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Best Cruise Ship Freebies
We have cruised a lot. We LOVE cruising! Many of our travel adventures have landed us on cruise ships. There’s just something so exotic about sailing to different locales and, I’m not gonna lie, I love visiting different ports of call while only having to unpack my bags once! Over the last couple of decades, we have amassed many cruises to our travels, including numerous sailings on Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean, Carnival and one on Celebrity. We have friends who have sailed these lines, along with Norwegian, Princess and Viking.
After so much cruising and lots of firsthand experience on the various fleets, I can tell you that above many other perks, it’s the cruise ship freebies that we love the most. Now, don’t misunderstand – when I say “cruise ship freebies” I am referring to the things that are included in your cruise fare at no extra cost. Because yes, you are paying money for your cruise. Cruises offer an all-inclusive type experience and it can be easy to overlook some of the things that are included with your fare. So call them cruise ship freebies, call them included-in-your-cruise-amenities, it makes no difference. They are definitely worth checking out and taking advantage of during your vacation!
Cruise Line Loyalty Club Freebies
Almost every single cruise line offers some sort of loyalty club. It’s free to join (many times you are enrolled automatically after your first cruise with that company). Loyalty club perks vary by cruise line, but many of them keep track of how many cruises you have taken and you get bumped to better perks the higher you get. For example, Disney Cruise Line has three levels in its “Castaway Club.” CC is made up of Silver (less than 5 cruises), Gold (5+ completed cruises) and finally the almighty Platinum (10+ completed cruises). The higher you climb up the ladder, the more perks you get. Perks vary by cruise line but include things like earlier booking privileges, free souvenirs, complimentary cocktail hour, etc.
Cruise Line Free Food
One of the awesome all-inclusive perks of a cruise is that it includes ALL of your meals throughout the duration of your trip. Within minutes of boarding your ship, you can grab lunch at the buffet. The morning you disembark, they feed you breakfast. All meals during your cruise – be it buffet, formal dining room, even room service, are included in your fare.
Now it’s important to note, some ships have very upscale, fine dining restaurant options. While they are not free, the cost to enjoy a truly exclusive, gourmet meal is extremely discounted from what you might pay for the same experience back on land. (For example, when you dine at Palo on Disney Cruise Ships, the charge is around $30 per person, including tip. You are served a 5-course meal that would typically run closer to $100 per person.)
Free Room Service on Cruises
I mentioned it above, but this is one of our VERY favorite cruise perks, so it’s worth mentioning again. ROOM SERVICE IS FREE ON CRUISES!! When you get to your cabin, pick up the in-room book that contains all sorts of information about your ship and ports of call. Somewhere inside that book is a room service menu. Typically room service is offered 24 hours/day (though there is a cutoff on the last night of your trip). It is completely free, but don’t forget to tip the waitstaff a couple dollars.
Free Drinks on a Cruise
Now this one varies BIG TIME depending on what cruise line you are on. Back 10 or 15 years ago, soft drinks were NEVER included in free cruise beverages. You had to purchase a soft drink package or pay by the glass if you wanted a soda. While some cruise lines still operate this way, a bunch of cruise lines include soft drinks with the water, coffee, juice and milk that are already free with your basic cruise fare.
Some cruise lines offer booking incentives that include free or heavily discounted alcoholic drinks or packages for these drinks. Loyalty clubs (mentioned above) sometimes include free drink vouchers or a complimentary cocktail hour. Disney Cruise Line offers a complimentary happy hour twice a night for Concierge guests. Depending on how much or how little alcohol you typically consume on vacation, it definitely might be worth a little research to see what cruise line has the best option for you.
Many cruise lines will also let you bring your own alcohol aboard (typically limited to 1 bottle of wine per adult over 21, but rules vary by cruise line).
On a previous Carnival Cruise, we carried on a whole bunch of bottled water and soda, plus 2 bottles of wine.
Free Birthday and Anniversary Celebrations on Cruises
Cruise ships offer order forms for pre-ordering cakes and other treats for any special celebration you might be celebrating while on board. These treats can be costly depending on what you order. However, we have found that if you don’t want to drop the cash on, say, a big cake, many times when you mention a special event to your server, they will treat you with a little something special.
Our last cruise was on Disney and we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. One night at dinner our server brought out this cute little cake and 2 pins for us, while several servers sang a Happy Anniversary song to us!
Free Cruise Ship Entertainment
And I’m not just talking about the stage shows. But why don’t we start there? Most cruise ships have a full sized theater where you can catch a musical-type stage show on most evenings of your trip. Typically, ships offer an early show and a later show, so that no matter which dining time you have for dinner, you can catch the show.
In addition to these nightly stage shows, you can find entertainment all over the ship throughout the day. These will all be listed on your daily schedule. We have enjoyed magicians, comedians, game shows, dance lessons, movies in the movie theater, etc over the years. They are a fun way to break up your days spent at sea!
If you are on a ship like Disney, you can enjoy free character meet and greets every day.
Free Sports and Adventure Activities on Cruise Ships
Cruise ships have an incredible array of free activities on board. Think beyond the pool, gym, basketball court and miniature golf course that many ships tend to have. Some of the bigger ships these days have rock climbing, water slides, wave riding simulators, ice skating and go kart rinks. The Anthem of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) has indoor skydiving! These are all included in your cruise fare and are guaranteed to be among the highlights of your trip.
FREE Kids’ Care on Cruise Ships
Ahhhh.. you’d better believe that this is something our ENTIRE family enjoys. When you sail on any of the major cruise lines, if you have a kid who is between a certain age range (typically 3+ through teens), there are kids’ clubs and teen clubs where they can hang out. Kids’ Clubs open in the morning and usually have hours late into the night so that parents can enjoy a quiet dinner or take in a show or head to the spa.. whatever they want! Here’s the best part: most kids want to live in the kids’ club and never want to leave!! So drop them off guilt-free and know that they are going to have a blast, while you enjoy a vacation date night. How awesome is that?!
Our kids absolutely love cruise kids’ clubs. They tend to join in and enjoy the fun activities – anything from hula hoop contests to science experiments to pajama parties. When your kids are at the kids’ club, carry your ship phone with you in case any issues arise and the staff needs to get in touch with you.
For your youngest travelers (under 3 and not potty trained) many ships offer a nursery area. While it’s not free and you often have to reserve your time slots, the price is less than you would pay a babysitter at home and you can still have a couple hours to enjoy a meal or just have some quiet time.
Tax FREE Shopping on Cruises and at Ports of Call
If you love to shop (especially for jewelry and alcohol) you can take advantage of the duty free shopping both on the ship and when your ship visits various international ports of call. While you still have to report things that you bought on your customs form when you disembark, you can buy up to a certain value of merchandise without having to pay any sales tax on them.
Many stores in port will offer freebies to get you in the door in the hopes you’ll buy something else. We have come home with free earrings, necklaces, shirts and more that we got just for stopping in a shop.
Beach Towels Provided on Cruise Ships
Many moons ago, on our first cruise, I remember packing up our beach towels for the days our ship was docked in Bermuda. What I didn’t realize, is that most cruise lines provide towels for the beach and the pool completely FREE. You must turn them in when you leave the beach or pool area, but they save you a lot of space in your luggage and keep wet, sandy towels out of your cabin.
Those are some of our very favorite cruise freebies that we almost always take advantage of whenever we sail the seas! What are your favorite freebies, perks and amenities when you cruise?