People Are Still Unnecessarily Falling For These 6 CRUISE TRAPS

People Are Still Unnecessarily Falling For These 6 CRUISE TRAPS

People Are Still Unnecessarily Falling For These 6 CRUISE TRAPS 

A cruise I was on recently inspired me to put together this blog. I was on Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. I met many first-time cruisers and repeat cruisers who have tripped up and fallen for the cruise traps that are out there right now and I want to make sure you know about. So you don’t fall into those traps.

Trap #1: Emptying Your Wallet

The most important trap of all to understand is that cruise line’s objective is to get you on board at pretty much any cost, because they make almost as much money from you once you’re on board as they do from fares.

For example, a recent report I saw about Carnival said they took $9 billion in fares, but they’re taking over $7 billion from passengers once they’re on board. Every cruise line that I’ve seen them talking about to Wall Street is around how they’re pushing more and more spend on board.

Now, one of the biggest traps I think people are falling into these days is first, not understanding that they’re going to be spending a lot of money when they’re on board and budgeting for it, but also thinking the cruise lines are giving them an easy solution.

Add On Packages

Many, many cruise lines have introduced add-on packages, which supposedly turn your cruise into a much more all-inclusive fare. For example, you’ve got Norwegian Cruise Line, the competitor to the line I’m on, they have their Free at Sea, which supposedly includes some Wi-Fi and dining and excursion discounts. You’ve got Princess Cruises with Princess Plus; you’ve got Celebrity with Always Included.

However, the thing I always say to people is bear in mind if the cruise lines have introduced anything, it is because it is good business for them. Before you add on those things, whichever cruise line you’re on, look at the detail. First, look at if you are buying things individually, what it would stack up. For example, I don’t drink alcohol, so many of these packages do not financially work out for me. First, do that calculation.

Secondly, many people come on board and are then disappointed because they discover that the package is not what they really wanted. What do I mean by that?

Let me give you an example. Celebrity is a sister cruise line to Royal Caribbean, it’s the same company. Their Always Included talks about it includes drinks, it includes Wi-Fi. However, it’s a classic drinks package, which is very restricted on what is includedWi-Fi is very restricted on how much Wi-Fi you can use, which basically is just email, a little bit of surfing, and some social media, you can’t stream, do video calls. Make sure that you check what you’re getting., it’s not necessarily the best package that’s right for you and you’re going to have to then pay much more to upgrade it once you’re on board.

People Are Still Unnecessarily Falling For These 6 CRUISE TRAPS

Trap #2: Upgrades

Another trap I came across a couple of people falling for, and I’ve seen that on many lines, is bidding for upgrades. Now, cruise lines no longer really upgrade people so much based on loyalty, they try to get people to pay for upgrades.

I’ve come on several cruise lines where people got excited, caught up in the bidding process and realised afterwards that they’ve bid more than if they’d simply booked a higher-grade cabin. I met a lovely couple on Celebrity recently and they had bid for a loft suite only to discover they had paid more than if they’d just booked it in the first place.

Before I boarded this cruise, I received about four different emails encouraging me to upgrade and bid. If you’re going to bid, check, check, and double check, what it would cost you at that point of time to physically upgrade because you probably also can choose your actual cabin.

Also important, the other trap people to fall into if you’re travelling solo like I am, is the bid is always based on two people so even if you’re solo, you’re going to pay for two people. Watch the bidding process carefully and generally bid low.

Trap #3: Fare Locked In

The next trap is one that I have so many people contacting me about. In fact, even people who are on this cruise before it started. Now I’m a big advocate around tracking fares and there’s several different sites that you can do that on, and I have a link on my blog Tips for Travellers, which tells you the sites and how to do it. (

However, what people are discovering is that when the fares go down, they’re not able to get cruise lines to match the lower price and the reason is cruise lines are becoming a little bit trickier. What they’re doing is when they’re doing promotions, they’ll often build in terms and conditions now which say that the price is locked in. What they say is, “The price won’t go up, but it also won’t go down”. Many people are seeing prices going down for cruises, but cruise lines will not budge because they say, “You’ve booked a fare which has a term and condition where you cannot reduce the price.”

Booked With An Agency?

The second key thing is if you book often with say, an online agency, an online cruise agency, bear in mind that often you cannot change the fare because many of those are effectively selling a group rate, they’re selling a bulk number of cabins. The cruise line has given them a specific deal for that, and it will not change.

Now, I learned that also because when I was setting up some of my own group cruises is if we went with a group rate and fares went down, people would not be able to lower the fare, so we went with a more flexible fare, for example.

if you think the fare is going to go down or you’re worried about the fares going down, check when you book if this is going to be a fare that if the fares go down, if you haven’t paid the full balance, you can ask for the lower fare, you can ask onboard credit, or an upgrade.

Trap #4: Missing Out

One other critical trap that I initially fell into on this trip, but luckily one of the barmen pointed out I was missing out, and that’s to make sure that you absolutely understand what your loyalty level or your cabin grade includes.

For example, although I haven’t cruised on Royal Caribbean very much, I am Diamond status because of my cruises I’ve done on Celebrity, and when you’re Diamond status, there’s a whole bunch of things you get.

You get four free drinks up to the value of $15 per day in any of the bars and so on. You also get access to a Diamond Lounge where they have evening canapes and continental breakfasts and some Concierge help. Then, they have a very special event just for Diamond and above members, so make sure you understand what they are.

I went and hunted down from the Diamond lady when one of the barmen asked me if I wanted to use one of my free drinks, I went and got from her this leaflet, which then tells me exactly everything that’s included. cruise lines don’t necessarily always tell you about that, so make sure you ask, go to the loyalty manager, “What are my perks? What can I get?”.

Speak to your cabin steward and find out what you can be getting within your cabin and make sure that you get exactly what your grade or your status gets you. Don’t fall to the trap of missing out by not asking.

Trap #5: The Small Print

One important trap that I’ve seen so many people fall into, some on this cruise, but on every other cruise I’ve found people fall into it, and this is the trap of not looking at and understanding what you’re signing up for.

What’s important to understand is when you book a cruise, you are automatically agreeing to the cruise line cruise contract, and terms and conditions, there are many, many traps, and things that you could trip up on without even realising.

First, cruise lines have age and various restrictions around, for example, how young kids can be before they can come on or certain rules around if you’re a certain stage of pregnancy when you can come on board. I’ve found that it differs a lot by line, so you need to make sure what they are. If you have young kids or are pregnant or plan to get pregnant.

Additional Conditions

Other conditions where I know many people have had problems on including someone, I met on this cruise is what the rules are around name changes or if you want to change basically the people on the booking. These days they will perhaps charge a small fee if you were travelling with someone and they’re not coming anymore but check the rules because some cruise lines used to have, in some of the contracts that I’ve looked at, where it would count as a cancellation.

Travelling With Kids

If you’re travelling with kids, every single cruise line has different rules around whether kids can be in their own cabin. For example, here on Royal Caribbean, the rule is as follows, that if you’re under 21, or 18 if you’re not sailing out of North America, kids can only be in their own cabin if it is adjacent to you or across the hall from you. They can’t basically be in a separate cabin somewhere else or there must be someone in the cabin who’s 21 (or 18 if you’re not sailing out of North America), so there’s really rules around where the kids can have their own cabin.

Carnival, for example, says that kids under the age of 13 cannot be in a cabin by themselves, even if it’s next door or opposite, with a balcony. Each cruise line has different rules in their contracts, so make sure that you check those when you’re booking if you’re travelling with kids and want them to have their own cabin.

Also, perhaps if you are between 18 and 21 and you want to drink and gamble when you’re on a cruise, you’ll find, again in the cruise contract, different rules. Many cruise lines that are sailing out of North America will hold the 21 years and above rule for drinking and gambling. Many cruise lines, even if they’re American cruise lines sailing out of Europe, which we are doing now, will reduce that to age 18.

Those are some of the main ones, but I wanted to pull out the next one that’s in the cruise contract as a separate trap because this is a big, important one.

People Are Still Unnecessarily Falling For These 6 CRUISE TRAPS

Trap #6: Itinerary Changes

When you book a cruise, do not assume that the itinerary is locked and will not change. The cruise lines in the cruise contract will say that they can change the itinerary before the cruise or during the cruise for what they would call operational reasons.

Now I’ll give you an extreme example of that. On my cruise before this one, which was an expedition cruise on Hapag-Lloyd, Greenland, and Canadian Arctic, because of the whole situation with ice. The captain scrapped our entire itinerary and changed it completely. I always say to people, “If you’re booking a cruise because you want to meet a long-lost friend in a particular port, beware because you may never get there.” Also importantly, you’ll find that the cruise line in the contract normally says that they can do it without compensation.

For example, on a recent Windstar cruise, a port was dropped because of weather and we were offered nothing, no extra onboard credits, nothing at all, so it’s really important that the itinerary is kind of a guideline and they obviously try and stick to it because there’s so much infrastructure and plans and excursions and things around it, but really important to understand that the itinerary can and will change.



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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