My default setting is "frugal."
You'll rarely see me shelling out for many extras on a cruise. But I have discovered a few things that are worth digging into your pockets for on a cruise vacation. Some of these things you might not want on every trip, but I have often added these goodies and extras because they make sense and can make a good cruise even better.
Check out this list of "Six Cruise Essentials Not Included in Your Cruise Fare."
This is the best way to explore a new destination. You have to get off the ship to have fun and experience the culture of a country or region. That's why we travel, right? I usually look for something active like a snorkel outing on a catamaran that includes lunch and drinks. We also seek out hiking adventures and zipline outings. (Excursions that include several of these in one package are the best!) You also can find historic city walking tours or shopping excursions at most cruise ports. We've explored castles and palaces and savored beers and wines of different regions.
I am big on booking a shore excursion independently (search online for your excursions and book directly). You can usually save a lot of money and have a more intimate experience with a smaller group. But booking through the cruise ship is a good option, too, because you can be assured that the ship won't leave if you don't get back in time at the end of the day in port.
These can be pricy -- but we are talking about a splurge on your holiday. It can be so relaxing to treat yourself to a massage or facial at the ship's spa. The facilities also might include a sauna, steam room and other amenities to enjoy as long as you have booked a treatment. I don't get massages during my daily life on land, but I try to treat myself to a rejuvenating treatment when on a ship.
It's a wonderful way to refresh after several days playing in the hot sun or hiking and biking on your excursions. Try to book a treatment when in port for the best deals.
Spa Day Pass
OK, maybe you don't want a massage or any other treatment. You just want that quiet time in the spa. Day passes and passes that get you cruise-long access into the ship's spa facilities can be awesome. In the spa, you get away from the crowds on the lido deck so you can enjoy the serenity of a facility that includes things like fruit-infused waters, comfy loungers, heated ceramic loungers, hot tubs, sauna and steam rooms and thalassotherapy pools. Once you've done this once, you'll never want to cruise again without having access to the spa.
It's become a well-known fact that the best food on the mass-market cruise ships is now in the specialty restaurants. Make a reservation at a for-fee eatery if you are celebrating a birthday or anniversary or just want a romantic night out for a great meal away from your tablemates in the main dining room. You'll find all sorts of fine cuisine featured in the specialty restaurants at sea. There are steakhouses and Asian-fusion, Italian, seafood and French eateries. You'll pay from $30 to $50 a person extra to eat at these spots, but the meals can be one of the most memorable experiences of your trip -- especially if food is your thing.
The fitness centers on the ships are free to use, and many of them have everything you would find at your gym back home. This allows you to get in your daily workouts and easily stick to your fitness regimen while on your cruise.
Additionally, the gyms on the cruise ships are good spots to try new types of workouts or to make those first steps toward beginning a workout program. Personal training is available to help you overcome any apprehension about going to the gym. Even fitness buffs can try something new, with offerings like kickboxing, spin classes, Pilates, yoga and TRX suspension training. I tried a Ryde spin-style class on Carnival Vista.
The cruise ship gym is the ideal relaxed and non-threatening environment to have fun and try something new. Plus, you have a week or more of leisure time to schedule a few sessions without the worry of your work and other life obligations derailing your plans.
Yes, the all-you-can-drink packages can be a convenience for all of us beer and wine drinkers who like toss them back regularly on vacation. But I'm talking about at least snagging the much more affordable soda and water package. This is a good deal if you plan to enjoy a couple sodas a day (our vice is Diet Coke) and also want cold bottled waters. We grab a few bottles to head ashore and know we will always be hydrated, which is a good choice, especially in the Caribbean heat.
Yes, this is mainly a convenience item, and you could refill your own water bottles on the ship at the public fountains. But the soda/fresh water combo package is nice, and we think tastes a bit better overall.
What types of things do you have no problem splurging on for your cruise? Let us know in the comments.
Also read: Nine Essential Tips and Tricks for First-Time Cruisers
Thanks for reading, and happy travels!