Rookie Mistakes on a Cruise

10 Rookie Mistakes That Waste Money on a Cruise

Are you planning to go on a cruise but worried about making rookie mistakes that can waste your money? As someone who’s been to over 25 cruises, I’m sharing some valuable cruise tips and tricks to help you save money and make the most out of your cruise. I’m also sharing my cruiser budget tracker as a free printable below.

Rookie Mistakes that Waste Money on a Cruise

1. Buying a Drinks Package if You Have a Busy Itinerary

New cruisers commonly make the mistake of purchasing a drinks package without first considering their itinerary. Drinks packages can be pretty expensive and only make sense if you plan on drinking enough to justify the cost. 

Take, for example, Carnival cruise, which charges $59.95 per person per day, with a cap of 15 alcoholic drinks. If you’re spending a day at sea, you could probably drink enough to make it worthwhile, but if you’re at port, you’ll likely be spending most of your time outside the ship, meaning you’ll only be drinking during dinner and after dinner. 

Keep in mind that the cruise line charges the same per day price for drinks packages regardless of whether you’re at sea or a port, so if you have a busy itinerary with back-to-back port stops and not a lot of sea days, it may not be worth purchasing a drinks package since you won’t be able to drink enough to make it worthwhile.

Rookie Mistakes that Wastes Money on a Cruise

2. Buying Shore Excursions Only Through the Cruise

It’s common for novice cruisers to waste money on shore excursions by solely booking directly from the cruise line. If you want to save some money, it’s best to shop around for cheaper shore excursions. 

One way to do this is by directly booking with independent tour operators such as Viator. Cruise line shore excursions are usually more expensive because they charge extra for the guarantee that the ship won’t leave without you. However, independent operators often provide the same tours at a lower price, and since they do the same tours with cruise passengers every week, getting left behind is not a big concern. 

In my experience, comparing the prices of the cruise line’s shore excursions with independent tour operators is always a good idea. You can probably get cheaper shore excursions from sites like Viator

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3. Going on Shore Excursions in Ports that You Can Do on Your Own

Another way new cruisers waste money is by booking shore excursions at a port that they can easily explore on their own. 

For example, at cruise ports like Nassau or St. Maarten, you won’t need to book shore excursions since you can easily do it on your own. The downtown area is within walking distance from the cruise ship and the beach is also within walking distance. You can easily explore the shops, restaurants, and the beach on your own without paying for expensive shore excursions. 

If you’re on a Mediterranean cruise, Barcelona is another port where you can save money by exploring independently. Las Ramblas, the main tourist area, is right off the cruise ship, and you can explore it on foot. The metro station is within walking distance, so you can get around the city to see other sights on your own without having to book shore excursions. 

4. Forgetting to Bring Essentials from Home

Many first time cruisers waste a lot of money on their trip by forgetting to pack essential toiletries and OTC medicines. It’s expensive to buy them on the cruise ship. 

To avoid paying exorbitant prices, one way to save money is to pack your toiletries and OTC medicines. If you need help, use my toiletry bag packing list, it helps me remember everything I need to bring.

Another smart way to save money is by bringing a refillable water bottle on the cruise. You can easily refill it at the buffet and take it on shore excursions and to your stateroom. 

Not only does this save you from having to buy expensive bottled water on the ship, but it also saves you the hassle of repeatedly going back to the buffet for a drink.

In my opinion, an insulated water bottle without a straw is an excellent choice because you don’t have to deal with washing straws in your cabin. 

5. Not Buying Things in Advance

One common mistake rookie cruisers make is waiting until they board the ship to book their activities. This can result in not getting their first choice since popular shore excursions and activities do sell out quickly. More importantly, you end up wasting money because many cruise lines offer a discount if you book early. 

For example, at Carnival Cruise, if you pre-buy your drinks package, you save 10%. You miss out on discounts if you don’t buy things in advance. 

Rookie Mistakes that Wastes Money on a Cruise

6. Not Waiting for Things to Go on Sale

Many first time cruisers spend too much money on souvenirs and services aboard the ship. They don’t realize that these things are likely to eventually go on sale. 

For example, I never pay full price for spa treatments. Instead, I wait until port days when the spa usually has sales, and then I book my massage or facial. 

Cruise gift shops also always go on sale. My advice is to avoid buying souvenirs on the first day of the cruise when they’re full price. Instead, wait for a sale day when the gift shop usually offers souvenirs for just $10, and that’s when you should buy your souvenir t-shirts.

7. Not Taking Advantage of Shareholder Benefits

Did you know that as a shareholder of a cruise line, you could get free onboard credit? Many new cruisers aren’t aware of this, but they could be throwing away money by not taking advantage of this offer.

The amount of credit you receive can range from $50 to $1000, depending on the duration of your cruise and the number of shares you own. Check out my article on how to take advantage of the cruise shareholder benefit.

8. Not Getting Free Champagne

Many first time cruisers end up spending money unnecessarily on drinks, such as champagne, which they could have received for free on the cruise. 

They don’t realize that it’s easy to get free champagne on a cruise. Rather than buying champagne, attend the cruise’s art auction, where complimentary champagne is usually served to guests. The best part is that there is no obligation to make any purchases. 

Plus, you can look for gift shop events that offer free liquor samples. It’s worth noting that you’re more likely to find free champagne and other drinks on sea days rather than port days. 

For more tips on how to get free champagne and drinks during your cruise, be sure to check out my article on 10 ways to get free champagne and drinks.

9. Not Bringing Your Own Wine

It’s a common mistake for first time cruisers not to know they can save money on their cruise by bringing their own wine and champagne.

For example, Royal Caribbean allows one sealed 750 ml bottle of wine or champagne per guest, while Disney Cruise Line permits two unopened bottles of wine or champagne. It’s important to note that you can only bring wine on embarkation day and not at the port. You should check with your cruise line beforehand because policies can change.  

Also, some cruise lines charge a corkage fee if you bring your wine to the main dining room. One way to avoid this is to get wine glasses from the bar, borrow a corkscrew from your cabin steward and enjoy your wine in your stateroom. You can also pour yourself a glass and head to the lobby to enjoy it with live music since cruise ships don’t have open bottle rules. For more unspoken rules on a cruise ship that new cruisers may not know about, check out my article on 11 unspoken cruise ship rules.

10. Not Switching to Airplane Mode

One common mistake that novice cruisers make is not realizing how expensive it is to use their cell phones while at sea. I learned this lesson the hard way when I forgot to switch my phone to airplane mode and people were able to call me during the cruise. When I got home, I was shocked to see a huge cellphone bill, which I could have easily avoided.

Now, whenever I’m on a cruise, the first thing I do is switch my phone to airplane mode. If I am on a cruise with several sea days, I usually subscribe to an internet plan that costs around $20 per day, depending on the cruise line. 

However, if I am on a cruise with back-to-back port days, I don’t buy any internet package at all since my cellphone plan includes free international text and data. I wait until I get off the ship and go to port to check my email and text messages.

To save on internet expenses, I also always download my e-books and movies before leaving home, so I can read or watch them without needing internet access. This way, I don’t have to worry about any additional charges for using the internet on the ship.

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Cruise Budget Tracker
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Check out my cruise packing lists with free printables for your upcoming Caribbean cruise, Alaska cruise, Mexico cruise, Mediterranean Cruise, British Isle Cruise and Bermuda cruise

8 Easy Ways to Get Free Onboard Credit on a Cruise

15 Things I Wished I had Known as a First Time Cruiser

10 Most Annoying People at a Cruise Buffet You’ll Want to Avoid

9 Rookie Mistakes That Are Major Time Wasters on a Cruise

15 Caribbean Cruise Mistakes to Avoid

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