If you’d rather check out our video on ways rookies waste money on a cruise check out the clip below:
1. ATM Fees – Forgetting to bring extra cash can be costly on a cruise with ATM machines charging fees that will range from $5-8 per transaction (on top of what your bank will charge you). If you do need cash for a day in port or to tip the crew a few extra dollars, you can avoid ATM fees on cruise ships with a handy tip on our cruise hacks page. This doesn’t work on every cruise line but works on many.
2. Spa Products – Getting a massage during your cruise is a great way to get pampered while on vacation. However, you will usually be offered a hard sell right after your treatment is over for some ridiculously overpriced products.
After one of my massages, they tried to sell me a brush that improves circulation for $60 and a 3 pack of bath treatments for another $160. If you are interested in purchasing these products, order them online after you get home for a fraction of the cost. The same $60 brush that I was offered I found online for under $20.
3. Cash Cube – This game in the casino goes by a number of names and looks super easy. The object is to line up a key and fit it into a box to win $100, $500, $1,000, $2,500 or even an iPad. Did you ever notice that the key almost always “just misses”?
That is because the game is rigged and is controlled by a RNG (Random Number Generator), so a skillful player can’t clean out the machine. You could line up the key perfectly and still lose 100 times in a row if the RNG isn’t a winning number. The machine is programmed to make a profit. Remember this before you dump $20 after $20 because you are “so close”. Yes some people will win, but most will walk away losers.
Recently, one of my favorite YouTubers Mark Rober created a video showing how some of these games operate and how they appear to be a game of skill but are really programmed to make a profit. You can click play on the video below and it skips right to the point where he explains how some of these games work.
4. Not Understanding Sign and Sail Cards – It’s easy to overspend on a cruise since it is 100% cashless (casino is an exception). I had a friend recently take their first cruise and attended a skin seminar on board. After hearing how great the product was, she came back to her cabin with two tiny makeup bottles. What she failed to realize was that her credit card was just charged $70. Using your cabin card is just like using your credit or debit card.
5. Cell Phone Charges – I can’t tell you the number of times I heard rookie cruisers say, “cell phone roaming charges can’t be that much, I’ll just upload a couple pictures”. At $15 per mb, logging on to Facebook and uploading one picture can cost you anywhere from $20-30.
With the cheaper Internet packages cruise lines now offer, turn data roaming off on your cell phone and save yourself from a huge headache a month after your cruise when your cell phone bill arrives in the mail.
Related Post: See our 6 packing hacks for a cruise here
6. Pull Tabs – Before shows on some cruise lines, the crew will walk around selling strips of “Pull Tabs” where you could win $500 or more. These strips offer some of the worst odds but yet cruisers can’t raise their hands fast enough to buy them. Why? You are sitting in your seat waiting for the show to start and are a captive audience. This makes you easy pickins for the cruise line to make money.
7. Shore Excursions – Booking shore excursions only with the cruise line can cost you double what others pay for the same excursion (usually in smaller groups too) through third parties. Most passengers will do this because the ship will wait for you in the event that your group is late returning to the pier.
However, many third party shore excursion companies (including Shore Excursions Group, Cruising Excursions, and Shore Trips) also offer a guarantee that you will arrive back on time. These excursions are also often in smaller groups and offer a better experience.
8. Drink Packages – Not taking advantage of drink packages and cards that cruise lines offer can end up costing you a lot more money by the end of your cruise. Many even offer drink packages for non-alcoholic drinks.
Princess Cruises sells a unlimited Coffee and Soda package for $19.99 per day that includes all coffees, soda, smoothies, mocktails, fresh juices, milk shakes and more.
9. Not Purchasing Future Cruise Certificates – Passengers who will cruise again on the same cruise line and don’t purchase future cruise certificates on board is equivalent to throwing a $100 bill into the ocean.
10. Movies on Demand – On a recent cruise, the cruise line wanted $19.99 to watch some newer movies in the cabin. After spending $1,500- $2,000 on your cruise fare, do you really want to pay to watch a movie in your cabin?
If it is a movie you want to see, make the most of your time on board and just rent it for $4 or $5 through Amazon when you get home. Note: Cruise lines will usually also have a selection of movies/TV shows through in-stateroom programming at no extra cost.
This article was updated in October 2022.