If you’ve read The Best Money Saving Cruise Tips Part 1 you know that I am an experienced cruiser. Having been on 15 cruises, three different cruise lines, and traveled to many countries, I am fairly confident in my ability to give cruise advice. We have an Alaska cruise coming up this summer, Alaska is amazing!!! This will be our 3rd Alaska cruise and it will be on a different cruise line than our previous Alaska cruises. I have lots more money-saving cruise advice to give so here is The Best Money Saving Cruise Tips Part 2.
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Cruising with kids
Part 1 of The Best Money Saving Cruise Tips didn’t really cover cruising with kids. Our Daughter has been on 10 cruises, we started taking her when she was about 5. Most cruise lines have a “kids club” for ages 2-17, this program is free with a few exclusions. Hint: Make sure to go to kids club the day you get on the ship and sign them up first thing. You won’t be able to drop them at kids club until the ship has left your home port. If they haven’t been registered it will take some time to get all the paperwork done.
They break it up into age groups, 2-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, and 15-17. It works out well, you don’t feel like your little one is with a bunch of older kids. The older kids are matched pretty well in the age groups. This may vary by cruise line but most follow the same age ranges. When they are in the 2-5 group you will get a phone that only works on the ship. The camp counselors can call if your child is crying and can’t be consoled or if they’ve had an accident and need new clothes. It’s nice having the peace of mind that they can call you and you can call them anytime you want to check on your child.
In the 6-8 range you don’t get a phone and the child can’t check themselves out. They have a very full schedule of activities for them to do, they don’t just sit and watch movies all day. They change the activity every hour, it’s so fun and entertaining for your children.
I highly recommend kids club, we’ve had nothing but great experiences with it. You can finally get some much-needed alone time with your spouse or partner. Keep in mind every time you drop your child at camp you will have to show your sail n sign card that has your picture and info on it. This is so no one else can pick up your child. Hint: Always bring your sail n sign card when you pick up and drop off.
9-11, 12-14, and 15-17 Group:
In the 9-11, 12-14, and 15-17 group the child has to option to check themselves out of kids club unless you say no. When our daughter was in the 9-11 group, at first I thought no way. But they have scavenger hunts where they go all over the ship in groups and collect things. If they can’t sign themselves out then they can’t do the scavenger hunts. We decided to give her the option but with strict rules. If you check out to go get ice cream or explore the ship you always have to have another friend with you and absolutely do not go to any cabins or be in any cabin hallways. She enjoyed the freedom and always had a friend she met in kids club to hang out with. The worse thing is they go get ice cream 10 times a day, oh well it’s just for a week.
The older groups including teens have places they can lounge and watch movies, play video games, do karaoke, have dance contests and parties. They can check themselves out anytime so you have to establish rules. This worked for us but may not work for you or your kids. Our number 1 rule is always to have a friend with you when you are out exploring the ship and never ever go to anyone’s cabin or hallways with cabins. If they stay in public areas they are pretty safe. Some families used Walkie Talkies to stay in contact with their kids. Phones don’t work unless you have purchased the wifi plan and that can be very expensive if you are buying for multiple people.
Exclusions to Free Kids Club:
I mentioned exclusions when I said kids camp was free, it is usually always free until 10 pm. After 10 pm they charge a per hour price but it’s always really inexpensive like $6-$8 an hour. This is nice so you can go to the late night comedy shows or go to the casino. A few nights they have a late night party for the kids, it usually has some sort of theme and you pay for the party. We always pay for the party because it’s fun for the child and it ends up being cheaper than the per hour cost for late night kids club.
Hint: Always have the kids club schedule with you everywhere you go on the ship. Sometimes they close for lunch and you have to go get them, they close for dinner on some nights. They might have the option to stay for dinner but you have to let the camp counselors know ahead of time. It’s very very important that you know the schedule for kids club that day!!!
If you are a casino person, there is a casino on every ship. My husband and I are casino people, that’s where we hang out when our daughter is in kids club. The casino is only open when you are at sea, it closes at every port. Hint: you don’t have to bring cash to use in the casino. When you board you are assigned a sail n sign card, you use that card to pay for everything on the ship. Most people have it linked to a credit card, other people have put cash down as a deposit. When you put your sail n sign card in the slot machines you can draw money from your card, it just shows up as a charge in the casino.
Yes, that can be dangerous if you don’t have self-control but if you just spend for fun it’s great because you don’t need cash. If you lose your card, don’t worry no one else can use it without the pin. You need to use your sail n sign card to use any slot machine. It keeps track of the money you have on your card. Hint: Ask for a casino lanyard at the casino cage, it’s free and helps you remember to take your card out every time you are done at a slot machine Hint: Don’t forget to cash out any money you have left in your casino account on your sail n sign card on the very last night of the cruise. If you don’t cash out on the very last night you will lose your money.
There are lots of contests around the ship. Most are in the shopping area where you can buy clothing, jewelry, makeup, pretty much anything. Read closely, most of them you have to be present to win. Some of them require that you buy something first then you get your entry. They give all kinds of stuff away, jewelry, bottles of champagne, onboard credit. It can be fun but read the fine print and plan on being there when they choose the winner.
You can buy duty-free items on the ship, the best deals are always on the alcohol. Hint: You are only allowed to bring a certain amount duty-free through customs when you get back to the United States. Last time it was 1 liter per person however, you can buy more than that but you will have to pay duty fees when you get off the ship. Hint: You cannot buy bottles of liquor and bring them back to your cabin. They hold your purchase until the last night of the cruise then it is delivered to your room.
If you get off the ship and go into a port you can buy liquor but you cannot bring it to your cabin. As you get on the ship to go through security, you have to declare any alcohol that you purchased. They take it from you and store it until the last night of the cruise. Hint: You can’t sneak it through in a bag, they x-ray all of your belongings as you get back on the ship. Remember, that will be one of your duty-free liters of alcohol so don’t buy too many unless you are willing to pay the duty taxes.
Take advantage of room service. There is a small selection of food items that you can have delivered to your cabin. There are some room service items that you have to pay for. Read the menu carefully to find out what is included. The best part of room service is the coffee delivered in the morning. They will have little cards that you can fill out the night before to order your coffee or tea for the next morning. You can specify how many coffee’s, tea, even hot chocolate. There is also a selection of pastries and fresh fruit that you can choose from. You fill it out the night before, specify what time you want your coffee, and then hang it on your outside cabin door handle.
The next morning you have coffee delivered at your specified time. If you have a balcony you can sit on your balcony drink your coffee and just enjoy looking out at the ocean. It’s so fabulous, I order it every morning. Then when you are all dressed you can head to the Lido deck for breakfast.
Cell Phone Use:
Big Hint: Unless you have purchased a wifi plan do not try to use your phone on the ship. Always keep it in airplane mode!!! If you have it on you could be roaming and still receiving data even if you aren’t using it. You will incur huge charges so either turn it off or keep it in airplane mode. Another Big Hint: Do not use your phone in ports of call unless you know your cell phone plan and what the charges are for other countries. Some plans give you Canada and Mexico for free or some you can pay $20 per day for calls and internet in other countries.
Some people just bring their phone and they think hey it works in this country so I’ll use it. Yes, it might work but you could be incurring hundreds of dollars in roaming fees and data fees. I’ve heard stories of people coming home and their cell phone bill is $500 because they used it in different ports. Find out ahead of time what your cell phone plan does and doesn’t charge for.
They will nickel and dime you to death:
Just be aware that not everything is included, if you want soda to drink you have to buy it. They have bottled water stations when you are getting off the ship at a port but it’s not free. There is bottled water in the room but it is not free unless you have reached a certain loyalty level. They have kid’s activities like build a bear or have breakfast with a cartoon character but those are not free. There is a cash machine onboard but it charges a huge fee so bring cash for ports of call. There are premium restaurants but those have an extra charge. If you want really good steak or sushi and don’t mind paying for it that’s ok. Just know there are extra charges for certain things so pay attention or ask. Read Part 1 of The Best Money Saving Cruise Tips for more.
All this being said:
Life is short, we’ve learned this from the pandemic. As much as I tell everyone to save and don’t spend money on this or that you still need to enjoy this and enjoy your family. This might be an experience of a lifetime for some people so just go for it. Enjoy your children while they are still at home. It goes so fast and before you know it they are out of the house. Enjoy your spouse or partner and don’t be so worried about getting every picture or sharing every detail on social media. Just be in the moment without your cell phone. Try leaving it in your cabin for the entire vacation.
I wish you all the best on your journey. I’ve included some items below that have been useful for us when we cruise.