7 Cruise Expenses That You Don’t Need to Pay For


On a cruise there are lots of situations where you can get things for free that the cruise line wants you to pay for, on average a cruiser will spend 50% on their cruise fare again onboard in onboard spend so cutting down on this is well worth doing. I’m 26 and I LOVE cruising cheaply, I teach my methods in a course called How to Cruise For Less and I always cruise on a budget so that I can cruise more often.

How to Withdraw Money on A Cruise For Free

Picture the scene, you’re on a cruise and you need to get some cash out. The cash machine onboard has ridiculously high charges and you don’t want to pay for that. What do you do in this situation?

You could wait until you reach land but what you should do is you should head straight to the casino. This might sound a little strange but you’ll be able to withdraw money for free there. To do this all you need to do is put your card into a machine and load money onto your casino account, it won’t charge you anything to do that.

Once you’ve got your money on your casino account you can print your balance and take it to the desk to be cashed. You won’t be charged a penny but you’ll have the cash that you wanted. I wouldn’t recommend going crazy with this and withdrawing $500 a day but for the odd $100 or so it works perfectly.

You may not need as much cash as you think for your next cruise, to work out how much you’ll need for things like taxis, tips and excursions, check out this post:

How Much Cash Should I Bring on a Cruise? Budgeting Guide

How to Find Free Cruise Excursions

The cruise lines would have you believe that you need to spend a lot of money on excursions in order to really explore a port. Personally I don’t agree at all, I would much prefer to explore a city with a local tour guide on a free walking tour than see a city from the steamed up windows inside a coach with 50 other passengers.

The key to exploring a port on a budget is to do your research before you get there. If not you’ll just be wandering around and you’ll be much more likely to decide to take an organised tour. Start by searching something like ‘Free things to do in ____’ or ask the members of our Facebook group!

I’d taken some brilliant free walking tours in Europe. It is of course generally expected that you’ll give a tip at the end but even still this is much cheaper than you’d pay for an organised tour and you’ll learn a lot more about real life in a city.

Booking Your Own Version of Ship Excursions

Cruise line excursions can be a great way to get an idea of what is in a port though but then booking these things yourself can often be much cheaper. If are taking a cruise to Genoa for example and want to visit the Aquarium the cruise line excursion will cost you $30 but the ticket if bought online is $17. The cruise line excursion does come with transport but the Aquarium is only a 20 minute walk from the cruise port and for this saving I’d definitely prefer to walk. If you’re a family of four doing this could save you upwards of $40 which is well worth doing.

Hop on Hop Off Buses

The same thing goes for hop on hop off buses. I took a cruise to Stockholm and decided to explore the city by hop on hop off bus. If I was to buy the ticket from the cruise line it was £30/$35 but if I walked off the ship myself and bought the ticket from the bus outside the port the ticket was £25/$30. A £5 saving for just making the transaction on land instead of at the cruise ship!

port of genoa italy

How to do Laundry For Free on a Cruise

Doing laundry on a cruise can be incredibly expensive. Some ships do have self service laundries which aren’t too expensive but the majority do not. If you were to wash a single pair of underwear on a MSC cruise that’ll cost you €2.50 which is almost $3. If you’re a family of four cruising for a couple of weeks you could spend a LOT of money, just washing your underwear let alone the rest of your clothes.

For certain items that just need a quick refresh there is a much better option. What I do is I pick up a small bottle of travel wash before I cruise, you can realistically get these for less $2 and then you can wash items yourself in the bathroom sink in 5 minutes. Most cruise ship bathrooms come with a little line in the shower where you can dry your clothes and it works really well.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this for big items such as dresses or jeans because they may take some time to dry but for smaller things like t-shirts and workout clothes its a great option. I’ve saved loads of money washing clothes like this on longer trips.

You may not need to do any laundry on your cruise which is ideal but if you do, keep in mind that using the ships laundry isn’t the only way to get things washing.

You Can’t Bring an Iron on a Cruise

It’s important to remember that you cannot bring an Iron on any cruise for safety reasons. Usually if you leave clothes to dry in the bathroom the creases will drop right out. If you have an item of clothing which is more prone to creases you could bring some ‘wrinkle removing spray’.

cruise ship onboard free laundry princess cruises

How to Find Free Drinks on a Cruise

There are a few events on cruise ships where you can almost guarantee that you’ll find free drinks. If you’re planning on having a drink or two before dinner having a quick look at the daily schedule and seeing if there are any events on which have free drinks can be well worth doing.

If there is are a few of you and you each get a drink or two, you’ll be saving yourself quite a bit.

Common places to find free drinks are:

  • Welcome drinks on Embarkation day, possibly hosted by the captain.
  • Cruise Critic/Cruise Group meet ups.
  • Loyalty status meet ups.

Bringing on Your Own Alcohol

Another thing that you can do is that on a lot of cruise lines you can bring your own alcohol onboard. This varies a lot by cruise line so it’s definitely worth checking with yours. On a Royal Caribbean cruise you can bring two bottles of wine or champagne onboard on embarkation day in your hang luggage.

These will be subject to what is called a ‘corkage’ free if consumed in a bar or restaurant onboard. The free isn’t actually anything to do with corking so you can’t get around this charge by corking it yourself. The best thing to do is consume your drinks in your cabin or on the balcony. Some cruise lines like Norwegian will charge you the corkage fee automatically when you embark so this can’t be avoided.

If you bring more alcohol than the cruise line allows this will be taken away from you and returned to you on the last day. Some cruise lines also let you bring beer and spirits onboard.

I’ve put together a full list of cruise lines, what you can bring onboard and when. You’ll find that here: Can You Bring Alcohol on a Cruise? (Cruise Line Guide)

Free Alternatives to a WiFi Packages on a Cruise

When it comes to onboard WiFi it is getting cheaper and it is getting faster. That said it’s still incredibly expensive compared to internet access on land and it can be incredibly frustrating to use.

When cruising I usually recommend to people not to buy a WiFi package unless they have somebody at home that they really need to keep in contact with at ALL times such as a child or elderly parent. On most cruises you’ll be able to find internet for free when you are in port and on a lot of itineraries you won’t really spend very long at sea anyway.

Some cruise lines will charge you by the mega bite or by the minute which I find particularly annoying, you usually have to ‘log on’ to the internet and ‘log off’ when you are done and I can’t count the number of the times that I’ve been on a cruise trying to ‘log off’ and it’s used up lots of minutes trying to do so.

It’s important to remember that if anybody did need to get hold of you desperately during the time that you’re at sea they would be able to contact the ship who would be able to find you onboard.

Based on our Facebook Group audience:

70% of people who cruise do not purchase internet onboard. The majority use free WiFi when in port or they ‘roam’ using the internet which they pay for in their phone contracts. 

pay for wifi when cruise

Finding Free WiFi

When in port you’ll usually be able to find free WiFi at a McDonalds, Starbucks or another big chain. If you are in doubt about where to find WiFi it’s usually a good idea to ask the crew as they are normally doing the same thing and heading to find WiFi in port.

If you are from the UK or other parts of Europe it’s worth remembering that using your internet within Europe doesn’t currently cost any extra. If you are from the US or Australia it may be worth buying a cheap sim card when you arrive in Europe and topping this up with credit, you could easily find a sim with 15GB of internet which can be used in most European countries for as little as $20. Most cruise lines charge more than $20 per day for a decent internet package.

Free Alternatives to Onboard Photography

When you cruise you’ll probably find that photographers want to take your photo at every available opportunity. Photos are taken on embarkation day, disembarkation day, at dinner, on excursions, on formal night, you name it, the photographer will be there.

I hate it say it but half the time the photos taken aren’t even of that high quality. If you have a decent smart phone or a camera of your own you can probably do just as good a job, if not better. You’ll find that other guests and crew members will be more than happy to take your photo at dinner or on formal night if you ask.

I have bought photos before on occasion but my favourite cruise photos by far are the ones taken on my phone. I did actually buy some professional photographs on my last cruise, I left them in the cabin though so that was a massive waste of time and money.

One way to stop yourself from wanting to buy the photos that are taken of yourself is to pull the ugliest face you can. My dad and I often try to pull an ugly face or stick out our tongue at the last minute, it really does remove that temptation.

msc meraviglia ropes course and waterslides

How to Find Free Tea and Coffee on a Cruise

Most cruise lines will have some form of speciality tea and coffee that you can buy for a premium. They’re usually sold in the bars onboard and some cruise lines even have mainstream coffee chains onboard such as Starbucks on Royal Caribbean cruises. If you are somebody who has a Starbucks favourite or a particular drink that you love then a speciality drink can be a great option.

Many people don’t realise that you can get these drinks for free in the buffet all day. If you’re somebody like me who just drinks regular breakfast tea or green tea or a hot chocolate then you can get these drinks for free in the buffet.

Many people, me included, have paid for a drink which they could have got for free had they just walked to the buffet. My favourite tea is a peppermint tea which often costs $3.50 if I bought in a bar onboard, it’s free in the buffet and I have to say there is very little variety within peppermint tea.

Many people do bring their favourite coffee creamer or teabags believe it or not, on cruises. If you’re somebody like me who can easily drink 8 cups of tea a day on a 7 night cruise not purchasing speciality tea would save me over $150!!

That’s not to say that the buffet drinks are of worse quality either, on many cruise lines have they big named brands like Twinings tea and you can take your tea to the other bars onboard if you’d like to. Many British and European cruise lines have kettles in the cabins which you can use to make yourself a tea or coffee while sitting on your balcony.

Afternoon Tea

If the cruise line that you’re cruising with has an afternoon tea onboard this can be a great time to fill up on tea, coffee and of course lots and lots of cake!

cunard afternoon tea dress code queen victoria

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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