Onboard expenses can quickly mount up when you’re at sea. So unless you want a nasty surprise before you disembark at the end of your cruise, here’s how to reduce your costs without reducing the quality of your vacation.


If you want to go a la carte, it’s possible to spend vast amounts of money dining at the alternative onboard restaurants. But with a dining room and various buffets as part of your fare, you can eat virtually round the clock at no extra expense. If you want to experience the delights of alternative dining, why not treat yourself to it every three or four days instead of daily.

Likewise, it’s possible to spend a small fortune in select cafes and coffee bars. But most ships provide complimentary tea and coffee 24 hours a day.


Onboard tipping is rather a thorny issue. A number of cruise lines include tips and gratuities as part of the fare. Other companies don’t include tips, but strongly advise that you reward good service. And on many ships, the management suggest a daily gratuity level which may or may not be automatically added to your onboard account. If you don’t agree with this, take the matter up at the Purser’s Office.

Ultimately, it’s up to you. But I will say one thing; the staff on most cruise ships are low paid. Most of them rely on tips to supplement their income. If passengers don’t provide tips, many of the staff may leave and seek work elsewhere. And in many cases that will lead to a drop in the quality of service, or a rise in ticket prices (if the cruise lines have to pay higher wages to attract workers).


Internet access from ship to shore is normally expensive. It’s not unusual to see charges of up to $10 per minute. So if you have to use the internet make sure that you keep your eye on the clock. Alternatively, some ships provide each person with a set amount of minutes online as part of your overall fare.

If you want to keep in touch with people while at sea, email is cheaper then telephone, but the connection speed on some ships can be rather slow. So if possible, wait until you arrive in port. Either the price of the onboard connection will be cheaper or you can use one of the onshore internet cafes which are much faster and much cheaper.

Oh, and one final word on email. Most ships will provide you with an onboard email address. Don’t use this as it will be slow and expensive. Before you leave, set up a free web based email account. There are plenty to choose from, such as Yahoo, or Google’s Gmail, and they’re all free. They can be accessed from anywhere in the world and are generally much faster that your onboard email account.


Most laundry services will be charged per item, at rates commonly applied in land based hotels, so your costs can rise quickly. However certain cruise ships provide a complimentary laundry service in the top rooms. But I guess if you can afford those rooms you won’t be too worried about a few onboard expenses.

So if you think you’ll need to do laundry while onboard, look for a cruise line that provides a low cost self service laundry facility. Alternatively, pack a bottle of washing liquid and hand wash essential items in your bathroom.

Medical Expenses

Injury or illness can happen to anyone at anytime, so it’s best to prepare for all possible eventualities. First check out the position from the point of view of your home country. For citizens of the US, medicare does not apply when they’re out of the country. Next, look at the medical insurance position. If you already have medical insurance, make sure it will cover you when at sea. If not, consider buying medical travel insurance to provide you with adequate cover. Even the cost of a simple visit to the ship doctor will account for the whole cost of a simple travel insurance policy.


Most ships will have a photographer who is willing to take a portrait photo of you and your travelling companions…for a price. So save money by taking your own camera and asking one of your fellow passengers to take a few photos.


Onboard ships stock many exquisite items that will remind you of your days at sea forever. Everything from jewelry and ornaments to cigarettes and alcohol is available, but it will cost you dearly. So try to limit yourself to things that are necessary. And if you forget to pack anything, it can often be cheaper buying them at the next port of call rather than paying the inflated prices at the shops onboard.