and avoiding the onboard laundry is one of them! These services can be very expensive and can be avoided by packing just a little bit more. 

Remember, there doesn’t tend to be luggage weight limits on cruise lines - however, if you’re flying to the departure port you’ll need to consider this. 

To save money, you can pack a laundry soap bar and wash the necessities yourself (underwear, swimwear, etc).

A soap bar is a must for any cruise packing list as it’s a handy item to have with you! 

Another thing to note is that some cruise lines even offer free laundry, so you can check beforehand whether that’s included with your cruise or not.

If that’s not the case and you do want to wash a few items, then double-check the prices first as you might be surprised at how costly they are!

23. Take advantage of free services

Like with the free sauna I mentioned before, you can take advantage of endless free services on a cruise.

For starters, you’ll often benefit from a free fitness center that includes machinery such as treadmills and weight stations.

Instead of paying to do fitness classes or for a personal trainer, why not just do it yourself to save some cash?

Another thing you’ll want to take advantage of is the onboard party where you’ll often be treated to free drinks!

Not only that, but many cruises also offer free classes and lessons. Some of these may be related to dancing, language, culture, and history and they’re a great thing to take advantage of rather than paying to visit the spa.

Another free thing that many cruises offer is complimentary pizza, so why would you need to spend money at their specialty restaurants?

As you can see there are lots of ways to save money on a cruise, so do some research on your cruise liner!

24. Avoid the casinos!

casino on board norwegian jewel

Next up on this list, avoid the casinos!

Let’s face it you’re not in Vegas so it’s not a right of passage and for that reason, it can definitely be avoided.

Although the odd gamble here and there may not be considered too much of an expense, it’s just not worth it. Especially, as cruises are known for having low payouts so even if you win, you’re not likely to ‘win big’.

For those looking to save some cash, limit your time here (or make it non-existent), and don’t spend your hard-earned money on slot machines! This goes for roulette wheels too.

If you absolutely have to visit the casino then it might be worth joining the cruise’s players club. At least this way, you might benefit from discounts and complimentary offers.

25. Some cruise lines will allow you to pack a limited amount of beverages

pepsi soda

There are a couple of things to take on a cruise to save money and these include a laundry soap bar, a refillable water bottle, and snorkeling gear.

But, had you ever thought about taking beverages onboard? The answer is probably no!

Well, you’ll be happy to hear that some cruises allow you to bring along a small case of soda or water bottles. In fact, depending on the company’s policy you might even be able to board with a bottle of wine! 

Although this won’t last you the entire trip, you’ll still be saving some cash. 

Just keep in mind that the policy will differ with every cruise company, so you’ll have to check with your company whether they allow this or not! 

You don’t want to pack these items and then be held up because they’re taken off you! 

But for example, P&O allow you to bring 1 Litre of duty free alcohol on board with you to consume in your room.

26. Don’t overtip for the whole duration of your cruise

Virgin Voyages

Tips often aren’t included in your cruise and although you don’t want to be stingy, you don’t need to go over the top either. 

We all know how it is, once you’ve had a few drinks and you’re having a good time - you don’t mind parting with the cash.

However, you’ll feel very different in the morning when you look at your bank account! 

What you’ll be surprised to know is that some cruise companies actually include tips in their package so you won’t need to worry about this at all.

Some of the companies that offer this include Virgin Cruises, MSC Cruises, and Silversea. Just make sure to check in advance, whether your cruise line offers this or not. 

You’ll save a lot of money if they do! 

Here are some articles about tipping that might come in handy:

27. Don’t use the ‘pay to view’ TV services in your cabin


Another great way to save money on a cruise is to avoid the ‘pay to view’ services in your cabin. This goes for movies and TV shows as the costs can soon rack up! 

Again, you’re on a fabulous cruise so do you really need to be sat in your cabin watching TV? 

Yes, it’s a fantastic way to relax and enjoy some ‘me time’, but you’re not likely to be doing this all the time so it’s not something you’ll be missing out on.

In fact, if you’re smart about it you can just download offline movies through Netflix and other streaming services before your trip. 

Here’s some more information about how to watch TV on a cruise, and specific information about a variety of cruise lines. The rules around this are quite complicated, as some companies offer WiFi packages that don’t include streaming services - sneaky…

28. Avoid buying cruise photos 

cruise ship

If it’s your first cruise, then the idea of having your photograph taken professionally will understandably appeal to you. This is especially the case if you’re dressed for a fancy dinner!

While you may choose to buy one of these as a reminder of your trip, be aware they are expensive. To be honest, you might even be able to take better (and more natural) pictures yourself if you’re good with a camera!

You’ll find these photograph opportunities throughout the ship, and there’s no harm in having your photo taken as you don’t need to pay on the spot.

However, seeing the photos afterward will no doubt encourage you to buy one and that’s when the costs will add up! 

If you don’t have good willpower then it’s best to avoid the situation entirely and then you won’t be tempted to splash the cash.

29. Try to set a budget for your onboard savings and pay in cash (if allowed)

United States dollars

Setting a budget for your cruise is one of the best ways to keep yourself accountable. It’s even better if you can pay in cash because it will be easier to keep track of your money.

Seeing the money leave your wallet will mean you’re less likely to overspend, whereas if you pay by card - it’s a lot easier to forget what you’ve spent.

The thing to remember with this tip is that many cruise companies are now cashless, especially after the pandemic.

Although you won’t be able to specifically budget your cash in this scenario, you can still keep a track of your spending. The best way to do this is to put the money you want to spend in a separate joint account or purchase items on your credit card that has a limit.

Just remember to be smart about this, and don’t pay for what you can’t afford! 

30. Buy gifts and souvenirs on land rather than paying the premiums on a cruise ship

As with any holiday, you’ll likely want to buy gifts for friends and family or souvenirs to remember your trip by.

Now, these will be available onboard but we highly recommend you buy them during one of the cruise’s excursions. You’ll often get much better deals this way, and will get more bang for your buck.

Not only that, but you’ll be able to hit the local markets and test your haggling skills depending on where you’re going! 

The exception to this are items like perfume and aftershave, as you’ll often be able to save quite a bit due to the ship's ‘duty-free’ aspect.

If you don’t mind being last minute, you can always head to the onboard shops on the last day. By this time, you’ll benefit from plenty of offers as the company will just want to get rid of the stock.

Where will you go on your cruise?

So how do you save money on cruise excursions? As you can see there are plenty of ways to be frugal on cruise ships, and whilst you’re booking!

Hopefully these tips have given you an idea of how to cut costs, especially for first-time cruisers, who may not know what to expect.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how to find the best deals, where will you go on a cruise?

There are two main options you’ve got for cruising; hot or cold destinations. For the latter, popular options include Alaska, Antarctica, Iceland, and Norway.

However, many people choose to go on a cruise to hot destinations and there are plenty to choose from! Some of the best options include Europe, Panama, Mexico, and the South Pacific.

If you’re still deciding where to go on a cruise, then think about these questions…

How much time do you have?

What is your budget?

Would you prefer a relaxed getaway or an action-packed cruise?

For some more inspiration, here are some guides that you may find helpful:

Disclaimer: Fully research your destination prior to travel, or any products prior to purchase. We can accept no responsibility for anything you experience as a result of the information found on this website. Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means we receive a small commission for some purchases, at no additional expense to you. Read more here
Some images courtesy of Deposit Photos.
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