Cruise Tips4 Things Cruise Lines Want You to Ignore

4 Things Cruise Lines Want You to Ignore

While cruise lines offer some great tips for your next cruise, there are some things that they hope you will ignore while you are on the ship.  Yes, they want you to have a great time and to go home and tell your family and friends about your cruise. However, they are also need to make a profit.

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Here are a few things that cruise lines want you to ignore.  While these are not secrets, they are often overlooked.


Slot machines at your local casino (if you live in an area that has them) are under watch of the state gaming commission of the state where they are located in.  They will have a minimum payout percentage and can not go below it (on average). In Nevada, it’s 75%. In New Jersey, it’s 83%.

Since cruise ships are flagged in foreign countries, they are not under the authority of the gaming commissions in the states and do not have to release the payout percentages of the slot machines.  

However, according to the ICCL (International Council of Cruise Lines), slot machines on cruise ships are called to “meet the regulatory standards of the Nevada Gaming Control Board or other licensed jurisdiction for payback and internal software.”

The slot machines on cruise ships always seem to be tighter than you will find in the casinos in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.  

While no one except the cruise lines knows the exact payout percentages, do not expect them to be as loose as the slot machines that you are used to playing. Yes, some will win big, but most passengers will lose.


On every cruise, there are “shopping highlight shows” where the cruise director and a shopping consultant will talk about each port and tell you about different stores and shops.

Some of these will include familiar names such as Diamonds International, Cariloha, etc. Many of these stores will even offer something free (bamboo necklace, charm bracelet) to get you to stop by.

The stores and shops that are being promoted by the cruise lines are not places they feel are of good value, but rather they are only promoting them because they are getting paid to do so.   These stores pay the cruise lines commission to promote them and to get you to shop there.

It all started years ago when cruise directors used to go to stores in port and collect an envelope with cash in it. This was their payment for promoting them during port talks.

Cruise lines picked up on this and they wanted a piece of the action. Stores and shops now pay cruise lines to promote them.

Don’t be afraid to shop at a store that isn’t “recommended” by the cruise line.  Many times you can find better deals that these other shops since they do not have the overhead of paying commission to the cruise lines.

I was recently on a cruise in Alaska and saw a store that had a sign that said, “Our prices are cheaper because we don’t give a kick back to cruise lines”. 

Also, don’t be afraid to barter to get a better deal.  Some of the best deals I got are when I said “no thanks” and took my first step towards the door.

However, it can be worth it to attend the shopping talks since they often give away free things at them.  Try to remember to sit up front since they like to throw things (shirts, necklaces etc.) to the audience and they normally don’t throw very far.

Huge Discounted Cruise Rates

You many have seen advertisements for cruises that are “80% off the brochure prices”. Are those cruises really that good of a deal?

First off, no one pays “brochure prices” for a cruise. The “brochure price” is a highly marked up price to make you think you are getting a better deal that you are actually receiving.  

I once saw that the “brochure price” for a four night cruise to the Bahamas was starting at $799 a person for an inside cabin. Four night cruises to the Bahamas usually start around $199-$399 (depending on the time of year) per person for cruises on Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean.

cruise ships

Anytime you see an advertisement for the “brochure price” for a cruise, ignore it. It is merely a marketing tool to get you to book a cruise because you think you are getting an amazing deal.

This also applies to BOGO and rates advertised as 60-75% off cruise fares. Always ignore the percentage off they are offering and just concentrate on the total price of the cruise.

Cruise lines also like to send out emails saying that their current offer ends in one or two days.  In reality, the sale will continue, just under a different name.  Instead of it being 35% off all cruises, it will be buy one, get the second guest 70% off.  The price is the exact same, just different marketing.

Cruise Line Credit Cards

Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and other major cruise lines all offer branded credit cards that help you build up points to save on your next cruise booking or for onboard credit. A few of the cards offered are:

  • Royal Caribbean Visa Signature Card
  • Carnival World MasterCard
  • Norwegian’s World MasterCard
  • Princess Cruises Rewards Visa Card
  • Holland America Line Rewards Visa Card
  • Disney Visa

Pretty much all of these credit cards offer no annual fee, 1 point per dollar spent, and double or triple points on purchases with that cruise line. Doesn’t that sound like a great deal?  Use your credit card and earn money off of your next cruise. While it sounds like a great deal, the credit cards are really not all that special.

You can only use the points towards each specific cruise line. If you have the Carnival World MasterCard and want to book a cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you can’t use your points for it.

Instead of getting one of the cruise line’s branded credit cards, you will be better off with cash back credit card that can be anywhere from 1.5-5% back.

Take for instance the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card that has no annual fee. They offer 2% cash back on every single purchase.

If you were to put $15,000 on a cruise line credit card, you would earn $150 in onboard credit. If you were to put the same charges on the Wells Fargo or a similar card, you’d have $300 cash. Which would you rather have, $150 in OBC or $300 cash?

I have a few friends who have a cruise line branded card but no longer use it because the rewards just aren’t worth it anymore compared to other credit cards.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise Tips4 Things Cruise Lines Want You to Ignore

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