One of the best things about cruising, amazing destinations aside, is the fact that it’s an ‘all in’ kind of holiday.
Once you step foot onboard that ship, the majority of what you see is included in the price you’ve already paid.
Of course, there are exceptions – alcohol, for one, is rarely included, unless you’re setting sail on a luxury all inclusive cruise.
Still, whilst you might have to put your hand in your pocket for your pina coladas there are enough cruise ship freebies up for grabs to make it not quite so painful – some of them a welcome surprise!
Here’s our top ten cruise ship freebies that we feel go above and beyond the ‘all in’ remit and provide that extra special touch that can make a good cruise great:
‘Surprise!’ Welcome Gift on Carnival
The average cruise includes top notch dining, expert-led activities, spa facilities, sports facilities and a ton more – so why is it that we get excited at the Carnival in-cabin welcome gift, which could typically include toothpaste, travel pills and money off vouchers?
It’s possibly the element of surprise that makes it such a great freebie. Will you hit the jackpot and get chocolate or will it be another tiny tube of hand lotion or a razor that’s far inferior to what you usually use?
Either way, we’re always far more thrilled than we should be to discover what’s in our little stash.
Top Notch Snacks
Three darn good meals a day are a given on cruise ships but if that’s not enough, there’s a whole other world of food awaiting, for free – you just need to know where to find the best SWS’s (snacks without supplements!).
On Princess Cruises, for example, you can grab a slice of what USA Today calls the ‘Best Pizza at Sea’, go la-de-dar at a dainty ‘white glove service’ afternoon tea or indulge your inner kid with fresh, soft-baked cookies and ice cold milk served directly to your sunlounger – just don’t expect a bedtime story on the side!
Think you need to book a suite to enjoy the luxury of a fluffy, free-to-use bathrobe? Think again. On Carnival and Holland America lines they believe in comfortable lounging for all – yes, even those in an inside stateroom. Just don’t try to take them home – you’ll be charged $49 by Carnival for this particular souvenir.
Surfing Sessions to Circus Skills
There are endless opportunities to learn a new skill or indulge a hobby while cruising, from team games to art lectures.
Take full advantage of what’s on offer – afterall, you’d have to pay for the privilege back home!
One particularly exciting addition for Royal Caribbean Quantum, Oasis and Freedom class ships is the FlowRider surf simulator – but you can also go rock climbing, zip lining or indoor skydiving on selected ships too.
On P&O you can learn Circus Skills and on Holland America learn to ‘Dance with the Stars’.
A cruise holiday offers all the opportunities of an action packed break, with no extra cost to you no matter how many different activities you want to try.
Celebrity chefs are big business and a table at a popular eatery with the likes of Jamie or Marco at the helm will set you back a pretty penny on dry land.
Not so on a cruise ship.
The Celebrity Chefs are practically queuing up to tempt discerning cruisers with their fare and freebies include Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival and sushi from Nobu creator Nobuyuki Matsuhisa on Crystal Symphony and Serenity.
Other dining experiences, like fine dining by Marco Pierre White or Jamie’s Italian on RCI, attract a surcharge but whilst not technically freebies, they still represent great value for money – plus, you won’t have to name drop to bag a table.
All the seats are cheap seats when it comes to cruise ship shows – even better than cheap, they’re free!
The shows on megaships are undeniably world-class, including Broadway and Vegas standard performances, which makes the £0 price tag even more appealing.
For example, tickets to see the wacky Blue Man Group show in Vegas could cost you upwards of $100.
On NCL Epic, tickets to this show are free! Tickets to see Mamma Mia in London’s West End can set you back up to £90, whereas you’ll be saying ‘thank you for the (free) music’ on RCI’s Quantum of the Seas.
Throw in comedy clubs, Disney and Dreamworks shows for the kids, high diving shows and ‘all that jazz’ and you have performance itineraries that cruise ships can show off.
Skip the line for the free soft-serve ice cream machines and go for the complimentary ice cream stops that offer more scoops, sauce and sprinkles for your (invisible) money. One of the best is the lunchtime ice cream station on Celebrity ships, where you can pile everything from Reese’s peanut butter cups to gummy bears high upon your favourite flavours.
On a typical Crystal Symphony or Serenity cruise you have the choice of around 100 different flavours, including Ben and Jerry’s and homemade creams, sorbets and sherbets, plus toppings of course!
Fun and Games
If you’re a parent you’ll know how much a trip to the funfair or the amusement arcade can cost – all those tokens and 2p coins can quickly add up to a not so fun figure that can leave you feeling sicker than a ride on the waltzers after a bag of candy floss.
It may surprise you that a cruise holiday can cost you less than a trip to the wet and windy seaside in this respect, with many liners offering rides and arcades for free!
The new Quantum class RCI ships for example boast bumper cars and rollerskating in the SeaPlex, whereas on the Oasis class seaside-style Boardwalks you’ll find a traditional carousel.
For gamers, Carnival and Disney have fun-filled classic arcades, whereas NCL partners with Nintendo to bring Wii games to the big screen.
Plus, any fully grown gamers in your group will love the EA SportsBars on Carnival – beer, snacks, big screens and games consoles, what more could a big kid want?
Anyone who uses a kid’s club or nursery facility at home will know the cost involved in keeping little darlings happy and occupied.
Your kids may be small but the price tag attached to holiday clubs isn’t!
One of the massive positives to cruising for many families is that the kid’s clubs are typically excellent and free, meaning that mum and dad actually get a holiday too!
Most of the popular family-friendly lines, including RCI, Disney, Carnival and NCL, divide their clubs into small age ranges, to offer the most age-appropriate activities and facilities and everyone from tots to teens will have their own space to hang out in.
You can also take advantage of evening kid’s clubs (very young children or private babysitting may be charged) where the kids can get stuck into everything from toga parties to movie nights while you enjoy a romantic dinner a deux.
Now that’s what we call a win win holiday situation!
Champagne and Caviar
If you’re one of the aforementioned very lucky ones booked onto a six star luxury cruise then you can expect the freebies to be cranked up a notch still.
On SeaDream and Seabourn cruises for example, expect champagne and caviar to come as standard – perfect for those of you who have a taste for something a little bit finer than complimentary coffee and donuts and if coffee and donuts will do you just fine, hit the donut shack on Royal Caribbean for the daily donut sensation (the Key Lime is a must!) – and ask them to make you up a good coffee in the dining room, to avoid paying extra for your cappuccino fix!
They say the best things in life are free and if we can get excited about sample sachets of suncream or free Mr Whippy then it must be true!
Know your way around the top freebies available on your cruise ship and make sure you’re getting the most for your holiday money.