The Best Cruise Booking Perks You Can Get for Free
Want to save hundreds of dollars on your cruise vacation? Cruise lines offer many free perks when booking, including some big-ticket items like drink packages and cabin upgrades.
These popular items can definitely add to your cruise bill. It may seem like everything else is going up in price, like gas and groceries, but we have several ways to make your cruise vacation affordable.
Most major cruise lines offer some type of free perk that will undoubtedly help you save money.
Here is a list of common and unexpected free benefits you can get when booking a cruise.
Drink packages seem to be skyrocketing, sometimes costing more than the cruise itself. Anytime you score free drinks it’s a great find.
Some cruise lines currently offer free drink packages as a booking bonus. Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has run its Free at Sea program for some time, which offers free drinks as part of its promotion. Norwegian presents it as an unlimited open bar; however, there are some restrictions. It applies to drinks up to $15, and you still have to tip on the package.
Princess Cruises is currently hosting its Love Boat sale, coinciding with a new show reminiscent of the famous hit series aboard a cruise ship in the 70s and 80s. They offer free drinks (and free wi-fi), to which we say a big “yes please”.
Cruise lines offer several beverage packages, some with unlimited beer and wine and others with premium products; it depends on the line and the specific offer.
Kids sail free
Family cruises are great vacations, but adding a few extra people can really increase the price. Good news though, there are Kids Sail Free programs among the major cruise lines.
Notably, Royal Caribbean, a favorite among many for its endless activities such as water parks and waterslides, currently runs its Kids Sail Free program. This applies to third and more guests in the cabin.
MSC Cruises do even better with their Kids Sail Free Program all year. Children under 18, traveling in the same cabin as their parents, travel free. Even though kids sail free, you still have to pay port taxes and gratuities with cruise line programs.
Internet packages have become an expensive accessory for cruisers, and most of us just can’t live without them for that long. Whether checking in with family and friends, sharing photos on social media, or working, it has become a staple for many.
Fortunately, some cruise lines offer free internet when booking, such as Norwegian cruise line and Princess Cruises.
Most cruise lines offer two levels of wi-fi, a basic level for checking emails and a premium plan for streaming videos or using online communication tools such as WhatsApp or Facetime. It’s a good idea to clarify what you’re getting.
One of the most common booking benefits, and a great one because of its flexibility, is onboard credit. You can use it for drinks, excursions or for your final cruise bill, so it is the most ultimate in terms of usage.
Most cruise lines offer onboard credit, and many do if you book on board the ship.
One of the biggest onboard credits we’ve seen comes from Cunard, famous for its Queen Mary 2, its classic style and its legendary ocean crossings. They currently offer up to $2,000 onboard credit per stateroom. That’s a lot of drinks.
For those who like to sail alone, the solo supplement fee can be a deal breaker. Many cruise lines require solo travelers to pay double the cost, as prices assume double cabin occupancy.
Virgin trips, the adults-only cruise line that’s making a splash in the industry with its vibrant red ships and party atmosphere, makes it easy for solo sailors. They currently offer no additional fees, which is a significant savings. Additionally, they add $100 to the solo cruiser bar tab.
If you dream of leisurely cruising through the beautiful islands of the South Pacific, Paul Gauguin Cruises, well known for its immersive all-inclusive cruise experiences, currently has no supplements for solo travelers. Go ahead and check that off your to-do list!
Whether you book them before the cruise or on board, excursions can be expensive, especially if you buy them through the cruise line. On a Mediterranean cruise this summer, I saw some very expensive excursions, some costing several hundred dollars for a day trip to Rome.
Fortunately, some cruise lines offer free excursions. As part of the celebration of its 150 years, Holland America Line includes a free White Pass Scenic Railroad, a unique rail ride through Alaska (with $150 onboard credit).
If you book smaller, higher-end cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas, they offer free, unlimited excursions in their all-inclusive cruise style.
Sometimes a ocean view Where interior cabin is all our budget allows, so a free update to a Balcony Stateroom is another fantastic perk. Waking up to see the blue ocean, smell the salty air, and have a private outdoor space is definitely a plus.
Free cabin upgrades have been made more difficult to obtain with the introduction of cruise line auction systems that allow passengers to bid on upgrades before their cruise.
However, there is a way to get a free upgrade, as it is sometimes offered as a perk. MSC Cruises is currently offering a free balcony upgrade as part of its latest promotion, along with other great perks. Even the luxury cruise line Azamara is currently offering free cabin upgrades.
Other free benefits
Not as popular, but a few other free booking perks to watch out for:
- Gratuities/gratuities can be up to $20 per day per person and can be added to this bill. Celebrity Cruises recently had a sale with tips included.
- Specialty dining options are increasingly popular on cruise ships, with new ships offering a wide range of food options including sushi, steakhouses, seafood and Italian, to name a few. name a few. Norwegian and Cunard are currently offering complimentary specialty meals, which no cruise line will turn down.
- Free third and fourth passengers in the cabin are another perk, which is great if you’re traveling with a group or adult children who aren’t eligible for kid’s promotions.
- Free airfare may be an unexpected perk for some, but we see some cruise lines offering it as part of their airline programs.
How to get free benefits?
Check your cruise line’s website. It’s a great starting point to see what’s on offer, and they often have quick flash sales. If you don’t want to miss a thing, sign up for email notifications for offers, a great way to stay up to date with what’s new.
Some travel agents offer free perks, often onboard credits. A good travel agency will also make sure you know what offers you qualify for. This can be especially important with terms and conditions hidden in the fine print.
Check your loyalty status for rewards including Royal Caribbean, which offers its higher-tier members a free cruise. If you like the casino, there are additional loyalty perks including free drinks and cruises, so be sure to check your status.
There are a number of websites online offering cruise marketing deals, with some free extras. Just be sure to do your homework if you go this route and read the reviews and details carefully.
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