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How to Get Free Stuff on Your Next Cruise Vacation

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Taking a cruise can be one of the most economical ways to travel and see many destinations while arriving in style. Considering the fact that your accommodations, dining, room service, children’s programs, fitness centers, music, onboard activities, and nightly entertainment are all included, you can really plan to spend little in out-of-pocket expenses while at sea.

However, to offset the cost of rising fuel and the current economic conditions, cruise lines have introduced more à la carte charges for items like specialty restaurant meals, internet minutes, and some entertainment venues onboard. In light of these new fees, it’s useful to know about the many things that you can receive for free on your next cruise if you know where to look. Alara Shannon at Cruise Now, a website providing discount cruises, shares her insight on where exactly you can save at sea.

The best place to look is your daily planner. Your daily planner will be in your stateroom each evening and will include a full ship schedule for the next day, from dining times to bingo to deck parties. Look for lectures, shopping, spa and port discussions for free samples or promotional items. Try to sit in front, you will have a better chance to catch any goodies thrown to the crowd, or could be chosen to be a model and receive a free service like a facial.

Attend the art auction for free champagne, or play bingo and win really great prizes like a free cruise (people really do win!).

If you love sushi, check your daily planner for the Sushi Bar hours. Most cruise lines will offer this free of charge, but only during certain hours.

Most ships now have a café onboard for specialty coffees, but that oh-so-good latte will come with a price – as the coffee shops will typically be an additional charge. Skip that and get your cappuccinos from the main dining rooms for free.

Finish your book? No need to download another book or buy one in port. Take advantage of the ship’s library and borrow books or board games. Sit in the library’s comfy lounge chairs or head out to the pool deck. Some cruise lines require a small deposit that will go back to you once the book has been returned.

Your children can enjoy many freebies such as ice cream sundaes, t-shirts they design themselves, and free video games in the youth programs.

The purser’s desk can be very beneficial if you forgot any toiletry items like your toothbrush, sewing kit for a clothing mishap, or pain relievers. They even provide Neosporin and bandages. If you are feeling a little queasy because you haven’t quite gotten those sea legs, don’t forget to pick up Bonine or Pepto.

Sometimes you can even snag free playing cards, stationery, or postcards to send while in port. You can also cash U.S. traveler’s checks at the purser’s desk, saving you fees from banks on shore. There is a fee, however, for personal checks.

One of the best ways to get free things at sea is sign up for the past passenger program offered by each cruise line. You will be a member after your first cruise, and most lines will sign you up automatically. When you apply your past passenger number to future cruises, you are entitled to many benefits. They can include money off your cruise, onboard credits, coupon books, and even a private cocktail party one evening onboard offering complimentary hors d’oeuvres and alcoholic beverages.

Asking other guests onboard for their personal experiences can be very educational, too. Although cruise lines are having to up-charge certain items onboard, they are strictly optional. There are so many activities and amenities included in your cruise fare that you will have plenty to do without worrying about extra fees.

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About Erin Everhart