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Things I Don't Pay Extra for on Royal Caribbean Cruises To Save Money

04 May 2024
Calista Kiper

One of the easiest ways to save money on your cruise vacation is by limiting your spending in the first place.

Spend extra on a cruise

While a lot is included in your cruise fare, Royal Caribbean has a seemingly endless amount of add-ons that you can pay extra for to enhance your cruise experience.

However, new cruisers want to know: how can you tell which add-ons are important, and which will be a waste of your money?

As I’ve gained experience in cruising with Royal Caribbean, I’ve learned which add-ons are a waste of money, and what I can avoid spending on.

Mariner of the Seas at CocoCay dock

While I love to splurge and have a great cruise experience, some extra-cost items are only a waste of money.

With the knowledge of which ones are worth it, you can skip the scams and avoid getting a long bill at the end of your sailing.

In the end, saving money on unnecessary items allows you to spend more on other luxuries, or even to put towards your next cruise.

From specialty dining to shore excursions on Perfect Day at Cococay, these are the Royal Caribbean add-ons I never pay for.

Specialty restaurants

On my first cruise, I went crazy trying various specialty restaurants.

However, I’ve come to learn that the complimentary cruise cuisine is just as tasty!

Steaks at the Main Dining Room taste almost the same as those at the extra-cost Chops Grille, and the Windjammer has fried fish similar to what’s served at the Mason Jar.

Even when the dishes are different, the complimentary venues serve tasty food that you can't find at specialty restaurants.


Not only that, but dining at free venues like the Windjammer and the Park Cafe also grants you a lot of freedom to choose when you eat and what you wear.

You can often serve yourself, and avoid having long meals with eager waiters.

I’ve come to appreciate all the complimentary cuisine onboard Royal Caribbean.

The grove

And since reservations at a specialty restaurant can range from $30 to $200 per guest, I’m saving tons of money each time I choose to eat a free meal.

Read more: How does specialty dining work on Royal Caribbean?

Extra-cost activities

Royal Caribbean ships have countless onboard activities for guests to experience.

However, you have to stay alert, because not all these activities are free!

For example, I’ve gotten excited seeing a cupcake decorating or sushi-making class in my Cruise Compass schedule, only to find out that the classes cost over $30 per person.


To avoid spending money on activities that cost extra, make sure to double-check the prices in your Cruise Compass.

Instead of wasting your money, go ahead and find free activities, whether that’s lounging by the pool, watching a movie, or enjoying a workout in the gym.

Balcony staterooms

The idea of staying in a stateroom with a balcony is tempting. You could have a private star-gazing area, a space to feel the wind in your hair, and dine in front of the sea.

Balcony cabins are also a little more spacious for couples or families who want more privacy.

But if you’re willing to give up these amenities, you can save hundreds of dollars.

Read more: Inside cabin vs. balcony room on a cruise ship

View from balcony in Alaska

Let’s take an Alaska vacation as an example. Say you want to cruise from Seattle to Alaska on Anthem of the Seas. 

If you look forward to 2025, you’ll see that the 7-night May 30th sailing is listed at $838 per person for an interior cabin.

Jumping up to a balcony cabin raises the price to $1,291 per person—a $453 difference.

If you were to cruise with two people to Alaska next year, you’d save almost $1000 by booking an interior cabin instead of a balcony.

While the costs vary depending on the cruise, an interior cabin will always give you the cheapest cruise fare option.

Over my many cruises with Royal Caribbean, I’ve sailed the majority of them in inside guarantee cabins—and I plan to keep doing so.

Read moreI always stay in an inside cabin on a cruise ship. Here's why I actually like these rooms

Harmony of the Seas interior cabin

Saving money with my cabin choice pushes me to explore more onboard the ship, getting out of the room and only returning to sleep. 

I highly recommend them to anyone looking to save money on a cruise. 

If you need to view the ocean or feel a breeze, just head out and up to the pool deck.

Spa treatments

Massage at the spa

The first time I saw Royal Caribbean’s spa prices, my jaw dropped.

I had considered booking a couple’s deep tissue massage until I saw that it cost more than $450 for 100 minutes.

In contrast, a 5-star spa located near my home offers the same treatment for less than $360.

Since then, I’ve opted out of booking any spa treatments on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Spa on Voyager of the Seas

Save your money, and choose a luxurious spa treatment once you’re back on land.

There are plenty of other activities you can experience on a cruise, including free spa tasters that are offered onboard.

If you need other ways to relax, try soaking in a hot tub, lying down on a sunny beach, or taking a nap in your dark cabin.

Your wallet will thank you.

Onboard shopping

Much like the Vitality spa, almost all the shops onboard Royal Caribbean ships have higher prices than on land.

Whether I’m looking at toiletries, medicine, or some new jewelry, I’m careful not to buy anything unless it’s absolutely essential or on sale.

Once, I forgot to pack seasickness medicine and decided to shop onboard.

Items for same

I ended up buying an essential oil mix for around $15. Painfully, I had the same essential oils sitting (for free) at home.

Before you spend money in those onboard shops, consider whether you can buy those items anywhere else. 

I guarantee you, it will be cheaper.

Add-ons at CocoCay

Beach bed

Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas is a tropical paradise.

With bars, pools, beaches, waterparks, and even wildlife, there are endless adventures to experience.

Read more: What to do at CocoCay? 18 things to try on your visit


However, there’s no reason to spend any extra money while visiting this island.

From tram rides to beaches, there are dozens of free activities and dining venues available.

I’ve stopped buying any shore excursions for sale on Perfect Day at CocoCay, having learned to save my money and enjoy the complimentary venues.


Coffee on Brilliance of the Seas

As a coffee addict, I’m here to inform you that you don’t have to spend extra on Royal Caribbean coffee.

Yes, there are cafés onboard. These cafés usually serve Starbucks coffee, with a selection of specialty lattes and milks.

However, there’s no reason to waste money on extra-cost coffee, whether it’s hot or iced.

Coffee included

Royal Caribbean’s free brewed coffee is about the same quality, and you can request any special milk you need onboard.

Add your own sugar and milk or cream, and you have an adequate coffee drink.


Laundry bags

Royal Caribbean does not provide any self-service laundry services onboard.

If you want to do any laundry throughout your cruise, you’ll have to pay extra.

The cost depends on which service you select, but the most basic service—a wash and fold package—costs $34.99 per bag of small clothing.

This cost can really add up, especially if you want to wash clothes for more than one person.


Instead of spending $35 per bag of clothing, you can save money by packing efficiently, and leaving the washing until after the vacation.

By packing lots of re-wearable, light clothing, I avoid doing laundry at all, making my cruise an even more relaxing vacation.

Another option is to pack detergent packets and do small clothing items in your sink.  There is a clothes line in the shower to dry your clothes.

I don’t have to worry about any household chores, nor do I have to pay someone else to do them for me.

Calista Kiper graduated from Wheaton College, IL, with a B.A. in English Writing. 

Growing up traveling around the world, she developed a passion for diversity and cross-cultural communication. From her first cruise on Wonder of the Seas, she has delighted in the intersection between travel, diversity, and writing in the cruising world.

Calista spends her free time reading, cooking, and researching the latest human-interest stories. 

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