Whether you're interested in dining, drinking, the spa or something else entirely, here are some recommendations of the best ways to save a little money.
If You're a Foodie
Want to get to more than one specialty restaurant? On Royal Caribbean and Celebrity ships, you can pay less for dinner if you dine on embarkation day. Another option is to do lunch at a specialty restaurant that typically costs more for dinner. Two restaurants at which this is an option are Jamie's Italian and Giovanni's Table, both found on select Royal Caribbean ships. Lunch at Jamie's is $20 per person (a $5 per person savings); the savings are even greater at Giovanni's where lunch is a mere $10 per person, compared to $25 pp for dinner.
Casual a la carte eateries are also a good choice for making the most of your money. You can make a full meal of smaller items from places like Bonsai Sushi (on select Carnival ships) or Johnny Rockets and Sabor (on select Royal Caribbean ships). Another option is to spend the money in a bar where you get a drink and food for the price of just your drink. On select Princess ships, the Vines wine bar offers sushi and tapas with any wine purchase.
If Libations Are Critical
Finding ways to get drinks for less is a holy grail mission for many cruisers. Cocktail lovers should look for drink of the day specials, while beer fans should take advantage of buckets, which cost less than ordering one bottle at a time. Princess doesn't have a bucket per se, but does have a five-for-four beer package priced from $22 to $27, depending on which brand you want. If you want to try a specialty restaurant and get a bottle of wine, head to Carnival's steakhouse on the first night of your cruise as you'll get a free bottle of wine with dinner. (Dinner is $35 per person, so it'll cost you a tad more than your OBC.)
If You Love the Spa
Make a spa appointment on port day. Just about every cruise line offers port day specials or packages that can save you money or get you three or four mini-treatments for the price of one full treatment.
There are lots of shopping opportunities on cruise ships, but if you want to make your money go farther, shop in the "everything for less than $10" areas of the onboard stores (if available) and keep your eyes open for special sales. Common promotions are the $10 and BOGO sales; they're best for items like scarves, clutches and costume jewelry. Another option is to look for a cruise line or cruise ship-branded item to take home as a souvenir. A printed photo of you and your travel party in your formal night finest also makes a nice souvenir; you can usually get two for about $50.
As with the spa, $50 won't get you too far when it comes to buying excursions, but every cruise line does typically offer at least one excursion under $50 in most ports. A second option would be to use the cruise line-sponsored shuttle (only available in select ports, typically in Europe) and then explore on your own.
If You Need Your Specialty Coffee
Plain coffee or tea is free on a ship, but if you want a specialty drink, you'll need to pay extra. Fifty dollars will get you one specialty coffee each day or maybe two. On Princess you can get two drinks a day for a week under $50. Purchase the line's coffee card and for just under $37 you get 15 espresso-based drinks with unlimited brewed coffee and premium teas for the duration of your trip.
--By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor Cruise Critic 7/26/2016