10 Biggest Cruise Rip Offs And How To Avoid Them

10 Biggest Cruise Rip Offs And How To Avoid Them

What are the 10 biggest rip offs on a cruise and how can you avoid them, get around them, or reduce them?

Watch my Cruise Rip Offs Video

Watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/O-dN3Gb3aQ8

I’ve been thinking about the things that cruisers get ripped off the most on a cruise, and I thought I’d share them with you.

#1: Wi-fi

Wi-Fi is a huge area where you can get ripped off.

Wi-Fi is generally not free on a cruise, and it can cost you anywhere between $0.40 to $0.75 or sometimes even more per minute. You can buy various packages to help reduce the cost. But, you can easily be spending per person for one device (a whopping $200-300 on a seven-night cruise!)

Do you really need to be connected?

So, how do you get around that? Well, first of all, really think about whether you need to be connected.

If you are on a very port-intensive cruise, you can use Wi-Fi when you’re on land and just switch off when you’re actually on the ship overnight.

Or, you can perhaps choose increasingly one of the cruise lines that are offering Wi-Fi within the fare. Virgin Voyages, Oceania, Saga Cruises – they include Wi-Fi within the package.

Also, very importantly, is to make sure that when you are on the cruise, that you switch off data roaming. So you don’t get any surprise charges from your provider.

Really watch out, Wi-Fi could add many hundreds of dollars onto the cost of your cruise.

Corfu hop-on hop-off bus

#2 Excursions

The second area to think about is excursions. You can easily spend $100, $200 per person per excursion. That can mount up to many hundreds of dollars across the course of a week-long cruise.

There are loads of alternatives to cruise line excursions. Although, these tend to have a slight premium, partly because they guarantee that the ship will wait for you if the excursions are running late.

Hop-on Hop-off buses

I like to look at a couple of things to avoid paying a lot of money on excursions. First of all, I look wherever there are for hop-on hop-off buses. I’m a big fan of hop-on hop-off buses. They often come to cruise port, they’re relatively inexpensive, you get some commentary.

Third party providers

Also, you could look at third party providers. They’ll often provide the same tours as the cruise line; they’ll be normally much cheaper and also have smaller groups.

Tours by locals

The other great thing is tours by locals. There are many companies set up which will have locals that live or work in an area, and they will take you around. Sometimes, these are free and you just pay them a gratuity as a thanks for those tours. You can find all of those online. Just search for things like ‘tours by locals’ and the name of the port that you’re going to.

The key thing when you are looking at cruise excursions to avoid being ripped off is take a look at just how close places are to the port. You can often find that some of the excursions are very easily walkable from the port.

Resort passes

If you want things like a day at the beach, take a look at things like resort passes. You can often find them online, either directly through the hotel site, (or again you can just search for resort passes in the place you’re going) and you’ll find you can often go to the same resort or similar results for significantly less money than you’re going to be paying for the cruise line.

So, definitely take a look at different alternatives. You may decide you want to stick with the cruise line because you like the security of knowing that the cruise ship will wait for you if the excursion runs late.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral

#3 Spa Treatments

The third area for me that I think does verge on the rip off area is spa treatments. Spa treatments on cruise ships seem to me to be incredibly expensive for what they are. Even if you compare them with premium prices in places like London, for example.

So, one of the ways to avoid that is either not go to the spa at all or wait until a port day. You’ll find huge reductions on spa treatments on port days because less people are there.

You can often get 40% or more off a spa treatment. So, if you really want to go to the spa and you find the costs too high, then make sure you go on a port day.

Also be really careful, check that you’re not going to get on top of that charge a gratuity charge.

You’ll find many cruise lines will charge you what I think are very high prices for the spa treatment, but they will then add on an 18% gratuity charge, and also then the people doing the treatments are incentivised to sell you products.

They do quite a hard sell at the end. So, one of the things I find with spa treatments is that almost stressful in themselves because they are pretty expensive, and you have that up sell.

So, make sure if you don’t want to be ripped off, you’re really clear that you don’t want to buy any products and only go on port days.

#4 Photos

Another area that I do personally think is crazy expensive onboard are photographs.

Photographs taken by the ship photographers are pretty expensive to buy, and you can get around that by taking your own photographs. Wait until a port day, perhaps stay on the ship when the ship’s quieter, and you basically go around and take your own photographs.

Even if you don’t have a DSLR camera, bear in mind that mobile phones have incredibly good cameras.

Now you might want to splash out on buying one (because you want a picture with the captain on formal night). But it is expensive.

Look at the locations that they’re using around the ship and go there when the ship is quiet and take the same photographs for no cost at all.

#5 Bottled water

Another big rip off, I believe, is bottled water. Now this is starting to evolve, because instead of cruise lines selling plastic bottles, they’re moving more and more to refillable bottles, which is great. So hopefully over time, this will disappear. However, bottled water is really expensive. And you can buy packages and spend a lot of money.

The water itself on a cruise ship is perfectly drinkable. A lot of people worry about whether they can drink the water on a cruise ship. It’s perfectly, 100%, high-grade water that you can drink.

If you’re worried because you think you might not like the taste of the water, why don’t you take little sachets of flavouring and have flavoured water? That way you could probably even save on sodas.

On the positive side, as cruise lines look more and more at how they can reduce these plastics, they’re increasingly giving you refillable water, which is the water that you can be drinking anyway out of your tap or some of the water stations around a ship.

Bottled water is a big rip off, in my view, when you can drink the water on the ship.

#6 Solo surcharges

If you travel quite a lot by yourself, make sure that you don’t get ripped off by the single supplements. If you go on many cruise lines, they will charge you a 50% to 100% surcharge for single occupancy of a double cabin. There’s no need to do that because increasingly cruise lines are launching ships with solo cabins.

So, for example, I’m on Saga. 20% of their cabins, 109 cabins, are solo cabins. All the big new ships coming are increasingly having solo cabins.

However, if the cruise line that you’re a big fan of doesn’t have solo cabins, sign up for or ask your travel agent to watch out for single supplement deals. So, you’ll find a lot of the cruise lines on specific sailings will slash their prices right down to 20%, 10%, or sometimes even no supplements for solo travellers.

So that’s what I particularly do on some of the cruises that I book when I know I’m going to be going by myself is I look for those deals where I’m gonna be paying nothing or very low supplements.

Of course, if you’re very clear that you want to go on a very specific sail on a very specific ship
at a specific time, you are going to be ripped off (in my view) by the big surcharge.

By being clever you can avoid that.

#7 On board shops

Also, avoid the on-board shops.

On-board shops are not going to be the cheapest around. If you are coming on a cruise and you see things perhaps in the shops that you want, do a search and check what it’s going to cost you back home.

Even if you’re flying home and going through duty free, on-board shops generally (in my experience) are not particularly good value. No matter what you’re buying. So, be really cautious.

And if you are looking to buy something, check even in the ports what the price of those things are. If there’s something in the shops that you see that you really want, wait for the sales.

On every single cruise towards the end there will be sales and special offers, particularly if the shops aren’t hitting their targets.

So, my advice is don’t buy things at the beginning of the cruise, wait until the special offer and sales are on.

#8 Medical centre

If you unfortunately feel ill or poorly and it’s not a massive emergency, try and avoid going to the medical centre if you possibly can. Medical centres on board ships are pretty expensive because it’s a service that they’re providing. And also, the drugs that they prescribe are pretty expensive.

What I would suggest you do is try and go to one of the private walk-in centres on land. Most of these ports that you’re going to call on are used to having lots of visitors and normally within easy accessibility of the port. So, you can probably easily find a walk-in emergency centre that’s going to cost you much less money.

Again, only do this if it’s not a massive big emergency, because you can spend a lot of money using medical centres on board a cruise ship.

#9 Art Auctions

Many cruise lines have art auctions and sell art, however, it’s something to be extremely cautious about and maybe avoid.

First of all, because it’s an auction process it’s also very likely that you’re going to end up getting caught up in bidding too much.

But generally speaking, all the stuff that I’ve read and looked at is the general view is that art sold on board ships is not great value, and you could easily overspend.

And a lot of that is because of that whole auction process where you can sometimes get out of kilter between what things are really worth and what you end up paying for them.

So, avoid art auctions. Wait until you’re home, do your research, and buy art at home.

#10 Coffees, teas, juices and ice cream

The other area which I think you can easily be ripped off and end up spending money that you don’t need to spend is in the whole area of coffee, tea, juices, and ice cream.

All of those are available for nothing, included within your fare up in the lido, buffet, restaurant, informal dining, whatever the main restaurant is on board the ship.

You will normally find that you can get free coffee, it’s often in machines with ground beans, and you can get specialty teas to choose from.

They’ll often have juice machines up there, and they will normally have ice cream available, and in the dining rooms at mealtimes you’ll have ice cream.

A lot of ships will have specialty coffee shops, and they’ll have gelato shops, and will sell you
juices from the bars, which a lot of people end up paying a premium for.

There’s no need to do that. If you just head up to the buffet, you’re going to get all of those for free.

So, don’t spend money and don’t be ripped off by paying for stuff that you’ve already paid for within your fare.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the way to avoid being ripped off on a cruise, is to look at every single thing that’s not included in your fare as a possible area to be ripped off in.

Stuff that’s not included in your fare is seen by the cruise line as revenue generation. They’re going to try and get as much money as possible from the passengers on board the ship. So, every single time that you spend money on something that’s not included in your fare, approach with caution, and say can I avoid this? Can I reduce it? Or can I get around it?

And often the answer is yes.

If you’ve found all these tips helpful, I’d love it if you watched another one of my many cruising tips and advice videos. Why don’t you watch another one of those right now?

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Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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