Important Cruise Secrets

by R Long
July 23, 2017

Cruise Secrets You Will Wish You Had Known!

You have chosen your cruise but now do not want to get ripped off. It is hard to know all of the facts until you have experienced them yourself. Here are some cruise secrets that you may not know but can easily cost you. Don’t fall prey to the unexpected. Factor in the cost of necessary extras you may not know about.

One of the most important items even before you add up all of the extras is to choose your cruise carefully. If you are looking for a singles cruise then the Disney line is not for you. Perhaps you want peace and quiet and just want to read a good book. Then stay away from Carnival Cruise Lines.

You may have a hidden desire to spend some time at a certain port. Make sure the cruise you choose stays there for more than a few hours or you will come away greatly disappointed. Do your homework!


Tipping is not listed in the cruise package price. Nevertheless, you MUST pay the charges. This is a cruise secret you may not know. You will pay for your tips and often the tips are taken out of your credit card at the beginning of the cruise.


You can object but the cruise lines will get your money. No, they are not gratuities. A gratuity is defined as a “tip, gift, present, or reward.” You really have no choice.

They used to be up to the customer. Today you can consider your gratuity to be a required service fee.

The gratuities can rack up fast. Most cruise lines will charge you from $12 to $16 per person per day, depending upon your accommodations. If you go with your spouse on a 5-day cruise in a standard cabin, your gratuities will total from $120 to $160 for the cruise.

That does not include any extra gratuities for drinks. 15% is usually charged in addition to the cost of the drink. So if you think your drink costs $15, it really costs $17.25. You may not even find out about the extra $2.25 unless you check out your bill at the end of the cruise. So if you tip the waiter every time he brings you a drink, you are tipping twice.

Taxes and Port Charges

Taxes and port charges are additional charges when you cruise. Another one of those cruise secrets is that all ports charge the cruise line this fee when the cruise ship docks. You have no choice but to pay the fee. It is charged to the cruise line and even if you do not get off the ship, it is passed onto you, the passenger. You can figure it will add up to approximately 15% of the cost of the cruise. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

When booking a cruise with a live person on the phone the extra fee is often explained. However, if you book online, many times you will find out about the taxes and port fees towards the end of the process. By then you may not want to start over. After all, you just booked the last room at that special price. You can hope to find a way to avoid that fee, but, in reality, you end up paying for it one way or the other. It is an unavoidable cost of a cruise.

Packing and Passports


Pack your necessities in a rolling suitcase. Airlines occasionally lose baggage and so do cruise lines. The time it takes for your bags to reach your room is dependent on the number of passengers on the cruise ship. All of the bags should miraculously appear in the hallway in front of the proper doorways.

But what if your bag does not appear until very late at night, or maybe not at all? You do not want to be that passenger trekking up and down all of the hallways hoping to find that misplaced bag. If you are lucky, it is in the hallway in front of a stranger’s room. It happens, just hopefully not to you.

Overpacking is something we all do. When you are deciding what you will need on the cruise, be realistic. If you have not worn that dress in a very long time, chances are that you will not wear it on the cruise. It is OK to wear the same pair of shorts two days in a row. Remember, if you pack it, there is a good possibility that you will have to carry it.

However, it is imperative that you think about the weather. If it is very warm,  you will need sandals or flip-flops and shorts. A sweater is a good idea as it may be much cooler indoors. Remember, those outdoor clothes are frowned upon in the dining rooms.

Passports are another problem. Do not let it become your problem. Pack yours along with your cruise documents and medications. You can replace your toiletries but will not be able to get a new passport while you are on your cruise. Without it you may not be able to get off the ship and returning to your home port may be a problem.

Cruise Cabin

Another one of those cruise secrets is to choose the location of your room carefully. What is above and below your chosen room is just as important as where you are on the ship. You do not want to be sleeping next to a popular nightclub. You can complain but the ship is not going to tell its passengers to stop dancing because you may want some peace and quiet.

Perhaps your room faces the pool and the big band plays till late at night. You will have to put up with it as there is no stopping the raucous passengers. There is always the possibility of changing rooms. However, it is unlikely that someone is going to check out on the second day.


Excursions are an integral part of a cruise. You may have chosen a cruise based on the ports of call. So definitely do not miss out on the shore excursions. Just remember to plan for the extra costs.

Another cruise secret and hard to believe but many times the excursions planned by the cruise line are really cheaper than figuring it out for yourself. It may not feel that way as the cruise line is always trying to get more and more money out of their passengers. It is a constant barrage of pay for this or pay for that.

However, if your excursion runs late, the cruise ship will wait. It is their ship and their excursion and they know where you are. The cruise will not leave the port without you. There is no getting around it, everything costs. And you, the passenger, will always have to pay. Console yourself, get on board, and let them make the arrangements.

Food and Drinks

Many passengers do not realize you can bring your own spirits aboard the ship. Every cruise line has a different liquor and beverage policy so be sure to read it before you board. Often a corkage fee is charged if you drink your own wine at dinner.

But there is no fee for you to drink in your cabin. This is one of the cruise secrets they do not want you to know. It relates to less money for the cruise line. Good for you, bad for them! Bon, voyage!

Many cruise lines sell drink packages to cruisers. In that way, you can drink to your heart’s content at a prearranged price. Just be aware that a 15% gratuity is often added to the price of the beverage package. However, if you consume a large number of beverages, the package may be beneficial. Check out the cost of the package as well as the gratuity policy before you embark.

Dining options are numerous. In the “old days,” you had a set time and table for all of your meals. Not anymore! Now you can choose anytime to dine and hit the dining room at whatever time is best for you and your family.

dining table

You get seated immediately and thus not always at the same table. The buffet on the pool deck is usually open all day. And then there are the specialty dining rooms.

The food and the service are not the same as in the dining rooms. You will pay extra but it may be worth the money. Just make reservations early if you decide that this is for you.

Be aware that if you arrive hungry on the first day of the cruise, you need to grab a bite to eat before the muster. Grab your life jacket from your cruise cabin because you will need it. This training exercise may come in handy if there is an emergency. Follow directions from the crew as everyone must muster.

It is a rule of the sea and every cruise ship adheres to it. The dining halls close during the muster so you will just have to be hungry until dinner if you wait.

Room service may or may not be included in the cost of the cruise. You may only have to pay the extra gratuity. Check it out before you sail. If you decide to call for room service, consider the number of guests on the ship and how many others may make the same decision. Order your breakfast the night before to be sure it is delivered during breakfast and not at the lunch hour.

Food, food, and more food! It is always available any time of the day during the cruise hours. Except on the first and last day that is. Make sure to check out the dining rooms as well as the snack stations and the always open buffet. Pizza may be served at all hours on the pool deck.

Nightly buffets are usual. High tea in the afternoon is a special event. Who can say no to hot tea and a great dessert? If you do not like the lemon pie you choose, no problem, just try another dessert at the same dinner. It is OK to be a glutton on your cruise. Part of the fun!

You must always remember the rules of civility. The captain’s word is the law.  Fighting with other passengers is a serious offense. It can get you thrown in the brig or you may find yourself dropped off at the nearest port. Not a cool idea. Just be forewarned.


Travel insurance is always a good idea. You have spent a small fortune on this vacation. Now it is time to insure it just in case. That is just in case you miss your flight. Just in case you have an accident. Just in case you have a medical emergency. Just in case you need to go home right now.

You never know what can befall you so it is important to purchase travel insurance. Read your insurance contract so there will be no surprises. Spend a few extra dollars and get insurance.

Art Auction

cruise art auction

The art auction is always fun. Cruise secret – just do not get caught up in the bidding war. Remember, you are on a cruise ship and their job is to get you to spend more money.

The process is exciting and the champagne is free. However, they do not serve you champagne for your benefit.

That beautiful art will still be there the next time you decide to go on a cruise. Take your time and consider your purchase well. If you win the bid, the picture belongs to you. I always wondered why I had to wait 6 weeks to get my artwork when there it was, framed and ready to hang.

It always helps to research BEFORE you cruise and avoid surprises. No one likes to feel that they are getting ripped off or overpaying. You will not feel gracious if your table mate tells you about his great deal and you could have had it if only. Do not believe everything you hear but it helps to do your homework first.


There are so many ways to save money on a cruise. Some will be expensive lessons and some perhaps not. Learn more about ways to save money and avoid unnecessary expenses. You will have more money to spend on more important and fun things to do.

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