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Video: How to Save Money Onboard Your Cruise

Summary: Getting a great deal when you book your cruise is just the start. Learn how to save money onboard and in port with these tips for saving money during your cruise.

Video Run Time: 3:43

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Video Transcript:

One of the great things about cruising is that your cruise fare includes your cabin, meals and a tremendous variety of activities and entertainment all for one price. However, that doesn't mean that everything on the ship is free. Here are some tips on saving money and avoiding unpleasant surprises when you close out your onboard account.

The biggest onboard revenue generators for cruise lines are alcoholic and premium drinks (which are usually specialty coffee drinks and sodas), shore excursions, and casino gambling. Add in spa treatments and shopping onboard and in port, and these make up the lions share of a typical cruise vacationers spend.

Before you sail, set budgets for everything, and keep track of your spending once on board. Find a balance between being in vacation mode and just indulging in what you want, and pinching pennies.

To avoid overspending on gambling, the easiest thing to do is just win. But if you can't count on that, set limits on both the time and money you plan to spend in the casino.

Onboard spa treatments tend to be pretty expensive, so do check prices online before you sail and have a realistic expectation of what you want to spend. You can sometimes find special deals on spa treatments at less-popular times, especially when the ship is in port.

Alcohol is one of the biggest onboard revenue sources for cruise lines-which is why they don't let you bring your own liquor on board. Yes, a bottle in your luggage that doesn't look like a liquor bottle is likely to make it to your cabin, but I don't recommend doing this. The Carnival-owned lines-including Carnival, Princess, and Holland America-- lines allow you to bring wine and champagne on board to enjoy in your cabin. Personally, I'd recommend wine in a box. Yes, some boxed wine is, well-let's face it, some boxed wine is vile. But there are certain higher-end brands that have a quality product. A box allows you to get the equivalent of several bottles in a corner of your suitcase without the added weight or breakage risk of glass. And since the dispenser doesn't let air into the wine, it also keeps the wine fresh longer once opened.

Some lines sell cards that allow you to get an unlimited number of premium soft drinks, or free or reduced-priced coffee drinks. Before investing in one of these, really think though how much you'll use it, especially on a port-intensive sailing.

In port. consider exploring on your own before you pay for an excursion. There is plenty of information available in guide books and online to help.

If you do opt for an organized activity, know that cruise lines mark up shore excursions by 30%-40%. You can save a lot by purchasing directly from tour operators, or through a third-party consolidators. One caveat: if the excursion involves a lot of off-boat travel and you're at all worried about getting back to the dock before the ship sails, do buy through the cruise line as they'll hold the boat for you if you're late.

Finally, a word on souvenirs. Before you buy anything, picture where you would display it in your house or how many times you'd really wear it. While we've all felt the euphoria of a great day in an exotic place and wanted something tangible to remember it by, keep in mind: its not a bargain if you don't want it when you get home.

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