So, how do you save money on an Alaskan cruise? We'll look at ways to enjoy yourself without spending extra onboard your cruise.
Cruises are not frugal ventures. Just to purchase the airfare and tickets can cost a small fortune, let alone actual spending once you reach your travel date. If you read my last article about 20 ways to spend money on a cruise, then you might think that there is nothing left to enjoy but the gorgeous sights off the side of the boat (and the sea is gorgeous!). This is simply not the case; on our cruise there were many things to do onboard the ship that were all ready included in the price of our cruise ticket. I’d like to share many of the “free” things we enjoyed onboard and as well as ways we were able to get our money’s worth.
Once again, all cruises are different, but I think many of these are available on other cruises as well.
- Take a Digital Detox: I am a blogger and my husband works in IT. Needless to say, we are on computers a lot. We knew that the cost of using the internet onboard the ship was going to be excessive. So we chose to take a digital detox—we needed a break anyway. For one and a half weeks I only texted 3-4 messages to close friends and family. I checked my email for the first time on the 7th day when we were in a port.
- Enjoy the Beautiful Seascape: Remember that onboard the cruise you are given the opportunity to view some amazing scenery. Taking walks and reading on the deck, meditating, whale watching, stretching, and just taking moments to gaze out onto the sea cost nothing extra and can really relax you.
- Enter Raffles and Drawings: It’s possible that you may just win a spa package onboard instead of paying for one. There were approximately 1200 people on our ship, and not everyone will enter a raffle. So your chances of winning little luxuries are much greater than if you play the lottery.
- Wear the Robes: Wearing terry cloth robes can make you feel like a million bucks! These were available to us to use while on the ship (they only cost money if you wished to take them home).
- Attend the Shows: While on the ship we attended a Broadway show, a musical show, and watched a comedian. These were all “free” to us and provided great entertainment.
- Dine at the Best Restaurant Included in the Price: There were four restaurants onboard our ship, and only one you had to pay for (an extra $10 for lunch and $25 for dinner). Two were fine dining, and the third was buffet style. We ate at the fine dining restaurants as much as we could. Paul and I don’t normally eat at the level of dining these restaurants gave, so this was an event in itself! For the first time I tried escargot, chilled berry soup, cinnamon ice-cream, and also enjoyed salmon dishes for many meals.
- Participate in Events: Paul did something absolutely crazy—the Polar Bear Plunge. While in Glacier Bay he and about thirty other people stripped down to their bathing suits and plunged into the outside pool. They then stood on the deck in front of the Glacier for one minute in order to join the club. It was exhilarating for him! Because of his participation, he received two free Bingo cards.
- Take Advantage of In Room Dining: I was amazed that there was an entire menu for in room dining that was included in our ticket. We could literally order food and have it delivered to our rooms at any hour of the day for no extra charge. One night we ordered a plate of chocolate chip cookies and milk. Another time we had a late cheeseburger and French onion soup.
- Attend a Jewelry Presentation: My mother was curious about the port shopping presentations and attended several of them. Because of the information she received, she and I gathered a free pair of earrings, a necklace, and a charm bracelet with free charms at the ports we entered. I’m sure the jewelry is worth hardly anything, but it is pretty and a great souvenir for no money at all! Also, at the presentations several women in the audience were given free gifts by the presenter. My mother and I also attended a presentation by a park ranger and found out information about the types of sea life we would see throughout our journey.
- Attend a Cooking Demonstration: Cooking classes cost $29 onboard; however, there were culinary demonstrations at designated times that were free. We watched as a chef prepared Halibut Caddy Ganty, as well as Sesame-crusted Salmon with Wasabi-Butter. Being in person meant that we could ask questions, and we were handed the recipes beforehand so we could take notes. Another class you could attend was learning how to mix the signature drinks onboard. If you just attended, the cost was free (it was $12.50 to actually mix the drinks).
- Catch a Movie at the Free Theater Onboard: While we did not take advantage of this, there were movies being shown in the theater onboard.
- Pick up a Complimentary Newspaper: Each morning there was the ship’s version of a newspaper available. At several of the ports were complimentary newspapers as well. This was a good way to keep up with some worldly news, but an even better way to get some of the local color.
- Go Hiking: Excursions can cost a small fortune (though the ones we did were wonderful). At each port, there were visitor centers with information on hiking in areas that were free (and breathtaking). At Denali we took two separate, free hikes. On one a moose crossed the path just in front of me. On the other, we saw a rabbit and Paul spotted a moose as well.
- Visit the Visitor Centers: I did not see a Visitor Center at each of the ports, but I did see one in Juneau and Skagway. The one in Skagway had two free museums and a free 30-minute video that really set the stage for the Klondike Gold Rush. It was fascinating.
- Check Out Books and DVDs: Our ship had a library where you could check out any books that you wanted. There was also a collection of 800 DVDs that were “complimentary” and could be delivered to your room at any hour.
- Take Part in Pub Trivia: Paul loves pub trivia, and it was available for free in the bar areas each night at 6:30. It was a lot of fun; there were several teams and by the end of the week the teams had grown a fun rivalry between each other.
- Read Books: It was so nice to choose two books from home that I have wanted to read but have not had the time to (p.s. Water for Elephants is a fantastic book!). One day we took the books out on the deck and covered up with some of the blankets they provided. What a view!
- Take Advantage of the Gym Facilities: We meant to take advantage of these facilities…but we did not get around to it. There was a workout room with a gorgeous view, a hot tub, and several pools. This will help with all of the exquisite food you are eating!
- Meet Other People: Strike up a conversation or two. One of the most common questions I was asked was where we were from—this is a great conversation starter. Everyone else seemed to ask where we had traveled to and wanted to discuss their other trips. Whatever floats your boat.
- Whale Watch on the Deck: Instead of paying for a whale watching excursion, keep your eyes peeled. You will definitely see more whales on an excursion, but you can also see whales, porpoises, sea lions and dolphins right outside of your room (dolphins were the most common sighting).
A few final tips on saving money while on the ship. Our ship’s bars had happy hours where you could get two drinks for the price of one. Apparel, jewelry, and other items on the ship went on sale later in the week when they attempted to get rid of as much as possible before our final port.
Have you ever taken a cruise? What were some “freebies” you enjoyed?