Cruise Extras Worth Paying For. And Those That Are Not

It’s easy to blow a small fortune on all the add-ons offered by the cruise lines. So, which you should go for and which to skip. Some, as you will see, are opposite to what many cruisers, maybe you too,  are doing.

Splash Out On Your Cabin

In my experience, your cabin while maybe will not make your cruise, it can break the enjoyment of your cruise. Get it wrong and it is hard to have a great time. As too many people find out the hard way, as they keep telling me.

A better cabin is worth paying extra for.

Cabins have become more important in post-pandemic cruising, where you need to have a place that you won’t mind being in if you have to quarantine. And they are a place you may find you want to spend more time in too as we adapt to the new way of travelling.

I recommend at least look at a balcony cabin. You will have access to fresh air and can enjoy sailing, sunrises, sunsets and views sat out there. One warning, is that once you have cruised in a balcony cabin, it is so good that it is hard to go back to oceanview or inside cabins.

I believe that a good cabin is worth paying extra for and always do.

Sirmione tour with our Titan Guide

Sirmione tour with our Titan Guide

Splash Out On Excursions

Although a lot of cruise passengers I speak to only self explore in ports to save money, I think excursions are worth paying for on many cruises to get the most of every single port.

First off, if you’re cruising to a place you’ve never been before, or is quite foreign with unfamiliar languages and customs, or perhaps has a reputation for being a little bit risky or the sights are a long way from the port, then spending extra to go on an organised cruise line tour is worth it. You will get good information, have your questions answered and see the key sights.

Remember, if you go on the cruise line tours they ensure you get back to the ship on time, or the ship will wait. They will not wait for late comers self touring or on independent excursions.

In ports new to me,  I almost always go on a cruise line excursion – even if it is one of the “on your own” tours which are part escorted and part free time.

Splash Out On Speciality Dining

Speciality Dining is one area that I more torn on. I was in the “not worth it” camp but have moved into the “it is worth spending on” in some cases.

Cruise lines have made it a part of the cruise experience, and are constantly adding to the range and choice of venues, which is very appealing.

Of course, the dining included in the Main Dining Room, buffet restaurant and informal dining venues around the pool will be enough, but going to a more speciality dining venue can add a sense of event and occasion to the cruise.

Asian, Brazilian, Italian, French, Sushi and so on venues give you the chance of having a table to yourselves, instead of having to share with strangers; dining in a more intimate setting together and tasting some new cuisine that you may not have tried before .

So, if you are on a cruise celebrating a special event like birthday or anniversary, or just want to be a bit romantic, they are definitely worth the extra.

I am not convinced that going to them often though is worth the fairly large extra costs. So, resist the temptation to book packages.

If you do want to go and try lots of them, one alternative is to go dining at these specialty venue during lunch, as the surcharge is usually lower.

How to cruise for less money

Splash Out On Adult-Only Cabanas

If you are on medium and large ships, one of the best things to spend extra on is access to the private adult-only cabana areas. These are on lines ranging from Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn and so on.

You can escape from the busy pool decks and have a space to relax and unwind. Many will include some drinks and food, and sell daily or cruise-long packages.

They are a great treat and make sea days especially enjoyable. That is when they become worth paying for.

Splash Out On Private Island Cabanas

Linked to that is the private cabanas on the cruise line islands in the Caribbean. These can be a bit costly if you are travelling as a couple, but if you are travelling with friends then they become more attractive cost wise. And so worth it

You’ll have a place of your own where you can lie in the sun (or escape it) and will often include snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi and snorkel gear. You won’t have to fight for a deck chair or worry about someone removing your belongings if you go exploring.

You need to reserve these cabanas early as they book up quickly. Definitely proving they are worth splashing out on.

Splash Out On Wi-Fi

Although many say they like to switch off, most of us are used to being connected and our friends and family – and they expect us to be.

So, if your line does not bundle Wi-Fi into your fare (which more are starting to do) then budget it as you will likely want to use it – and so buy it for the entire cruise before or on boarding to get the best price,

If you only want basic connection like social media and messaging, many lines now have lower priced packages for that. For example, lines like Carnival offer that for about $8 a day

After years of lousy internet, the lines are moving to super fast Wi-Fi like Royal Caribbean and Princess where you can stream movies, FaceTime or WhatsApp video call home.

Being connected is what we are used to, and I think worth spending to have that.

cruise ship Caribbean

Skip On Beverage Packages

Personally, I think skipping beverage packages is a good idea as it will probably will cost you more.

One warning sign for me is how pushy the lines are trying to get passengers to buy drinks packages. That suggests to me they must be a good earner for the line.

First, you have to consume a huge amount to make them worthwhile and cheaper than buying drinks individually, and secondly most lines require everyone in the same cabin (or even other cabins with same credit card registered) to also buy the same package.

So, at a minimum do a rough calculation of how many drinks you will have and if it will be cheaper. Also, take into account if you have a very port intensive itinerary, as you will also be on the ship less time to use the package. If you have private island calls, also check you can use the package on there.

The only time I ever have a drinks package is if it is bundled into the fare, either as standard (like on Celebrity currently) or as a promotion. And they prove to me they do not pay back.

Skip Out On Spa

The spa on ships are busy. And, in my view, it’s not worth spending on.

The prices are much higher than most five-star hotels on land, and will have a hard sell push at the end of treatment for products, which the consultants earn commission on and are very skilled at getting passengers to buy.

The only time I use the spa is if I have a lot of On-Board Credit and have not found better value things to spend it on.

Skip Out On Wine And Drink Tastings

Like the Spa, attending events like wine, whiskey and other tastings is probably not worth spending on. These again will largely be guises for product selling.

Skip Out On Shopping

Which brings me to shopping on board. If you are going to buy things on board, be that anything from toiletries, alcohol to clothing and jewellery, then check what you can pick it up for in port or back home. That Wi-Fi you bought will come in handy for doing that.

Duty-free alochol and perfume is probably your best bet for getting a decent price. But generally on board shopping in my experience is not good value

Skip Out On Photos

The other thing the lines push a lot are photos, which suggests again to me they must be a good earner.

These will cost a lot. Individually or in packages it is a lot. I am not convinced they are worth paying extra for. Will you really treasure them or will they stay packed away once you get home?

One thing to consider is, if you do want some professional portrait shots for display at home, price what they would cost at home versus booking a session on the ship. This is one thing that usually costs less. So, worth it.

ABOUT TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
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Gary Bembridge’s Tips For Travellers aims to help you make more of your precious travel time and money on land and when cruising the oceans or rivers of the world. To help you, in every video I draw on my first-hand tips and advice from travelling every month for over 20 years and average of 10 cruises a year.

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