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Things I Don't Pay Extra for on Carnival Cruises To Save Money


As someone who cruises frequently, I've found that by avoiding certain add-ons, I'm able to save a significant amount of money on each of my Carnival cruises. 

I don't fully restrict myself, either. What's the point of going on vacation if you can't indulge a little? While the base fare includes a lot, there are certain experiences that I'm willing to splurge on since they make my cruise more memorable. 

One of the easiest ways I save money is by skipping the specialty restaurants onboard. Though these venues offer more intimate dining experiences, the dishes served in the Main Dining Room are quite satisfying, and by eating in the dining room as much as possible, I feel as though I'm getting more value out of my cruise fare. 

From professional pictures to spa treatments and shore excursions, here's a list of some other things I don't pay extra for on my Carnival cruises. 

Read more: Study reveals that taking a cruise is more affordable than you think

Balcony cabins


Since I began sailing with Carnival last year, I've spent 21 nights on four vessels, 16 of which were spent in interior cabins. Though they're the smallest accommodation onboard and lack natural light, I find that I don't spend too much time in my stateroom. There's so much to experience onboard that I feel like I'm wasting my cruise if I stay hidden in my cabin. 

Rather than spend money on a more expensive cabin, I prefer booking inside rooms. They come equipped with the same standard amenities as ocean view and balcony rooms for a fraction of the cost. At the end of the day, I just need somewhere comfortable to rest after lounging on the lido deck, attending theme parties, and exploring different ports of call. 

Sailing in the cheapest cabin allows me to spend money on other add-ons, too, such as shore excursions, unique cocktails, specialty restaurants, and more. These experiences are typically more memorable than the stateroom. 


Looking into 2025, it's possible to score a deal as low as $424 per person on a 6-night cruise onboard Carnival Horizon to Ocho Rios, Jamaica and Grand Cayman. If, however, you want to book a balcony, the rate increases to $699. 

With a price difference of around $275, a couple will save close to $550 by opting to book an inside cabin. Larger families sharing a cabin will appreciate even more cost savings. If a family of four were to book a cruise onboard Carnival Horizon sailing on June 29, 2025, they would pay $3,745 for an interior stateroom or $4,085 for a balcony, after taxes, port fees, and gratuities. 

Read more: Balcony vs interior cruise ship rooms: what's the difference?

Professional pictures

Taking a picture of a Carnival Ship

More often than not, I'll disembark a cruise having not purchased any professional photographs. Costing a minimum of $12.99 for each "Fun Shot," the cost can quickly add up, especially for families or groups, especially if you're more interested in collectible photos taken in the dining room or gangway, as well as professional portraits on elegant night. 

While sailing onboard Carnival Elation, my finacée and I happened to take two pictures we ended up wanting to purchase. Though we were able to justify the $70 cost since we were able to drive to Jacksonville and save hundreds on airfare, it's not something we'd normally do. 

Perhaps one of my least favorite aspects of Carnival's loyalty program is that they don't offer any photography benefits to loyal cruises. With my Diamond Crown & Anchor Status, I'm able to get one free picture on every Royal Caribbean cruise. It's a nice perk that allows me to collect another souvenir on each sailing without spending extra money. 

Read more: 16 hidden cruise ship extra charges you should know about (2024)

Specialty restaurants


With all of the delicious complimentary dining onboard Carnival ships, I never feel the need to pay for multiple specialty restaurants. New cruisers shouldn't feel pressure to splurge, as you'll find plenty of options onboard whichever Carnival ship you select. 

From juicy burgers to tacos, crispy chicken tenders, BBQ, pizza, and more, Carnival excels at offering numerous fast-casual dining options, so passengers don't feel restricted to the buffet and Main Dining Room. 

It's easy for families to spend an extra $120+ on a meal at the specialty steakhouse. Though delicious, that's money that could be allocated toward other experiences, like shore excursions or pre-cruise travel. 

Read more: Carnival menus 2024: Main dining room, specialty restaurants & more

Spa treatments

Cloud 9 spa

I love a facial and massage as much as the next gal, but you'll never catch me spending money at the onboard spa. With 50-minute massages starting at around $200, it's easy to spend more on a single treatment than drinks for the entire cruise! 

Instead, I find other ways to relax, including spending time on the adults-only deck. Though not the same as being pampered for close to an hour, having some peace and quiet away from the noisy lido deck is rejuvenating. On some Carnival ships, including Carnival Conquest and Vista, I've spent countless hours in the Serenity area lounging in a comfortable clamshell bed! 

If you really want to spend time in the spa, consider purchasing a thermal pass, as it'll be valid for the duration of your cruise, rather than just 50 minutes or so. 

Read more: The biggest cruise rip-offs that you should avoid to save money

Shore excursions, particularly in Half Moon Cay


If you're looking for a true tropical oasis, look no further than Half Moon Cay, Carnival Corporation's private island in The Bahamas. From the soft white sand to the turquoise waters, you may find yourself wishing you could stay overnight, or at least longer than a couple of hours. 

After visiting the island twice, I still don't feel the need to purchase an excursion. Taking advantage of the complimentary beach chairs and BBQ lunch is enough to occupy my time while ashore. 

Since Half Moon Cay is a private island, you won't find any third parties waiting to offer discounted tours. Instead, you'll have to pay whatever rate Carnival is advertising. Activities like horseback riding can cost upwards of $120 per person! Instead, I prefer to save my money for ports like Nassau where there aren't many complimentary activities nearby. 

Read more: 12 ways to save money on a Carnival cruise (2024)

Faster to the Fun

Faster to the Fun

Embarkation is an exciting time. You've finally made it to the terminal and you're moments away from stepping foot on your Carnival ship for the first time! 

Before that can happen, though, you have to complete all parts of Carnival's in-person check-in process. This entails getting your travel documentation checked, as well as going through security and leaving your larger pieces of luggage with a porter. 

You may be anticipating some frustration due to long lines while you're stuck staring at the escalator that leads to the gangway, leading you to purchase Faster to the Fun, Carnival's paid priority check-in service. 

carnival celebration boarding

The embarkation process has never taken me more than 30 minutes on my Carnival cruises sailing out of Jacksonville, Port Canaveral, and Miami. In fact, the most frustrating aspect was parking at Port Canaveral, which had nothing to do with the operations inside of the terminal. 

Because I know that I'll be onboard in no time, I never bother spending extra money on Faster to the Fun, which costs, at minimum, $69.95 per stateroom. If you're going on a cruise onboard one of Carnival's newest Excel ships, you can expect to spend even more, or around $159.95 per cabin. 

Read more: 18 Carnival Cruises Tips & Tricks (2024)



While some Carnival ships are equipped with self-service laundromats, who wants to waste time doing laundry on vacation? Personally, it's one of my least favorite chores, so I'll avoid it whenever possible!

Carnival's valet laundry service, however, isn't cheap. Whenever I'm sailing, I let my laundry pile up to deal with it after my cruise ends, rather than pay an exorbitant amount to return home with clean clothes. 

During my sailing onboard Carnival Conquest, my curiosity got the best of me, and I pulled out the valet laundry list to see how much it would cost. Needless to say, I saw $3.50 for one t-shirt and promptly put the sheet back in its respective drawer! 

Read more: Guide to laundry on a cruise ship



Before any cruise, I make sure that I purchase more sunscreen than I think I'll need. I'm able to get a bundle of two bottles for around $9 at my local Target, whereas I've seen single bottles cost as much as $27 onboard Carnival ships and ashore at Half Moon Cay

Even if I don't see all of the sunscreen, I know it'll be put to use on a future sailing. If anything, I can use it for pool days during the summer!

It makes more financial sense to simply buy more than I think I'll need rather than be stuck having to shell out $27, especially if I'm at the point in the cruise where I only need it for another day or so. 

Read more: What Toiletries to Pack for a Cruise (Packing List)

All-access tours


Including my four Carnival cruises, I've set sail 19 times since my cruising career began back in 2005. To date, I have yet to pay for a behind-the-scenes tour. Though I find the operations of cruise ships fascinating, I cannot bring myself to pay $90+ to tour areas like the galley and bridge. 

The price for Carnival's "Behind the Fun" tour varies depending on which ship you're sailing on. Those cruising on Fantasy Class ships (i.e., Carnival Elation and Paradise), as well as Carnival Radiance, Sunshine, and Sunrise, will see the lowest prices. 

Tours of the behind-the-scenes areas on newer ships can cost as much as $150 per person, meaning that a family of four can expect to spend $600 on this experience. 

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