If you’re a first time cruiser, or even a well established cruise junkie, there’s bound to be a few tips of the trade you still don’t know about. The more you travel, the more you’ll learn, but there are plenty of ins and outs you should know about first that will save you money and time. Cruise lines may not come right out and tell you about these, so instead of scrolling through message boards trying to find out the secrets, we’ve created a handy list. Have a look through our favourite tips for cruise holidays and see if any of these pearls of wisdom will help you on your next cruise.

Don’t be won over by “all you can drink” packages

How thirsty are you really on a cruise? Enough to drink seven to ten drinks a day? An ‘all you can drink’ package means you’ll pay a set amount, drink as much as you like, and not have to worry about the bill. But to actually get your money’s worth you’ll have to drink at least 7-10 drinks a day, which, especially for port days, seems a bit excessive. To save a bit of money it may be cheaper for you to pay for your drinks the old fashioned way, one at a time.

B.Y.O.B.

Some cruise lines don’t allow you to bring your own alcohol onboard, but surprisingly there are a few that do. P&O Cruises allows you to bring wine and champagne, but they will charge you a £15 corkage fee for any wine consumed in the restaurant. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises will let you bring your own non-alcoholic drinks onboard, which will save you a lot of money on fizzy drinks and bottled waters.

Last minute show tickets

Cruise ships these days have fantastic big Broadway and West End style shows, complete with intricate set designs, gorgeous costumes and professional actors and singers. The shows, like Royal Caribbean®’s and Norwegian Cruise Line®’s Mamma Mia and Rock of Ages, can book up quick. But don’t be dismayed if you haven’t managed to nab some tickets. Lots of people might have reserved seats, but for some reason or another they don’t show up on the night. If you check beforehand, the cruise ship staff will let you know if any seats are still available.

Go on, treat yourself

There are so many meal options when it comes to dinning on a cruise. The menus are full of delicious starters, mains and desserts, so much so that it may be difficult to choose just one, so don’t. What the cruise lines won’t tell you is that you can have more than one, and order as much as you like. So if you can’t decide between the roast or the lobster, have both. Or if the crumble and the trifle both tickle your fancy, just go for it. You only live once, and when on holiday, the sky’s the limit.

You could be upgraded

Have you always wanted a balcony suite, with a built-in deep-seated bath and your own sitting lounge? Well, these little extras can come at a hefty price, unless you play your cards right. You may be lucky enough to meet the ‘upgrade fairy’, where the cruise line calls you ahead of departure to see if you want a to upgrade for a small fee. This usually happens when a ship hasn’t filled all their rooms and when cruising is in its off season. By paying a small portion of what the balcony suite would originally be, you’ll get a better room and the cruise line will make a little extra money.

Eat what you like

Did you just love the mushroom chicken from the night before? Is it not on the menu tonight? Actually it still might be. Even if you don’t see an item you love on the menu, you can always ask the waiting staff if it’s still available. The kitchens onboard are equipped with endless ingredients, so even if you crave a meal that’s not on the menu for the entire cruise duration, they still might be able to rustle it up.

Show up late and get on first

There’s nothing worse than being super excited for your cruise, getting there way too early, and then waiting in line for hours to board. Save yourself the annoyance and get there late, about 30 minutes before your ship is meant to depart. The lines will all be gone, and you’ll get on the boat much faster than if you got there earlier. It only takes 10-15 minutes to get all checked-in, so you’ll still have plenty of time to get settled onto the ship before it heads out.

Snap a photo of the daily planner

Cruise ships have a huge daily itinerary going on. From cooking classes, to performances, to kids’ clubs and roller skating parties. You’ll be given a daily planner that outlines what time and where each activity is taking place. But to make sure you don’t miss anything, make sure to take a picture of the planner on your phone. That way you won’t have to carry the actual daily planner around, and you’ll easily know when things are happening without having to go back to your room. Some cruise lines, like Carnival, even have their own app you can download, which will keep you updated on all the ships’ events.

Join in and win free stuff

When you hear the term ‘audience participation’ some people might jump for glee, while others want to hide under their chair until it’s all over. But if you’re the latter, don’t be too quick to scoot down in your chair. You can actually win some pretty cool prizes if you volunteer, ranging from tee-shirts to items from the gift shop to gift certificates for the spa. So it could be well worth your two minutes of stage fright.

Now that you’ve discovered some cruise line secrets you’ll be well prepared for your next seaside adventure. Have a look at some our best cruise holiday deals and see where you can test out your new found knowledge.

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