I never thought I’d love a cruise, then I took one and had an amazing time. One of my favorite things during the cruise was to hang out with these older ladies who played Mahjong all day. They told me that now that they were older and their kids were gone, they made cruising into a sport. Lucky for me, they were quite open with their cruise tips and tricks. So today, I impart their knowledge on you.
These secrets aren’t things you’ll find on regular websites, but tips these ladies had been harvesting for years. If you have other tips to share, make sure to leave them in the comments area so that we can all travel smarter. These tips will help you get deals on purchases while you’re onboard, save money, and even see stuff for free.
Cruise Dining Tips & Tricks
You have a choice
Think you’re stuck with only one thing when you’re in the main dining room? Wrong. When offered a fixed menu with an appetizer, entree and dessert; you can order two entrees or three desserts if you want. You can even order your entrees as appetizers. This is awesome if you like to experiment with your food, so don’t be shy about asking your server about this.
Room Service Saves Money & Time
Yup, room service is free (most of the time). Of course, this depends on the cruise line, Holland America and Princess make this a common amenity. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity charge usually only during late hours. Norwegian is the only one that seems to charge for room service. Make sure to look into this when choosing your cruise line. Eating breakfast in your cabin can save you valuable time for excursions, events, and the like. Since you’re saving money, make sure to tip your delivery person, that’s just polite.
There are Secret & Special Restaurants
When you book your cruise, you’ll notice that most people will dine in the main dining room or at the buffet. This is fine, but it can get boring. All cruise lines have specialty restaurants, but they work like regular restaurants and usually have an extra cost attached (it’s usually nominal, $20 per person for the meal), but sometimes the cruise lines reward you with goodies like a free bottle of wine for making the resos. This is nice if you’re with a large group and maybe need a little time to yourself.
Coffee Comes at an Extra Fee
Coffee is a big money maker, and Cruise ships take full advantage of this. Specialty coffee at designated coffee shops on board usually come at an extra fee. It’s not all bad news, while caffeination is extra, your sugar tooth will delight since pastries, sandwiches and other food at these venues are often free. While a few specialty items (like chocolate-covered strawberries) will have a charge, don’t assume all the small bites do.
Calm that Ice Cream Craving without Paying
Like ice cream? Cruise lines will charge for branded licks like Ben & Jerry’s and Celebrity’s gelato. However, there’s always a free version — whether soft-serve machines on the Lido Deck or hard-serve stations at the buffet. And do your research. On some cruise lines, soft-serve machines on either side of the deck can offer different flavors.
Skip the Meal Lines
When you first arrive on your cruise, the majority of people will make their way to the buffet while they wait for their cabins to be ready. It’s crazy. The good news is that most cruise ships have other options open for you, usually in the main dining room or a mini-buffet in the solarium or atrium area. Ask a crew member about this, or check your daily newsletter to find an alternative for a calmer first meal. For example, on Princess Cruises, the International Cafe, Pizzeria and Grill are open; on Royal Caribbean ships, Sorrento’s, the Solarium and Park Cafes, Giovanni’s Table and Starbucks are open on embark afternoon.
Choosing Specialty Restaurants on Cruises
Don’t know which night to make specialty dinner reservations? The main dining room menus are planned for the week, and the purser’s desk often has access to those menus. Ask to see them so you can decide which nights are less appealing and which you don’t want to miss, and plan your cruise accordingly.