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Cruising with Kids: Money Saving Tips and Activities

Our family loves to cruise, we love waking up to a new place almost every day.  It’s a great way to see the world with minimal stress; unpack once, no need to worry about where to sleep and eat, and no need to worry about getting to a destination. 


We find that cruising is a great way to spend our vacation dollars.  Once cruise and air fares are paid there’s not much more to spend on.  Cruise fares include stateroom, most on board meals and entertainment.   It’s easy to budget around the “extras” 


Cruise lines offer so many services and activities, some are free, others costly.  You need to pick and choose what you want to do and how much you are willing to spend to do it.  Here are some ideas to help you and your family get the most fun from your cruise without breaking the bank. 


·         Check your daily newsletter to find out what’s happening on board, you can plan your day around scheduled activities.  Always keep one handy, it lists activities, times, and venues. 



  • Learn something new and interesting, attend free port lectures, cooking demonstrations, galley tours, and more. 


  •  Shows in the main theater and lounges around the ship are free.  There’s always something going on somewhere on board, I’m sure there’s something you will enjoy.


  •  Learn a new dance step or work off those buffet meals, join a dance class.  The cruise staff offers many different types of free dance classes, ballroom, line dance, salsa, and more. 


  • Join a free fitness class at the fitness center, or work-out on your own. Premium classes like yoga, pilates, and more are offered for a fee.


  • Start or end your day with a good stretch or a walk or jog around the tack, you can do it on your own or join the fitness staff on these free activities daily.


  • Unleash your inner Rockstar, belt out a few songs on Karaoke nights.  You might win a prize!


  • Be a Game Show Contestant, sign up for one of the many games they play throughout the cruise.


  • Enjoy Trivia?  Themed trivia games are scheduled throughout the day.  Winners get prizes!


  • Have a picnic!  Celebrity and RCCL have grassy areas on board, grab sandwiches from the buffet and relax on the lawn.  If your ship doesn’t have a lawn area find a spot on quieter upper decks for your picnic. 


  • Play ball with the kids.  Most ships have shuffle board, table tennis, mini-golf courses, basketball courts and other activities for free, you may have to get equipment from the activity desk. 


Photos by: C. Ahmed


  • Register kids at the Youth Center where trained counselors organize fun activities.  Most activities are free.  Evening activities are actually group babysitting and is charged hourly. 


  • Enjoy a “date night” – drop kids off at the Youth Center for an evening activity.  Hourly charges are about $6/child.  It’s less expensive than in stateroom babysitting, hourly charge for this starts at about $18 for up to 3 kids in the same family.


  • Need some “alone time”?  You could splurge and reserve a lounger at Princess Cruise Line’s Sanctuary, an adult only area where staff pamper you, costs start at $10 for half a day.  Or you could find a lounger on the less popular upper decks and relax for free.


  • Movie night – All  ships have a movie theater, Princess Cruise Lines boast an outdoor theater by the pool; in the evenings deck attendants provide throws and serve fresh hot popcorn. Check the daily newsletter to see what’s playing.


  • Borrow a board game from the library or card room for a quiet family game night. You can borrow books too.


  • Indulge in a spa day when the ship is at port.  Spa and Salon offer port day specials.  Reserve your service anytime while the ship is at port, as long as your service starts while the ship is docked you get the discounted price.


  • Kids and adults will enjoy the backstage and galley tours.  These tours are free, check the newsletter for date and time.  Most ships have bridge tours for a fee.


  • Celebrating a birthday or other special occasion?  Let your Stateroom attend and wait staff know.  On some lines your cabin attendant will decorate your door with a celebration banner and your waiter will present you with a special treat after dinner.  If you want to go all out purchase a celebration package.  Prices and packages vary.

  •  Ship sponsored excursion or venture on your own?  Ship sponsored excursions can be very expensive, especially for large families.  These tours are charged per person even kids.  The benefits of purchasing a ship’s shore excursion is that the tour companies have been vetted by the cruise line for safety, quality, and service.  The ship waits for guests who participate in their tours, they do not if you choose to tour independently.  Booking your own excursions are generally less expensive, most tour companies charge per vehicle.  Alternatively you can use public transportation or hire taxis at the local ports.  If you decide to go it on your own, do your research before you leave home.


  • Want some free drinks?  Attend the Captain’s Welcome and Farewell events, free drinks are offered by circulating waiters; only drinks from the waiters are free, bar orders are not.  Attend an art auction, the champagne is free.  Drop by the liquor store for free samples and watch the bar tenders’ demonstration, guests are invited to try their concoctions.


  • Before purchasing a drink package compare it to the per drink price.  Drink packages are only worth it if you know you can drink enough to cover its cost. 


  • Bring your own wine, bottled water, and sodas.  These are the only drinks cruise ships allow you to bring onboard.  All other alcoholic beverages consumed onboard must be purchased from the ship.  A corkage is charged when you bring your wine to the dining room.


  • Check nightly dinner menus before you reserve specialty dining, you don’t want to miss lobster or baked Alaska nights.  Dinner menus are posted outside the main dining room, or you could ask your waiter to show you the next day’s menu.


  • Watch for photo specials, purchase any photos you want during the sales.


  • Relax by the pool or join in the pool games.


  • Gaze at the ocean on your balcony or on the promenade deck, it’s very relaxing.

Whatever you decide to do remember, you’re on vacation, enjoy!

Bon Voyage!

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