Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a veteran sea voyager, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your trip. That’s where the best cruise ship hacks come in. From money-saving hacks and organizational tips to clever packing essentials that you may not have considered, these are the best insider secrets to bookmark for your next cruise vacation.
Arrive a day early
Avoid the panic of potentially missing your ship due to flight delays or traffic by booking a hotel close to the port for the night before. Check which hotels in the area offer perks, such as free transport to the port or ‘Park and Cruise’ discount parking options.
Download the cruise liner’s app before traveling
Most cruise companies have a phone app that is a great resource when onboard. The app allows you to check the day’s onboard activities, your account balance, the day’s menu, and so on.
Make onboard reservations ASAP
Check your cruise line’s app or website to see if you need to make reservations for shows, events, and meals in advance. Pre-booking is common on large cruise ships to avoid all 4,000 turning up at the same time.
Book third party travel insurance
Travel insurance policies from most cruise lines or agencies are often very expensive and offer minimal coverage, usually only for the cruise itself, which isn’t ideal if you’re staying in the embarkation town before or after your cruise. It’s best to book a separate policy with a third-party travel insurance provider.
Bring your own snacks and drinks
A grocery store run is an absolute must before any cruise. You may not think it necessary, given cruise ships have various restaurants with copious amounts of food, but many cruise lines don’t actually offer many between-meal snacks, and the variety of soft drinks and alcohol can be limited. Stock up on pre-packaged snacks such as cereal bars and candy, your favorite cans of soda and even some bottles of wine – but always check food and drink rules with your cruise line beforehand.
Don’t forget an outlet extender
Even if you’re traveling solo, you likely won’t have enough power outlets in your cabin for all your electronic devices. A power strip extender is an absolute must-have, but make sure it’s a cruise-friendly one (extenders with a surge protector aren’t allowed on cruise ships), such as this Cruise Power Strip No Surge Protector with USB Outlets for $17.99.
Pack your hand luggage wisely
You will likely want to explore the ship before your luggage arrives in your cabin, so make sure you pack your swimwear, sun lotion, sunglasses and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag. Don’t forget important documents and medication, too.
Don’t board too early
Most passengers arrive at the very beginning of the embarkation window – or even start queuing beforehand – but if you want to avoid the long wait in line and security check queues, arrive toward the end of the embarkation window. Of course don’t leave it too late and risk any delays; around 30 minutes to an hour before embarkation ends is best if you want to avoid queueing.
Bring over-door hangers or magnetic hangers
Wardrobe space in most cruise ship cabins is often minimal, and there’s never usually enough hangers for all your clothing. Bringing your own over-door hangers or magnetic hangers – did you know the walls and doors of your cabin are magnetic? – will save you a ton of space and avoid your clothes getting creased in cabin drawers when you run out of wardrobe space.
Skip the buffet on the first night
Most passengers tend to have dinner in the main restaurant – usually a buffet – on the first night, which means queues are likely. It also means the onboard specialty restaurants often run special fight-night offers and discounts to help fill the empty tables. Check the itinerary on your app for offers or enquire directly at the restaurant.
Check for first and last day discounts
Similarly, check for other offers on embarkation day – spas often run first-day deals – and discounts as the cruise comes to an end. Cruise shops often run ‘last day sales’, meaning you can save money on souvenirs.
Save money by doing DIY excursions
One of the easiest ways to save money on your cruise vacation is by researching ports in advance and organizing your own shore excursions. Spend time some learning about the ports by reading travel blogs and guides, decide what you want to see, and simply hop off the ship to explore on your own. If you do want to do a guided tour or excursion, find a local company and book in advance to save time and money.