Whether the cruise costs a mint or was an incredibly cheap score, it's all about that carefree vacation getaway feeling. Nothing brings on post-cruise regret faster than a good long peek at our anemic bank account afterward. Don't be fooled—cruises are money-making enterprises that are designed to offer luxury and encourage their passengers to pay for a myriad of goods and services—but the cruisers that have the most fun are the ones in 'the know'. They know that for some activities, timing is everything, and that cruise ships aren't simply floating hotels—they can be so much more.
People might be surprised how much they can score for free on their cruise ship if they're willing to do a little digging into the list of amenities and the fine print of the lessons and services offered. Many services are a part of the total price a customer paid for the cruise. Why not take advantage of all the goodies the ship has to offer? Sometimes, the only thing stopping a passenger from saving their money is a simple question. So here are 25 Things Passengers Can Get For Free On Cruise Ships If We Literally Just Ask.
25 Toiletry Treats
It's a sure bet that more than one passenger forgot to pack toothpaste, misplaced a razor, or encountered some other unfortunate toiletry oversight, but rather than rushing out and buying these basic items, check with the front desk first, explains Shermans Cruise.
Not every ship gives out unending toiletries, but cruisers might be surprised what the ship does have.
After all, it doesn't make sense to buy shampoo and conditioner for a short cruise if the front desk has some spare complimentary bottles.
24 Look For The Spa Incentives
It may take a strong will to say no to the very persuasive masseuses or estheticians, but free spa treatments, like a mini facial, are often easy to score, especially in the first couple days of the cruise.
Many cruise ships will have demonstrations or presentations of some of the luxury spa services the estheticians offer in the first day or two to entice people in, according to Cruzely.
Volunteer for the free demonstration during the presentation. Often the large spa showers are available for free use, too.
23 Welcome To The Party
Whether this is the first ever cruise or not even the first cruise on this ship, don't miss the embarkation drinks or the welcome aboard party.
Drinks can add up very quickly throughout the duration of the trip, but cruisers can have a free tipple or two if they head to the captain's welcome party, reveals Cruise Weekly.
There are often fancy and tasty little bite-sized canapés to nosh on. Many people get so caught up in unpacking or exploring that they miss the free party.
22 A Lesson In Saving Money
Sure, cruises are about enjoying the scenery, the grand vistas and being at sea, but if it rains, being out on deck might not be the most fun place. Even if it's bright and sunny, it's a shame not to check in on what kinds of classes and lessons the ship offers—many are free of charge, according to Cruise Critic.
Some cruise lines offer free fencing courses, and others may offer history, local culture, or language lessons.
Cruisers can often learn photography techniques or even attend a cooking demonstration.
21 Keep Complimentary Cards
There are postcards available in the onboard shop or at the ports, but often the ship provides a few cards with the room.
If there aren't postcards or writing items in the room, ask at the purser's desk—they may just hand over a small stack of complimentary postcards that can be mailed off at the next port, as per USA Today.
Of course, mailing them won't be free, but friends and family might really enjoy getting an official cruise ship postcard in the mail postmarked from some exotic port.
20 Movin' On Up(grade)
Balcony rooms are much more expensive than the interior staterooms, but sometimes asking for an upgrade still works, and won't cost any extra fee, according to Roaming Around The World. Sometimes watching the price changes and deals while making payments on a cheaper room is key to calling and scoring an upgrade when a balcony price drops.
Or ask for an upgrade—but after docking at the first port.
Some promotional deals include onboard credit. Once the ship has set sail, cruisers can use that credit towards a free upgrade.
19 Just Married
Buying honeymoon packages might cost a pretty penny, so some might opt to avoid that and score freebies another way.
Just married couples can sometimes score some nice treats just by casually dropping it into the conversation.
Room service might send up a nice bottle of something, or maybe the waiter will bring a little extra-special dessert in the dining room, as per Cruzely. It never hurts to just put the information out there. Many cruise lines willingly send little honeymoon perks for couples to cultivate loyalty.
18 The Perks Of Membership
While cruise loyalty programs may not pay off on the first cruise, often guests enjoy nice little extras on subsequent cruises. Every major cruise line offers loyalty programs and memberships that can earn their passengers anything from priority booking to free cruises, explains Oyster.
Some loyalty programs don't just offer points or credit per day sailing, but also offer members additional points from onboard spending or suite bookings. Many people who cruise once love it so much they cruise again, so earning points towards free swag is a no-brainer.
17 Room Service Requests
Free room service is something that can't be understood until it's experienced—but cruisers should check with their cruise line and their ship to find out what's free and what's not, as per Cruise Critic.
Some cruise ships will happily send room service to awaken passengers with a warm breakfast every morning, but some only offer free service at certain times.
Room service might also only be free for a limited list of food. Just ask—getting a meal delivered is a less stressful alternative to a long buffet line.
16 Freedom From Motion Sickness
Larger ships often have stabilizers, and there are lots of techniques passengers can employ to minimize seasickness, but sometimes it strikes despite our best efforts. Many pursers and guest service desks can help—often free of charge, as per Picture The Magic.
Nothing ruins a wonderful experience faster than the messy results of motion sickness both for the ill passenger and everyone around.
Even if a passenger isn't experiencing any seasickness, it's not a bad idea to stop by guest services and grab a little free medicine—just in case.
15 A Volunteer From The Audience
Cruise ships offer a lot in the way of entertainment, and that includes shows and demonstrations that require some audience participation.
To increase the chances of scoring some free extra swag or even a nicer prize like a bottle of bubbly, volunteer for the games and demonstrations, as per Cruzely.
Even passengers that don't win the games often walk away with some participation token. At demonstrations and presentations, a passenger who volunteers might get a free massage or a t-shirt.
14 Cruise Ship Tea Party
While harder drinks may end up costing a chunk of change if cruisers aren't careful, the good ol' basics like water, coffee and tea are usually free and widely available, according to Cruise Critic.
Self-serve from the selection at the buffets, or order coffee and tea from room service.
Fancier drinks like chai tea lattes or cappuccinos may cost, so to keep overall expenses down, stick to the basics. Most cruise lines offer regular or decaf coffee free, and a decent selection of teas totally gratis.
13 Free Pizza
Not only can passengers on cruise ships usually get free pizza, but they can also even get it custom-made with their own toppings, as per Cruiseline.
While not every ship offers complimentary pizza, most do.
If the buffet line is long or if the cruise ship is known for its excellent pizza, stop by and ask for a whole pie. Some of the pizzerias are even open around the clock, so cruisers can tame cravings with a brick oven-fired pizza at two in the morning if need be—for free.
12 Playing The Game
Games and tournaments are often free to enter for cruise passengers as a form of entertainment included in their basic cruise fare, so cruisers should take advantage of these games, as they often give pretty nice prizes. Games might be sports-related, including golf or basketball games, as per Trip Savvy.
Bocce ball or shuffleboard tournaments could result in a nice gift as well.
Participants might not even need to win to get something free—sometimes simply participating earns the cruiser points towards a gift.
11 Happy Birthday/Anniversary
Birthday celebrations and accoutrements on cruise ships can add up quickly, but they don't have to.
Simply working into the conversation that a birthday is being celebrated or that it's the tenth anniversary can result in some free goodies, according to Mama Cheaps.
It's not a guaranteed freebie, but just asking about it or mentioning an upcoming birthday can get a nice little reward. Cruise ships just want their cruisers to have positive memorable experiences, and a little free birthday treat never hurt.
10 Free Reign At The Obstacle Course
Cruise ships are huge and many first-time cruisers are shocked at how many activities are offered. There are even extreme activities for the more adventurous passengers, including obstacle courses, zip lines, skydiving or simulated surfing—and most cruise ships offer these fun activities for free included in the price of the fare, explains Insider.
Ships often boast multiple activities, and different cruise lines feature different experiences but avoid long lines by waiting a couple of days before checking out the often-popular recreation.
9 Souvenir Stamps
It might take some hunting, but during port stays passengers can look for the immigration or customs office at the port and get their passport stamped for free, according to Married With Wanderlust.
Getting a passport stamp is a wonderful way to mark all the places cruisers have visited and is just another free perk that travelers can take advantage of to really enhance the cruise experience. Some of the stamps might be official, and some might be unofficial, 'souvenir' stamps, but either way, they're a lot of fun.
8 Rolling In Luxury
Everyone is a bit different when it comes to mattress support and comfort. If the bed seems too firm or a passenger isn't happy with the linens, often a simple request will produce easy bed modifications that don't cost a dime extra, as per Cruise Critic.
Just like hotel beds, cruise ship beds get slept on a lot, and they also have to be a bit utilitarian, but a foam mattress topper or an extra set of sheets can put a good night of sleep within reach.
7 What's The (WiFi) Password
WiFi aboard the cruise ship can end up costing a lot more than people realize—until they have to settle up the bill at the end of the cruise. Cruisers can avoid the exorbitant charges and get access for free with just a little planning. Often cell phones can provide hotspot access to other devices—like a laptop or tablet, as per Cruise Hive.
Crew members often make a beeline for the best WiFi spots when in port; so, a savvy passenger could follow them to WiFi freedom. If not, check out some of the pubs and cafes in port; many offer free WiFi.
6 Trivial Cruise Pursuits
One mainstay of the cruise experience that nearly every ship offers is the trivia game. Cruisers participate for fun or at a more serious level, but it's worth trying out the trivia games because they're free to join but can result in either prizes or points, explains Cruise Critic.
When cruise ships offer points instead of prizes, don't despair—the points can be collected throughout the trip and exchanged for gifts at the end. Trivia often racks up more points than other activities.
5 Money-Free Mini-Golf
Serious golfers can rejoice that their favorite cruise ships offer putting greens and mini-golf areas to help them keep their skills sharp. The mini golf course is usually free on the major cruise lines, according to Mama Cheaps.
The only time golf might cost is if passengers want to book private lessons.
Otherwise, tee up and hit the golf ball around the course worry- and money-free. Onboard golf was once an enticement but is now par for the course on cruise ships.
4 Sample The Window Shopping
Duty-free shops onboard are pretty much there to separate cruisers from their money, but a smart passenger who wants to try some of a fancy beverage can often get a few drinks free by sampling the drinks tastings the shops periodically hold, as per Cruiseline.
It's probably not going to be a large beverage, but considering how expensive drinking can get onboard, even a small taste of high-quality tipple isn't something to sneeze at. Cruisers can always try the samples without any obligation to buy.
3 The Ol' Raffle Dazzle
The only contest a cruiser can't win is the one she doesn't enter. Cruise ships bottom line need their customers to have fun, so they offer all kinds of oddball contests and raffles that are free to enter and often offer great free prizes, according to Cruise Weekly.
The jewelry shops and spas onboard may offer raffle sign-ups, and it only takes a few seconds to write a name down. The payoff could be a free watch, or free luxury treatment, or free cruise ship swag.
2 Art Auction Action
Cruise ship passengers can score a double win and take in fine artwork while sipping bubbly at a cruise ship art auction, as per Roaming Around The World.
Not every cruise ship will have an art auction, but drink deal hunters should check the ship's itinerary and not worry about being too shy to attend the art auction. No one's required to make a bid on the artwork, so cruisers can just relax and enjoy the experience with a beverage.
1 We Scream For Ice Cream
We were pretty sold when we found out about free gourmet pizza, but we are ecstatic that ice cream is routinely included in the cruise fare, according to Smarter Travel. It's not the big name brands usually—those cost extra money—but passengers can often help themselves to a soft serve cone from one of the deck stations. Ice cream is also often served at the buffet, making both our inner kid and our actual children happily scream for ice cream.
References: Shermans Cruise, Cruzely, Cruise Weekly, Cruise Critic