Make the most of your cruise with our 10 best tips. Credit: Shutterstock

10 clever cruise tricks

Author: Deborah Stone

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Want to make your next cruise even better? Then read our tips and tricks on how to make the most of your next cruise.

1. Make new friends on board
Start your cruise as you mean to go on and get up on deck for the sailaway party, where there’s always an exciting buzz of anticipation. At this stage nobody knows anybody else, unless they’re travelling in a group, so you can get chatting as you wave goodbye to land.

You can also make friends at mealtimes by asking to sit with other passengers when you’re being shown to a table at the main restaurant. It’s very rare to be restricted to one table these days, meaning you won’t have to stay with the same people all week, so there’s no risk of being stuck with bores.

Also, most ships will have get-togethers for solo travellers with some, such as Celebrity Cruises, organising LGBT+ Welcome Parties on the first night and gatherings throughout the voyage.

2. Get a cabin upgrade
The cheapest cruise fares are available when the trip first goes on sale but there are also promotional periods such as the Wave Season after Christmas and in the last few weeks before the ship sails.

If you’re sailing outside peak holiday periods, you’ll find prices are lower so you may be able to simply upgrade yourself. Alternatively, sign up to websites like our own - – for special offers and alerts.

You should also check prices during the last few weeks before the ship sails. If you find you have paid more than the advertised price, you may be able to ask for compensation such as an upgrade, onboard credit or a partial refund. This is much easier if you book through a travel agent.

Loyalty programmes usually offer upgrades and other perks too, so if you find a cruise line you like it’s worth sticking with it for the long-term.

3. Save money on excursions
Ship excursions are expensive so it’s worth researching destinations to find out if the ports you’re visiting are within easy walking distance or a local bus ride from the town, city or resort you want to explore.

Then decide what you want to see and check out public transport. For example, Lisbon trams are excellent; trains are cheap and quick from Livorno to Pisa and hop on-hop off tourist buses are everywhere.

Private trips are also cheaper– find them online by searching ‘cruise excursions’. However, they don’t have the same guarantees as the ship’s ones so for the big tickets – like Livorno to Florence or Civitavecchia to Rome – stick with your cruise line.

4. Enjoy cheaper rates at the spa
The earlier you board your ship, the more time you’ll have to look for embarkation deals when you first arrive. So don’t dash off to the buffet for lunch; instead make a beeline for the spa to talk about discounted treatments. Some lines also offer daily special offers at the spa, cheaper rates on sea days or a free raffle to win treatments.

Cut the cost of excursions by taking advantage of local transport like Lisbon's trams to get around. Credit: Shutterstock

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5. Get a discount on the specialist restaurants
Most ocean ships have speciality restaurants with cover charges if they’re not all-inclusive, so if you want a change from the main dining room or buffet it’s worth making sure you get a discount.

It’s cheapest to book a speciality dining package, and it’s preferable to do it in advance although you can often also do this on embarkation day when special offers are plentiful.

The bigger the ship, the more speciality restaurants they have. Royal Caribbean for example, offers up to 40 per cent off if you take out its Unlimited Dining Package. It’s also always worth just asking if a restaurant will give you a one-off discount – especially on the first night or after 8pm.The worst that can happen is that they’ll say no.

6. Get married or celebrate a big anniversary in style
Celebrating a big birthday or anniversary on a ship will give you memories that last forever. Everything is organised for you, from the restaurants and entertainment to the accommodation – and if you go with family or friends there could be a good group discount too.

Princess Cruises is particularly good for weddings, vow-renewals and other anniversaries whilst most cruise lines will also provide flowers and celebration cakes, fora price. Marella has a £99 ‘Celebrate in style’ package including champagne, chocolate-dipped strawberries, flowers, cake, a photograph and breakfast in bed. Or you can buy these items individually.

Don't be afraid to ask for a one-off discount especially on the first night or after 8pm. Credit: Oceania Cruises

7. Try food you've never eaten before
This is your chance to sample dishes you’ve always wanted to try. After all, if you don’t like them, you can order something else and if you’re in a complimentary restaurant it won’t cost you a thing.

Both ocean and river cruise ships usually try to include a few items on the menu from the country you’ve been in that day and many ocean cruise ships include Indian, Malaysian or Chinese food in their buffet restaurant that are sometimes better than the Western food. And it’s no wonder – most of the chefs are from these regions.

Virgin Voyages offers a particularly eclectic mix in The Galley. This modern collection of food stalls includes a sushi bar, noodle bar and taco shack, as well as the burger grill and 24-hour American diner. They’re all free, as is every restaurant – including the Korean barbecue, Mexican, vegetarian and experimental Test Kitchen.

8. Learn a new skill for free
Expedition cruises, cultural cruises and mid to small ship cruise lines usually offer guests expert lectures to complement the itinerary and they’re likely to offer a range of free classes too –on anything from photography to ballroom dancing.

newest ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, have a dedicated photo room where cameras can be borrowed for 24 hours and a resident photography expert will answer your photo questions.

You can learn to salsa, do the cha-cha or foxtrot on P&O Cruises’ ships and Cunard offers free art and dance classes on cruises more than a week long. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 also has its fabulous Planetarium with free shows that take you on a tour of the stars.

Interested in taking up yoga? Classes are free on Virgin Voyages ships, as are meditation workshops, spinning (on bikes) and even exercises hanging from bungee ropes.

Many cruises offer free classes and activities including yoga on Virgin Voyages. Credit: Shutterstock

9. Try out adventure sports - without the price tag
You probably wouldn’t go on a cruise to learn rock climbing but if it’s on offer, why not? Royal Caribbean ships not only have rock climbing walls and the equipment you need to learn it for free, it also has free surfing on its FlowRide simulators.

Norwegian Cruise Line’s newest ships even have go-kart racing tracks and Norwegian Prima, which launches in August, will have the world’s first three-level track for electric go-karts.

Some of the more upmarket ships have onboard equipment such as canoes, paddle boards and dinghies. Seabourn even offers free waterskiing. Kayaks, paddleboards and boats are complimentary from its ships’ retractable Marina platform or from a beach, while SeaDream Yacht Club has kayaks, catamarans and sailboats for use from its ships’ marinas. SeaDream also has snorkels to borrow – as do Star Clipper ships, which offer free water skiing, windsurfing and more.

10. Make your money work harder
Some people prefer an all-inclusive cruise to avoid unwanted bills but do you need everything they offer? If so, signup to the cruise line’s website for special deals, travel out of season, consider cheaper repositioning cruises and look at reasonably priced all-inclusive cruise lines, such as Marella and Celebrity.

Drinks packages are great but not if you don’t have more than one glass of wine at dinner and a few drinks in the bar. The same is true of fancy tea and coffee packages. Stick with the free hot beverages then treat yourself to coffee in a lovely cafe when you’re in port.

Similarly, DIY excursions will save you loads and are far more satisfying. Free maps are always available in cruise terminals.

Finally, avoid buying goods from the ship’s shops unless you’ve got free onboard credit. The mark up is eye watering and service charge extortionate.