Pack these items and you will save money on your cruise.

Know what you want to shop for before you leave home, especially on electronics!
Know what you want to shop for before you leave home, especially on electronics!

It happens to almost all cruise passengers.   The “why didn’t I bring it” moment when they realize how much extra an item costs on a ship or even in port. Here are nine simple ways to save money on a cruise.  With a bit of planning, it’s possible to avoid a lot of unnecessary shipboard expenses.

1.  Suntan/sunscreen lotion. Obvious, right? Wrong.  Even the most jaded of cruisers forget to pack sunscreen.  Not only is it more expensive on a ship, the selection is severely more limited than from your local drug store.  Not everyone wants to smell like a coconut!

2.  Bottled water. There’s a story I always tell of a seasoned cruiser who, before every cruise, buys a small, used garage sale suitcase and then fills it with bottles of water.  On boarding day, the hapless suitcase goes through checked luggage.  After the cruise, it’s left in the stateroom for the room attendant. This seems a little extreme just to save a few dollars. But at $4.95 per liter, if someone drinks a couple of liters of water per day…it can add up. This is one item that also costs less in port and there is usually no problem to carry water back onboard.

3.  Foreign currency. If a European cruise is on the horizon, it’s a good idea to go to a major bank and order Euros, Pounds or whatever the currencies will be for the countries on the itinerary. Why? To avoid high commissions on the ship at the Purser’s Desk and the confusion at a Currency Exchange overseas. How much money to order?  At least enough to get through the first couple of days, including taxi money and a double scoop of gelato!  While most taxis and restaurants accept credit cards, it’s nice to have local currency on hand.  In a secured pouch or wallet, of course.

4.  Folding suitcase for souvenirs. This doesn’t take up much room in my packed suitcase.  The flat-folding bag should have small wheels or a loop to piggyback onto your main suitcase.  Avoid the last night shopping crunch when everyone is buying flimsy, overpriced, wheeled tote bags at the ship’s gift shop.

5.  BYOS Bring Your Own Soap.  Bar soap, that is.  Many mainstream cruise lines now feature wall-mounted generic liquid soap dispensers in the shower.   The same goes for shampoo and conditioner.  I don’t want to spend double for these items at the gift shop.

6.  Extra SD card and batteries. Even if you think you won’t take many photos on your cruise, it’s a good idea to bring extra SD cards with you. If you prefer a specific name-brand, high-end card with 32GB, there’s a good chance that the ship won’t have it.

Some cards sold overseas may not be compatible with your camera or device.  It’s no fun to have a card self-destruct in your camera and erase an entire trip’s photos. The ship’s gift shop sells batteries, but they will cost more than at a local store back home.

7.  Snack Time! No matter what time the munchies hit, having my own snacks in the room is the cost-effective way to go.  A trip to the gift shop or candy store can become costly and I’d probably end up buying something that I wouldn’t buy at home.

Pack a can of assorted nuts, chips or popcorn.  This is crucial when traveling with kids.  Make sure to pack plenty of their favorite snacks.  Healthier, better than the selection on the ship, and available on a moment’s notice, snacks from home can save the day.

8.   Be camera-savvy. Thinking about buying a new camera on the ship because someone said the prices are reduced? Not so anymore.  Careful comparison-shopping between hometown and shipboard camera prices reflect a better price and more selection on land than at sea. Shop before leaving home.  This will also allow for a little time to learn to use that prized new camera.

If you think that you’ll get the best prices on electronics in the Caribbean, specifically St. Thomas, think again.   St. Maarten is the “new” St. Thomas when it comes to electronics and jewelry. Do some research before your cruise and write down the exact items and prices.   If all else fails, show the salesperson the comparable price at home.  But be aware that most Caribbean electronics stores do not match internet prices from major camera dealers in the U.S.

9.  Alcoholic beverages. Though most major cruise lines allow one bottle of wine per person to be carried on board, some cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, charge a steep corkage fee in the dining room. Corkage fees can range anywhere from $10  (Azamara Club Cruises), $15 (Princess Cruises) to $25 (Royal Caribbean and Celebrity). Norwegian even charges the corkage fee to your onboard account at embarkation.

Before embarkation day, review the cruise line’s FAQs to brush up on whether guests are allowed to bring wine or spirits on board. And if you want to sip in the privacy of your stateroom (maybe on your balcony at sunset), don’t forget to pack a corkscrew in your checked luggage.  

Bottom line. No one likes to waste money, especially if it could have been avoided. Whether it’s your 1st or 31st cruise, the less money spent onboard for things that could have been packed from home, the more you’ll enjoy your vacation. Guaranteed.


5 Comments on 9 Money-Saving Items to Pack for Your Cruise

  1. Thanks for pointing out that we should pack sunscreen on our cruise, since we’ll have a much better selection and price at a local drug store than on the ship. My husband and I want to take our family on a cruise soon, so I’ve been doing some research online about what to expect and how to prepare. I can see how having a lot of sunscreen will be important, so I think we’ll take your advice and stock up before going.

  2. Thanks for sharing these very helpful and practical tips. With regard to the tip about the water, I would like to suggest a much easier and cost effective way of doing it – simply bring a recyclable water bottle with you. In the mornings before heading out for a day of sightseeing, you can just refill your water container in the restaurant which has a supply of water (and ice if you need it) right throughout the day. You can even fill up with sodas, or the healthier option of juice for the kids. Gotta admit, it beats lugging with a heavy recycled suitcase, and you can save on that money in port too. Besides, how many recycled suitcases could a cabin attendant use anyway?

    Oh, and as for snacks – I agree about bringing from home for those middle of the night munchies moments, but it’s also a good idea to grab something from the breakfast buffet like an apple or banana that you can take back to your room for later, or even drop into your bag for a quick pick-me-up when you’re touring in port.

  3. Packing for a cruise can be overwhelming. Thanks Sherry for reminding us of those essentials we can pick up prior to sailing to save cash.

    My lovely wife just did a post point out some of the common items you should pack on your next cruise.
    http://eatsleepcruise.com/2014/08/17/packing-with-the-princess-6-commonly-over-looked-household-items-that-will-come-in-handy-during-your-next-cruise/.

    We recommend taking a trip to the local dollar store to get a few of these must have items before departing.

    Safe Travels!

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