The penny pincher’s guide to cruises


With the global economy in dire straights it is difficult to escape the news reports, television shows and blog posts about finance and money.  It seems like every website you visit has a ‘recession-busting’ article or a guide helping you to curb your spending.  Today, we’re jumping on the bandwagon and providing you with our top tips for penny-pinchers on cruise ship holidays, as we know that many first-timers will be appreciate the advice.

So, this is our first of two blog posts, which today includes three ways to ensure you leave your holiday fresh and refreshed – not stressed because you’ve under-budgeted and overspent. In the two posts we’ll share lots of interesting tips with you, including how to avoid all the hidden costs on board AND how to grab yourself a deal in the spa.


All cruises are different, but the majority will make you pay extra for “speciality” drinks (such as cola, fresh juice and fresh coffee or mixed drinks) when you’re on board.  This can come as a bit of a shock financially to those who saw the words “all inclusive” in the brochure, but didn’t budget for these extras.

Unfortunately, milkshakes, and soda drinks are the beverage of choice for most children and teenagers, which can be unkind to your wallet.  To avoid paying over the odds, try telling your child if s/he wants a non-free drink, it will come out of their own holiday money, which means they won’t be able to buy other fun items (such as toys or souvenirs).

If your child is fussy and won’t drink what is offered for free, some cruise ships do offer a pre-pay soda/fizzy drinks card that entitles the child to refills for a certain period of time.  Depending on your budget this could be a good option, plus it should be cheaper than buying individual bottles and cans all day long.

Remember:  You could end up paying a large premium for wine and beer,  especially if you enjoy a few drinks in the evening.  Set a daily budget for alcohol BEFORE you go on holiday and save up for this in advance.


Most cruise packages come with meals included in the price of your ticket, so it makes a lot of sense to eat on the ship as often as possible.  However, you may be tempted to dine away from the ship when you have the chance to do so, but be warned: this will become expensive!  Even though it is tempting to explore new cultures and sample local delicacies you probably will end up paying through the nose for it.  In your budget, do plan for one or two meals on land, but make sure you save up a little extra for them in advance.

Remember:  Where possible, take your own snacks on excursions, especially if you have children.  This will save you money in the long run, as off the ship even small snacks can be costly.


On some cruises it’s possible to find activities and events where children can join in for free.  It’s certainly worth looking through your brochure or visiting your cruise provider’s website to research the cheap and free children’s activities before you start your trip.  If your ship doesn’t offer too many free children’s activities on board, get prepared by visiting a pound shop before your cruise to stock up on inexpensive toys, colouring books and activity sheets.  Bring them out as a surprise to quash the inevitable chants of “I’m bored”, and these should keep kids happy for an hour or two (thereby distracting them from spotting adverts or leaflets for the expensive paid for activities!)

Try this: Hide a small toy in a public place on board and write out clues for your child so s/he can find the prize.  You can sit in the vicinity and read your magazine in peace as your child conducts their treasure hunt!

Finally, if you want to catch a show at night and you have kids, it may be worth seeing if your ship has a “night nursery” or “slumber party” so you can enjoy the night’s entertainment.  However, to ensure you stick to your budget, this is something you should plan in advance and put money aside for.

We hope our money-saving tips have helped you to
budget in advance for your first cruise holiday.
Please visit us again next week for even MORE tips!

About Author

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Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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