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How to Save Money on a Royal Caribbean Cruise
Ovation of the Seas in Alaska (Photo: Christina Janansky)

How to Save Money on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

How to Save Money on a Royal Caribbean Cruise
Ovation of the Seas in Alaska (Photo: Christina Janansky)
Fran Golden
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Royal Caribbean's ships are the most action-packed in the industry, with a plethora of complimentary "wow" activities including -- depending on the ship -- rock climbing walls, ziplining, ice skating, simulated surfing and skydiving, thrill slides and more. While the adrenaline rush is free, many other indulgences come with a fee. Here are some ways to save.

Before You Book

Freedom of the Seas

Search for deals

Royal Caribbean holds sales throughout the year that include reduced fares and perks such as shipboard credit, which you can use for drinks and other expenses. Sometimes there's an offer of free gratuities or specialty dining. You may find a kids-cruise-free promotion or deals targeting a specific ship or specific routes. It's easy to find the latest Royal Deals, which are listed front and center on the line's home page at royalcaribbean.co.uk. Scroll down the page and there's a spot to sign up for emailed deal alerts. Consulting a travel agent will help you determine which offer is best for you.

Look for deals on older ships

While ships such as the Oasis-class of ships -- the largest cruise ships in the world -- are packed with the latest and greatest attractions, you pay extra for the whizbang factor. Older ships also offer thrilling activities -- for instance, ice skating rinks, rock climbing walls and FlowRider surfing machines on the Voyager and Freedom classes -- but at fares often less than the newer ships.

Get a Royal Caribbean-branded Visa card

An easy way to save is to sign up for Royal's Visa credit card and earn points you can use for onboard credit. You might find an offer, such as 10,000 Bonus Points if you sign up and use the card to make a purchase within the first 90 days. You can cash in those points for $100 in onboard credit.

Book an ex-UK sailing

You can save money by driving to your ship rather than flying. Royal Caribbean offers a number of sailings from Southampton to the Baltics and Europe. If you do drive, there is on-site parking in the port right next to the pier along with the option of cheaper off-site parking with bus transfers to the pier.

Before You Cruise

Pack enough clothes to avoid laundry bills

Royal Caribbean does not offer self-service laundry, so pack what you need to avoid send-out laundry fees. If you know you're likely to run out of T-shirts and undies, look for a notice of a midcruise laundry special, where you pay one price for as much clothing as you can jam into a laundry bag.

Bid for an upgrade

Royal Up is a new bid-based stateroom upgrade programme. After you have booked browse through the cabin options available and select the amount you're willing to pay for each upgrade, such as oceanview to balcony. Making a bid on multiple cabins will increase your chances of getting upgraded, but you'll only pay for one. If your bid is accepted you'll be charged for the upgrade. If not, you keep the stateroom you originally booked. Bids are priced per person and based on two passengers per stateroom, so you only get charged for the first and second guests if more are sharing the same cabin.

Turn the key

The Key is a perks programme which is limited to a set number of passengers per sailing on a first-come first-served basis. Offering special amenities for a fee, the Key experience is available of all ships except for Quantum, Voyager and Majesty of the Seas. The price depends on the sailing, but starts at $24.99 per person, per day. Benefits include priority check-in and boarding, welcome lunch featuring a special menu on embarkation day, private hours at onboard activities such as rock climbing and FlowRider, priority disembarkation at ports of call, VIP seats at theatre shows, complimentary internet package and exclusive breakfast on the final morning plus choice of departure time.

Consider a speciality dining package

The best way to save at extra-fee speciality restaurants, such as 150 Central Park, Izumi and the Chops Grille steakhouse, is to not indulge at all and stick to all the free dining options (of which Royal offers many). But, if you're a foodie wanting to experience everything culinary on the ship, consider prebooking a dining package.

There are different plans: Chops plus one other restaurant, three restaurants, five restaurants and unlimited dining at any of the speciality restaurants. The latter represents a saving of about 40 percent if you prebook the plan and do speciality dining every night of your cruise. You can also purchase a plan once onboard, but there could be limited availability at that point. Prices vary by ship and length of the cruise.

Look at booze options

If you are planning to indulge big time on the ship, Royal's deluxe, bottomless beverage package can be a considerable money saver (the price varies by sailing so for the latest prices and offers check https://www.royalcaribbean.co.uk/discover-cruise-holidays/bars-drinks-packages/ . For example, at the time of writing this article there was a 40 percent discount on bottles of wine costing under $100. Though you can purchase a package onboard, you're more likely receive discounted offers pre-cruise that will save you more.

The package covers cocktails, wine by the glass and premium spirit brands such as Belvedere Vodka, Maker's Mark and Patron Silver. The plan also covers freshly squeezed juice, canned drinks, cappuccinos and premium coffees (excluding Starbucks), and bottled water, and includes discounts on bottles of wine.

If you're only going to have a couple of cocktails over the course of your cruise, paying a la carte is the cheaper way to go. Look for drink specials (outlined below).

Buy a soft drinks package or BYO

If you're a big drinker of cola and other soft drinks, consider the line's Classic Soda Package. The onboard price is $12.99–$15 per person, per day, but look for discount offers that encourage you to book pre-cruise. You get a Coca-Cola souvenir cup to fill at special drinks fountains; the package does not cover cans from the bar. Alternatively, there's a Refreshment Package ($29–$38/day) that includes premium coffee drinks, freshly squeezed juice, bottled water, fountain drinks and non-alcoholic cocktails.

You can save more by bringing your own canned drinks or water. The line's allowance is 12 standard (17-oz.) cans, bottles or cartons of non-alcoholic beverages per stateroom -- in your carry-on bags.

Bring your own wine

For wine and Champagne-lovers, you can bring onboard two standard-size bottles in your carry-on luggage. There is no fee if you consume them in your cabin (bring a corkscrew!), but there's a $15 corkage fee if you bring your wine to a dining room or bar. (If you don't finish a bottle, Royal crew will cork it and store it for your next meal.) The line's alcohol policy bans other bring-your-own booze.

Price shop for shore excursions

Royal Caribbean offers discounts of between five percent and 25 percent for prebooked shore excursions. If you're planning to go the organised tour route, you'll want to see what is on offer rather than waiting until you are onboard to book. Compare what the line is proposing with deals on tours at third-party websites such as Viator.com (a sister company of Cruise Critic) and shoretrips.com.

Pack your own sports equipment

If you're planning to snorkel on shore, including at Royal Caribbean's thrilling revitalised Perfect Day at CocoCay beach resort in the Bahamas, you can save by packing your own water sports equipment. Note that if you don't have your own snorkel vest, you will be required to rent one. Royal also allows passengers to bring onboard and store in your stateroom (for use on shore only) a surfboard, skateboard or bike.

Prebook an internet package

The best way to save on internet is either to turn off your smart device completely or take advantage of free Wi-Fi at restaurants, cafes and visitor centres on shore. But, for those who can't live without Wi-Fi, Royal offers discounts of 20 percent or more on its high-speed VOOM service when you book a package before your cruise. VOOM is billed as the "fastest internet at sea."

Onboard Your Cruise Ship

Look for drink specials

For those who didn't indulge in a drinks package, the best way to enjoy a cocktail without overpaying is to go with the cocktail of the day, typically priced $2 to $4 less than average drink prices. Other bar specials might pop up throughout your cruise, such as two-for-one cocktails, beer buckets (pay for four and get five) and reduced price 10-cocktail packages.

Skip the fee-based sweets and ice cream.

The Sugar Beach shop has an eye-popping assortment of sweets and ice cream at premium prices. Just say no. Satisfy your kids' sweet-toothed cravings (or your own!) with unopened treats brought from home. For ice cream, head to the self-service, soft-serve stations on the pool deck.

Indulge in free eats

You don't need to pay extra for a decent cup of coffee. Just go to the Cafe Promenade, where the free coffee is worth savouring -- It's better than what's at the buffet. For another money-saving tip, if you're on an Oasis-class ship, eat breakfast at Johnny Rockets. There's usually a charge for burgers and other eats at the retro-cool eatery, but breakfast is free and the Patty 'n Eggs includes a beef, turkey or soy Boca patty.

Book your next cruise onboard

There are perks for booking your next cruise on the ship, or within two months of your sailing. NextCruise offers include up to $600 off your next cruise or the same amount in future shipboard credit.

Updated October 10, 2019

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