There are plenty of ways to spend money while on your cruise ship vacation, but some of these extra costs are totally avoidable.
I think there's a fine balance between not spending a dollar extra on principle during your cruise and buying every add-on you can find. You want a fun vacation experience, but no one wants to spend more than they have to.
Certain add-ons are just going to be necessary, like going out while your ship is docked in port or needing money during the sailing. It's part of the total experience, but there are a few good strategies for saving money at the same time.
All too often, I'll see other passengers overspending for things they could have gotten for free or at a reduced cost. It's all about being smarter with your money.
Clutch your wallet, and take advantage of these five easy ways to over pay for cruise ship extras.
Find free shore excursions
When you go on your cruise, it seems like you have to book a shore excursion through the cruise line in order to do anything on while in port.
While cruise line operated shore excursions are certainly convenient, they are not the only option you have. In fact, these tours could cost you much more than other options.
In short, you do not need to book a tour in order to explore any of the ports of call your cruise ship visits.
There's nothing stopping you from booking your own excursions directly with museums, guides, car rentals and more for a fraction of the cost.
If you're on a budget or just want to limit your spending, simply walk off the ship and explore the area on foot. This is one of the easiest ways to experience any port you visit, especially if your cruise ship is in a city.
Since you're likely new to the city, try doing an internet search for a free walking tour to get a map or general plan of which sites and locations you want to get to.
Be sure to download an offline map into your phone, so you can still use Google Maps without a cellular data connection.
Do laundry in your room for free
I'm always amazed how quickly we go through clothes on a cruise, especially in the Caribbean because of how hot it gets and the resulting sweat.
Instead of paying for cruise ship laundry services that cost a lot of money per item to clean, you could clean it yourself in your cabin.
Handwashing clothes in the sink of your bathroom is an easy option that can save money on laundry.
You'll need to purchase travel size single-use laundry detergent packets before the cruise. Once onboard, fill the sink in your bathroom with warm water, add the clothes and detergent, and then rinse them well.
You can dry the clothes in your shower, thanks to the clothesline that you'll find in there.
Another option is to buy strong magnetic hooks that you can use to more easily hang up wet clothes. Plus, the magnetic hooks can be used for other purposes during the rest of the cruise.
Get free drinks
There's a good chance you'll want to enjoy drinks on your cruise, and it's likely the most common thing people buy on a cruise.
I wish I could tell you there's a way to get free drinks all the time, but that's not the case. However, there are ways to get free drinks sometimes.
Check your ship's daily cruise schedule for events that have free drinks included. These events include a welcome aboard event, loyalty program events, and art auctions.
Liquor tasting events double as sales opportunities and ways to get samples.
Depending on your cruise line, there may be free drinks when you reach a certain level in their customer loyalty program.
Royal Caribbean gives four free drinks per day to its Diamond members (and more for Diamond Plus and Pinnacle).
Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises have designated hours for free drinks for their upper tier members too.
While not free technically, you could bring your own drinks on the ship.
Most cruise lines let you bring soft drinks, water, or bottled wine on embarkation day. Check with your cruise line for specific rules on what's allowed.
There is a corkage fee to open a bottle of wine or champagne you brought onboard yourself in a restaurant or bar, but there's no cost to open it in your cabin.
Withdraw money without ATM fees
Even though cruise lines are usually cash-free onboard, there's still a need to bring money with you on a cruise.
Ships have ATM machines on them, but ATM fees are going to be pricey. Especially when you get hit by the fees from your own bank and the ship's ATM.
One workaround is to get the money from the ship's casino instead.
If you go to a slot machine, insert your ship card and then charge your room the amount of money you need and then immediately cash out.
You'll get a certificate to redeem at the cashier and you'll have the money you need without any fees.
An added benefit is you'll accrue credit card points for the transaction!
How to get WiFi access for free
You might say you can go without internet access for the entire cruise, but that's not always practical.
Cruise ship internet access isn't cheap. Instead of paying their price, be opportunistic with your internet access.
The best strategy is to wait until you get to port for WiFi access. Many shops and bars offer free internet if you're there. Some require you to spend a little bit, but you may be grabbing lunch or a drink anyway.
Ask crew members where the best spots are for free WiFi in port. Crew members are there every week and they know which places have the best coverage.
In addition, you might be able to get free internet for a limited time from your customer loyalty programs.
Some cruise lines include a free day or free hours. It won't be useful for the entire cruise, but something for free is better than nothing.