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I’m a budget traveler, and here are 10 ways I saved money on my Alaska cruise

14 Jun 2023
Jenna DeLaurentis

As a budget traveler who loves cruising to Alaska, I’m always looking for ways to save money while visiting the 49th state.

It’s easy to break the budget on an Alaska cruise, as shore excursions tend to be priced significantly higher than those in the Caribbean. Hoping to take a helicopter ride to a glacier? Get ready to shell out $1000. Interested in a kayaking tour? You may spend over $200!

Not wanting to spend thousands on excursions and other cruise add-ons, I took advantage of several money-saving tips on my recent Alaska cruise.

From exploring ports without shore excursions to taking advantage of onboard discounts, it was easy to save money on my Alaska cruise without feeling like I was missing out.

Here are 10 ways I saved money on my Alaska cruise.

I rented a bike in Juneau for $40 instead of paying $200 for a cycling tour

While in Juneau, I wanted to visit Mendenhall Glacier, one of the port’s top attractions. As I was browsing shore excursions in the port, I found a cycling tour to the glacier and was immediately intrigued.

The “Bike & Brew Glacier View” tour in Juneau was priced at $149 and consisted of an 8.5 mile bike ride to the glacier followed by a visit to a local brewery. While it sounded fun, I thought spending $150 to ride a bike was steep.

Instead, I visited Cycle Alaska in downtown Juneau after disembarking the ship, which was only a two minute walk from the dock. There I was able to rent a bicycle for four hours for only $40. My mom decided to rent an e-bike for just $30 more.

Related: 7 ways to have a great time in port without a cruise ship shore excursion

From the bike shop, we took off on a 13 mile ride to Mendenhall Glacier. The majority of the ride was on separated bike paths and it was extremely fun to explore on our own without a tour.

Upon arrival at the glacier, we locked our bikes on a rack and walked around the park area, making a stop at the scenic Nugget Falls. From there, we hopped back on our bikes for the 13 mile return trip.

Not only did I save $110 by renting a bike instead of booking a tour, but I had a lot more flexibility in what I could do with my time. Plus, I’m not a fan of organized shore excursions, so I much preferred the self-exploration possible with a bike rental.

I bought souvenirs in port instead of on the ship

I don’t always buy souvenirs when I cruise, but I decided to purchase a few on my recent Alaska cruise. To save money, I bought souvenirs while I was in port instead of in the souvenir shops on my cruise ship.

The first day of my cruise, I boarded the ship’s souvenir shops and found plenty of cute, fashionable Alaska-themed souvenirs. From sweatshirts to mugs, hats, and stuffed animals, there were hundreds of souvenirs to browse onboard the ship.

I decided to hold off on purchasing souvenirs on the ship and instead wait to shop for souvenirs in port.

During our first port day in Ketchikan, I was happy with my decision to avoid purchasing souvenirs on the ship. Ketchikan has dozens of souvenir shops with discounted prices on not just Alaska trinkets, but warm-weather clothing and raincoats.

Unsurprisingly, the prices of souvenirs onboard were inflated compared to what we found in each Alaska cruise port. Buying the souvenirs in port (specifically in Ketchikan, which had the best shops) was a budget-friendly decision I’m glad I made.

Took light rail from Seattle airport to downtown

Seattle aerial view

I flew to Seattle the day before my cruise, and I saved money by taking the light rail downtown instead of calling an Uber or Lyft.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA-TAC) is around a 30 minute drive from downtown Seattle, although it can take longer with heavy traffic. Ubers or Lyfts to the city center from the airport usually cost over $50.

Related: Guide to Seattle cruise port for Alaska cruises

I booked a hotel in downtown Seattle the night before the cruise, so I had to travel from the airport to downtown upon arrival. Instead of calling a rideshare service, I decided to take the light rail.

Seattle’s light rail travels from SEA-TAC airport to downtown in just 38 minutes and costs only $3 per person. Our hotel was only a four minute walk from the Westlake station downtown, so taking the light rail was convenient, efficient, and cost-effective.

I did the free version of the North Star observation pod instead of paying

One of the most popular signature activities on Quantum Class cruise ships is the North Star, an observational pod that rises from the pool deck to three hundred feet above sea level.

The views from the North Star are beautiful, especially in a destination like Alaska, so I didn’t want to miss out on this activity while onboard.

Unlike most activities on a Royal Caribbean cruise, the North Star offers both complimentary and extra-cost rides. Complimentary rides are offered when your cruise ship is docked in port, and extra-cost rides are available on sea days.

Related: 15 free things to try on your next cruise

Not wanting to pay $30 to ride the North Star on a sea day, I made it a point to reserve a complementary slot. To do so, you must open the Royal Caribbean app once onboard and reserve a time slot.

Once I got onboard, though, I was shocked to see that all complimentary rides were already sold out! Still determined to ride the North Star, I periodically checked the app throughout the week, and I realized Royal Caribbean was releasing new time slots every day.

Once I saw a slot open, I quickly reserved it and was able to ride the North Star without shelling out $30.

I avoided expensive sit-down restaurants in port

To save money on my Alaska cruise, I ate most of my meals on the ship instead of in port. When I did grab a bite to eat in port, I dined at quick-service casual restaurants instead of sit-down venues.

Alaska has some of the best seafood in the United States, and I usually make it a point to dine at restaurants while visiting each port. On my recent cruise, however, I decided against long meals in port in favor of spending more time exploring town.

While docked in Ketchikan, we grabbed a quick latte and pastry at a local coffee shop instead of spending an hour or two at a restaurant. In Juneau, I bought fish tacos from a food truck instead of a sit-down meal.

It’s not uncommon to spend over $30 per person, per meal at a sit-down restaurant in Alaska cruise ports. Eating smaller snacks and quick meals in port allowed me to save money—I only spent around $10 each day for food in port.

I took advantage of Crown & Anchor Society benefits

Royal Caribbean’s Crown & Anchor Society offers some impressive benefits, including free drinks, discounts on onboard purchases, and exclusive events.

During my 7-night cruise, I took advantage of four benefits:

  • 4 free drinks every day
  • Diamond Lounge access
  • Free play money in the casino
  • Extra bingo cards

I visited the Diamond Lounge during my cruise to use the specialty coffee machine, where I was able to make lattes, cappuccinos, and other specialty drinks for free.

Of course, the free drinks as a Diamond member easily saved me significant money throughout the cruise. It was a huge benefit to be able to order a cocktail, mocktail, or soda four times a day without worrying about racking up a large bill at the end of the cruise.

Related: Crown & Anchor Society loyalty program info, tips & secrets


Even if you’re not yet a Diamond member, you will still receive coupons for 50% off drinks like wine, beer, soda, and milkshakes. Taking advantage of these coupons will help you save money on your Alaska cruise.

And although spending money on gambling is not, by any means, a money saving tip, I took advantage of the $8 free play I received on a slot machine. I also partook in bingo for the first time on a cruise, where I received 6 extra jackpot cards during the game because of my loyalty status.

While I lost in both the casino and bingo, it was fun to get extra perks through the Crown & Anchor Society to either save money or increase my chances of winning a game.

I booked an interior cabin

Like most of my cruises, I booked an interior cabin on my recent Alaska itinerary. The total cost of my interior cabin was $1856, or $923 per guest.

Related: Take a look inside my inside cabin on my Alaska cruise

While nothing luxurious, booking an interior cabin allowed me to save money on my cruise fare. I booked my cruise just two months before the sail date, so prices were not as low as I would have preferred. To avoid spending several hundred to several thousand dollars more on a balcony or suite, I snagged one of the last interior rooms available.

Booking an interior cabin allowed me to allocate my vacation budget elsewhere.

I packed in a carry-on suitcase to avoid $60 in baggage fees

While packing for an Alaska cruise in a carry-on might seem outrageous, I fit more than I needed in my trusty little suitcase.

I absolutely hate checking a bag when I travel, so I’ve mastered the art of packing for a 7-night cruise in a carry-on. To avoid paying $60 in bag fees, I packed everything I needed in a carry-on for my recent cruise.

To fit so much in a small suitcase, I utilized packing cubes which greatly reduced the surface area of my clothing.

Related: Alaska cruise packing list: What to pack for your sailing

In addition, I traveled with a backpack as my personal item on the airplane. Inside I was able to fit my laptop, camera gear, toiletries, chargers, and other miscellaneous items. I even had enough space to fit my souvenirs in the bag after the cruise was over!

Packing in a carry-on allows me to travel more efficiently, save money, and ensure my belongings get to the port with me.

Jenna DeLaurentis enjoys exploring new ports of call around the world on a cruise ship, learning about new cultures, discovering beautiful landscapes, and trying diverse cuisine. She loves to get active while at port, whether cycling through mountains in the Caribbean or scuba diving under the sea.

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