Frugal Tips For Cruise Vacations?

Hubby and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary by going on a Western Carribean cruise. I would like some general frugal tips from people who have gone on Royal Carribean Cruise Lines (or any line really). We are trying to do this budget friendly while still getting the most out of our trip. One big question I have is, all the off shore excursions through the cruise line are kind of pricey and I'm wondering if they are less expensive if I just go through the locals by taxi? For example, to go to the beach, just to relax, nothing else included, through the cruiseline is $29 for each person.


My frugal mind is saying there's got to be a less expensive way to do this. I'm also worried about the formal dinners. How dressed up is everyone? Travel agent says just a dress shirt, pants and a tie, then some people have said you need to be "black tie" in order to not feel out of place. We are very casual people and I really don't want to dress up if I don't have to. I have so many questions. I hope to get lots of advice. Thanks everyone!

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By Guest (Guest Post)
October 8, 20080 found this helpful
Best Answer

My husband and I took the same cruise (but on Princess) two years ago. We found that doing some research ahead of time and doing our own excursions saved time and money. The taxi ended up being about the same as the organized trip, but the advantage you have doing it on your own is you can sometimes barter them down. And plan for indoor and outdoor activities at each port in case it rains. You can always pop back to the beach if the sun decides to return.


As far as being frugal, be aware that some cruise lines charge for everything (drinks, ice cream, etc) and some are all inclusive. If you're a heavy soda drinker, you can be paying a lot for a drink. Don't forget tips for the employee who cleans your room and serves you your food. And don't let fuel surcharges catch you off guard.

Formal nights were easy for us. We had just tied the knot a few months prior, so he had a tux and I could still fit into a formal from college. Our table mates were dressed much like we were, but by no means was the rest of the room in tuxedos and formal gowns. Right now is a great time to find a nice dress--end of season sales are going on.

Good luck and have fun! And congrats! (Make sure the crew knows it a special trip for you. We got balloons in our room and a special dessert at dinner one night. And my friend who cruises Royal Caribbean frequently told me she has been upgraded to a bigger/better room a few times for special occasion trips. Worth a try.)

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October 8, 20080 found this helpful

My husband and I are taking a trip to Italy and Greece with Carnival Cruise Lines, and will be leaving on Oct. 24th. We paid for an excursion with the cruise lines to Rome, Italy and it was pricey. But the excursion is a once in a lifetime experience and didn't want to get cheap and refuse to take the excursion tour. We would end up regretting it later on. You really have to watch the taxi drivers because they can really rip you off, by overcharging, and you have to pay the bill whether you like it or not. Also while in Europe we have to watch the pick pockets. I'm NOT wearing a fanny pack because the pick pockets could rip that off of me. My husband has a blue jean jacket and I cut some material off of a pair of his old jeans, and I hand-sewn in two inside pockets where he will carry our valuables, such as wallet and some euros.


We went to Alaska by a cruise line with our senior citizen group several years ago. And my husband ended up bringing his suit complete with trousers, jacket and tie. You have to get dressed up if you want to go to the captain's dinner. My husband and I are both casual, common type folks and we hate to get dressed up for formal occasions. I feel the same way you do, we don't want to get dressed up if we don't have to either.

We are going to eat at the casual dining locations (buffet style) on the ship and we don't have to get dressed up, you should probably do the same. My husband hates suits and I refuse to purchase a formal dress or gown for myself. We've spent enough money on this trip already.

I hope I have answered some of your concerns.

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October 8, 20080 found this helpful

Congratulatiaons on your upcoming cruise! I have a few tips for you for saving money. The cruise lines make a lot of money from "on board revenue" - that means the stuff you pay for outside of your cruise ticket. That includes shore excursions, drinks, photographs purchased on board, and the gif shops. Here are a few tips:


Stay away from the alcohol! It is very expensive and adds up fast. Drink the free beverages - iced tea, juice and such.
Don't plan to buy photos from the on board photographer - they are just too expensive.
In most ports, you can find taxi's immediately outside of the secure area. There is a risk though! If you are late getting back to the ship because your taxi broke down, the ship will not wait. But they will wait if you are on a cruise sanctioned excursion.
Formal night can be quite formal. On most lines it is suit and tie for the gents and cocktail atire for the ladies. But you are not obligated to attend those activities. You can choose to eat in an alternative venue thatnight, such as the cafe or pizza parlour, where casual is fine all the time.

There is a wonderful cruising website called Check the "Boards" for tons of usefull information.
Enjoy your cruise!

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By sharontee (Guest Post)
October 8, 20080 found this helpful

Spend your money on excursions. Otherwise all you'll see is the inside of the ship and souvenir shops. Save by staying away from the gift shop on board, the "free gift" gimmicks to get you into shops on shore, and extra-price drinks. Don't go cheap on tips: many of the employees (especially the maids) are supporting families they never get to see.

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October 8, 20080 found this helpful

I took my mother on an Alaskan cruise, which featured two formal nights. The women wore everything from regular pantsuits to dresses to formals. I am more comfortable in jeans, but I did go out and buy a dress. It was a long dress (not a formal) with a matching jacket top, and I paid only $29 on sale at JC Penney !! I wore it to both formal nights and felt real classy. So go shopping for something inexpensive and enjoy your evenings. The men wore everything from a sweater, to a suitcoat/tie, to a formal tux. If you want to splurge for one dinner, the ships usually have tuxes available to rent, or just have your hubby wear a regular suit & tie. As for shore excursions, I booked several morning activities with local companies.


Just make sure not to gamble on an afternoon excursion in case something happens and you can't make it back to the ship on time (they won't wait for you). I rode in a helicopter, went whale watching, photographed sea otters, and walked on a glacier. So much fun, and saved quite a bit of money. Do some on-line searching for all the info you can on your ports of call so you become familiar with what they have to offer. Explore all the options -- not just a taxi, but check into bus schedules, trolley tours, even the tourist information building where you get off the ship can offer safe options for transportation.

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By cj p (Guest Post)
October 8, 20080 found this helpful

I am also a travel agent, and have recently come back from a Royal Caribbean Cruise. For the formal dinner, something of what you would wear to church Sunday morning or to a friends wedding, is fine. There will be others who are more dressed up, but lets face it, it is ONE evening per cruise for formal dining. Plus, you don't HAVE to go the dining room, you can go to some of the other restaurants, or have a pizza night that night!

As to shore excursions, you can go ashore and just sight see where you are, (you come in at port, you are NOT normally at a beach!) but there is still plenty to see without taking expensive shore excursions. If there is really some excursion you want, do take the ships as a land based tour company won't care if their tour is running late and doesn't get you back to the ship on time! But there is usually plenty to amuse you right there, without having to take the trips and you will still have a wonderful time on your cruise!

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October 9, 20080 found this helpful

Wow, great tips so far. I wanted to add that I'm in the service industry, and understand tipping all too well. I will be opting out of the cruises tipping system and giving it directly to the appropriate people. I'm a very generous tipper, but I do worry that the staff don't receive all that they are meant to. I'd be interested if anyone here has worked on a ship and if this is true? (read to do it this way online) I also planned to do it daily instead of at the end.
On the dress code, I have a few slinky fabric gowns that I could literally toss into a suitcase without worry but my husband is the one who doesn't want to wear his suit (and its grey). I've heard from past cruisers that black is the color to wear if you don't want to feel out of place. Tux rental on our ship is $170. I just won't pay that.
Is the captains dinner a better food night? I don't want to miss my lobster if it's my only chance. He can go get a pizza LOL.
We have decided to go on two excursions through the cruiseline. Should I book these through my travel agent? We both really want to do a dolphin tour. That alone will make my week. I will look into independent morning tours, that's a great idea.
I'm very glad I booked this and paid for this a while back because if it came up today we wouldn't be doing it at all.
All of our transfers and fuel charges are already paid. We will have about $1200 in travelers checks and cash for our trip. Will this be enough? Please be honest with me about this. I don't want to be caught short.
I don't drink alcohol becuause I take pain medication. Hubby doesn't drink much either, and we both hate to shop.
Thank you all so much for the great advice. Please keep it coming.
Sandy from Pittsburgh

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By mom3 (Guest Post)
October 10, 20080 found this helpful

Hi frugal! I went on a Carnival cruise last Spring Break. My son and I had a blast and spent about $500 above the cost of the cruise, mostly on souvenirs & eating out while in port. We did not go on any of the excursions marketed by the cruise line. We took a taxi to the beach and relaxed for the afternoon. We ate breakfast on the boat before going into port so we only had to pay for 1 meal. Our ship offered an anytime buffet where people dressed in anything from shorts, jeans,or bathing suit cover-ups. In the nicer dining area there were a few people in cocktail dresses & suits every evening but most people wore casual dresses or pants for the ladies and Khakis and a polo shirt for men. The night of the Captain's dinner was a bit more formal, with most people wearing a Sunday dress or cocktail dress for the ladies and dress pants with a shirt & tie or a suit for men. I saw VERY few tuxes and formal gowns. I found a "little black dress" at TJ Maxx for a great price and felt comfortable that my attire was appropriate. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did!

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By Rhea (Guest Post)
October 11, 20080 found this helpful

To familiarize yourself with the ports register free @
Plethora of info there. You can post a query under the Royal Caribbean slot also. The more you know the easier it will be to save money & have a great cruise.

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By Teri (Guest Post)
October 11, 20080 found this helpful

When we went on our honeymoon cruise our wedding photographer suggested that we wait 'til the ship sets sail and go to the duty free shop and get a bottle of gin for our room. Then we asked the steward to bring tonic, limes, and ice to our room every day and we had our cocktails in our room, instead of running up a bar tab! We had the later seating and this worked well for us. A nice tip for the steward made everyone happy. Happy cruising!

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By Sandy (Guest Post)
October 12, 20080 found this helpful

Were you allowed to have your own bottle of alcohol in your room? I understood this was a huge NoNo because the cruise line wants you to but the drinks at their insane price. Hubby drinks, I do not, but anything we can save gives me more to spend LOL.

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October 13, 20080 found this helpful

Hi Sandy,

My hubby & I have been on 27 cruises.

We do not partake of the offshore excursions through the cruise line as they are too expensive. Are you going with another couple & if not you will meet others on the cruise. Here's what we do. We hook up with 1 or 2 other couples & either hire a van or a taxi & you will find that it is not as expensive. It helps if you have decided ahead of time where you want to go & then tell the driver & do not be afraid to haggle over the price. If this is your 1st cruise you may be intimated to do so but it is perfectly acceptable. Good luck & have a greaat time.

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October 14, 20080 found this helpful

When we went on our cruise, we didn't even do the formal nights. That was a whole lot we got to leave out of the suitcases! There are so many places to eat on a cruise ship you may even prefer them to the formal dining room. However, the most of the men I saw were simply dressed in suits and the ladies in black dresses.

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By KathyM (Guest Post)
November 4, 20080 found this helpful

My husband and I took a cruise several years ago on Carnival line. We took dress clothing to wear to the captain's night but decided we wanted to get ROOM SERVICE and leave the ship and just walk around close to the port sight seeing. It was less crowded and we had a relaxing evening. Just wasted space in our luggage taking the dress clothing. Also I would suggest if you like soda pop to take your own. It cost $3.00 a can of coke. That was approx 10 yrs ago.

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