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10 Ways To Make Your Cruise More Extravagant

Cruise butler

While those who play their cards right will find that cruising can be an affordable vacation, others may have a little extra cash to burn or want to set their upcoming cruise apart from previous sailings. 

Perhaps you're celebrating an anniversary or graduation and want to make your next cruise feel more lavish than before. Thankfully, you can customize your vacation to meet your elevated desires. There's nothing quite like waking up in a large suite or being greeted at the airport by a private driver. 

Here are 10 ways to make your next cruise more extravagant. 

Reserve a nice pre-cruise hotel


Why not kickstart your vacation with a luxury hotel stay before stepping onboard the ship? Whether you're sailing out of Miami, Seattle, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Southampton, or New York, you'll find plenty of opulent hotels to choose from. 

After disembarking your flight to Fort Lauderdale, why not indulge in a luxurious stay at one of the beachfront resorts? From upscale accommodations with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean to private pools and fine dining, you can set the tone for your upcoming cruise before arriving at Port Everglades. 

Similarly, those sailing to Alaska can begin their vacation at one of Seattle's nicest hotels. There are plenty in Downtown Seattle to pick from, meaning that you'll be within walking distance of major tourist attractions, including Pike Place Market and the infamous Space Needle. 


Of course, to make the most out of your time, you'll want to book an earlier flight. Why pay $500+ for a hotel if you won't arrive until 10:00pm?

Speaking of airfare, consider flying first or business class


Those flying internationally, while not cheap, may want to splurge on business class fares. The added comfort, convenience, and overall feel of luxury can make it worth the investment. Upon arriving at the airport, you'll be able to enjoy priority check-in and boarding, as well as access to exclusive airport lounges with complimentary food and beverages. 

Even if you're flying domestically, a first-class ticket can enhance your travel experience. From larger seats to upgraded food and drink options, you'll arrive at your port city feeling rejuvenated after being spoiled on your flight. 

When flying to your cruise, it's imperative that you schedule your flight for the night before, as you don't want to risk missing your ship due to flight cancellations and delays. By arriving at least one day in advance, you'll have peace of mind knowing that you have plenty of time to reach the port and complete the required check-in procedures. 

Read more: The costly cruising mistake newbies make planning their first cruise

Reserve high-end transfers, such as a limousine 


Want to arrive at the port in style? Skip the standard taxi or rideshare and book luxury transfers. If you're staying at a hotel with concierge services, they can often arrange this for you, leaving you with little to worry about except showing up on time! 

While you don't have to reserve something as extravagant as a limousine, even something as simple as a private sedan will ensure that you're transferred to the port in comfort. It will also eliminate any waiting time, as there have been instances when I've had to wait at the airport for 20+ minutes for a Lyft or Uber. 

Having a pre-arranged car guarantees that you'll be greeted by transfers at your desired time, allowing you to embark on your cruise vacation with minimal delays. 

Book a suite


Rather than booking basic accommodations, upgrade your cabin to a luxurious suite with amenities like private balconies, butler service, and access to exclusive amenities. 

If you want to be one of the first people onboard, you won't have to worry about securing an early arrival appointment, as suites typically include priority check-in and boarding. Moreover, suites can usually accommodate more guests than traditional cabins, so you can keep your family together

Suite programs aren't built the same way, so it's important that you research what benefits will accompany booking a suite on your specific line and ship. For instance, suites onboard Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class come with different perks than those on Freedom Class ships. Similarly, Norwegian's The Haven differs from Carnival's Excel Suites. 

Read more: 8 signs you're ready to move up from a cruise ship balcony to a suite

Relax in the spa


Cruise ship spas are a haven for tranquility. Whether you want a relaxing massage, facial, or simple manicure, there's a wide array of treatments to choose from. 

Compared to land-based spas, those on cruise ships tend to be more expensive, with the average massage starting at well over $150. However, you may find that spending the extra money to focus on your wellness is worth the splurge, especially if you are seeking a moment away from your travel party. 

Even though they're more expensive than other add-ons, you can often find port day deals. Moreover, treatments in port tend to be less expensive. For instance, if you're going to Mr. Sanchos in Cozumel, you can add on a 45-minute massage for only $75. 

Read more: 7 ways to upgrade your cruise for $125 or less

Rent a private cabana

Floating Cabana Coco Beach Club

Most mainstream cruise lines have their own private island in The Bahamas. Carnival, for instance, visits Half Moon Cay, whereas Norwegian sails to Great Stirrup Cay. While these islands make for great beach days, as chairs are complimentary, why not upgrade your time ashore with a private cabana? 

From butler service to exclusive beaches and upgraded dining experiences, the cost associated with booking a cabana can be worth it. Want to relax on a private over-the-water bungalow at Perfect Day at CocoCay and enjoy a delicious lunch comprised of lobster and filet mignon? What about spreading out comfortably in Half Moon Cay's two-story beach villas complete with a hot tub? 

Private cabanas offer a sanctuary of relaxation amidst the excitement of your vacation. 

Read more: The cruise ship island cabanas that cost more than the cruise

Skip the basic excursions and focus on once-in-a-lifetime experiences


Sure, if you're cruising to Alaska you could opt to spend your day in Juneau at the Red Dog Saloon. Alternatively, you and your travel companions could fly to the top of a glacier via helicopter. While you're sure to have memorable experiences either way, the latter certainly is more unique. 

Similarly, there's no denying the beauty of relaxing on Bahamian beaches and enjoying the amenities of private islands. If, however, you're looking to elevate your day ashore, consider booking an excursion to swim with pigs or visit the infamous Atlantis resort. 

Better yet, customize your port day with a private tour. Rather than being bound to the excursion's schedule, you can create your own. Last year, I visited Roatán, Honduras, and for just $35 per person, we hired a private driver to take us to the island's East End. In addition to seeing more remote areas, we also got a discount at Victor's Monkey and Sloth Sanctuary. 

Private Transfer

For those with a specific itinerary in mind, booking a private driver ensures that you get where you want to go and return to the ship on time. It's also easier to fit more attractions into a single visit since you aren't dealing with a large tour group. 

Read more: Alaska cruise guide: Best Alaska cruise itinerary & tips (2024)

Splurge on specialty dining


Included in your base fare is unlimited dining at select restaurants, including the Main Dining Room and buffet. While there's nothing wrong with these venues, those seeking more intimate and refined dining experiences will want to book specialty restaurants. 

Depending on your ship, you may have the opportunity to indulge in a wide array of culinary experiences, including hibachi and sushi restaurants, upscale steakhouses, Italian trattorias serving up handmade pasta, sports bars with standard bar bites, or vibrant Mexican venues. 

The pricing for each specialty restaurant can vary depending on the cruise line; however, many allow you to purchase specialty bundles to save money. On 7-night Royal Caribbean sailings, for instance, you can opt to purchase an Unlimited Dining Package that allows you to eat in specialty venues every day for lunch and dinner or a simple 3-night package that only includes three dinners.  

Read more: I tried the best specialty restaurants on Carnival Celebration

Arrange an in-cabin surprise 


Celebrating something special while onboard? Let the honorary cruiser know with an in-cabin surprise. 

You can choose to decorate their stateroom for the occasion or have something as simple as a bottle of wine delivered on embarkation day. Whether it's a milestone birthday, anniversary, graduation, or other significant event, this small treat lets that special someone know you're thinking of them. 

You can arrange this by heading to your cruise line's online planner ahead of the sail date. If you're having trouble navigating the website, you can always give them a call or work with your trusted travel agent

Read more: 9 things you have to book in advance for cruise vacations

Reserve a drink package

Carnival Cocktail

On my recent cruise onboard Carnival Elation, my partner remarked how she wished that we had bought a CHEERS! Drink Package. Since she's a teacher and was enjoying being away from her students for spring break, she indulged in a few more drinks than usual, resulting in a pretty high statement at the end of the cruise. 

Rather than having to worry about each drink, it would've been more convenient to purchase Carnival's drink package ahead of time. It's certainly a mistake that we won't make again. 

Some cruise lines, such as Celebrity and MSC, actually allow you to bundle drink and Wi-Fi packages at the time of booking, so you don't have to worry about adding them later. If you know that you're going to be consuming quite a few cocktails each day or want to stay in contact with those at home, it's worth looking into what promotions your desired line is offering

Read more: How to save hundreds of dollars on your MSC cruise with this one simple trick

Participate in exclusive activities


You'll find plenty of complimentary activities on your cruise; however, there will be a select few that come with an additional charge, such as behind-the-scenes tours, wine tastings, cocktail-making classes, and more. These offerings allow guests to indulge in unique and memorable experiences beyond the standard amenities. 

When I cruised on Celebrity Ascent, I met a group of cruisers who had paid to attend a wine tasting, and they couldn't stop raving about the experience! If my memory serves me correctly, they were able to try six different wines, with one costing over $600 for the bottle. 

On my family cruises growing up, my sister and I would often take a cupcake decorating class on Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class ships. There was even one cruise when my mother rented out the FlowRider surf simulator for us! Now, we look back at those experiences fondly. 

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