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I've been on more than 44 cruises with my family. Here are my 6 tips for saving money on board.

04 Jun 2024
Matt Hochberg

I love to take my family on cruises, and have been doing so ever since my first child was six months old.

Matt family

After more than 44 cruises as a family, I've quickly learned a few tricks to saving money along the way.  Family vacations don't have to be expensive, especially if you know where to cut corners.

With Royal Caribbean leaning more into the family vacation market (especially with the launch of Icon of the Seas), taking your kids on a cruise is becoming even more popular.

If you're like me, you'll want to save every dollar you can so that you can pay for another cruise in the future (or splurge on a fun upgrade).


Read more: What is the best way to spend an extra $1,000 on a cruise?

Here are my list of easy ways I save money and expand our family vacation budget.

Skip the dining package for my kids

While my wife and I love to indulge in specialty dining on a cruise, my kids are fine with the included food and that's a big saving.

Not spending extra on specialty dining for the kids is as much about being frugal as it is being practical.  My youngest daughter only really wants to eat quesadillas, pasta with butter, and cheese pizza.  All of that she can get for no extra cost.

El Loco Fresh quesadillas

Depending on the restaurant, we will either feed her before or after the meal so she can sit with us during the meal.  Packing a drawing pad and colored pencils is a great way for them to pass the time.  It's also perfectly acceptable for the kids to run down to Sorrento's and bring back a pizza. 

There are exceptions to this rule, such as Izumi Hibachi, but if your kids are as picky as mine, don't overlook the complimentary dining choices.

Turn off the kids charging privileges

Arcade on Serenade of the Seas

I trust my kids not to go on a spending spree onboard, but mistakes happen.  To simplify things, I'll go to Guest Services and turn off their charging privileges to avoid a future problem.

There are lots of extra costs on a cruise, from the arcade, to sodas, to souvenirs and they can all add up.

I always periodically check my onboard accounts to make sure there are no erroneous charges, and removing the kids' ability to charge is a good fail safe.

Take advantage of the included activities

Mini golf on Icon of the Seas

Every Royal Caribbean cruise ship has a lot of fun activities included in the cruise fare, and it's a great idea to point my kids in that direction first.

There are pools, hot tubs, rock climbing walls, trivia contests, and live shows on every ship.  Plus, the newer ships have water slides, kids aqua park, bumper cars and more.

Bumper cars on Odyssey

My kids really love laser tag, bumper cars, water slides, and miniature golf.

I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the value Adventure Ocean presents.  It's included in your cruise fare, and you get the peace of mind as a parent of enjoying supervised programming that appeals to the kids.

Two cabins instead of a suite

Connecting balconies

My favorite cruise hack for families is to book two connecting rooms instead of one larger cabin.

Read more: 45 easy ways how to save money on a cruise

I think most families that look to book a cruise default to looking for one cabin that fits everyone.  This often leads to booking a suite, especially if you have more than 4 people in your cabin.

Balcony room

Instead, we book two smaller connecting rooms many times. It provides a cheaper price than a suite, and it gives us separation from the kids.  Plus, we get a second bathroom!

Of course, I do book suites with my family, but if I want to save money, I'll go for two cabins.

Using the free chat instead of buying an internet package

Chat feature in app

A very common concern if you have older kids is how to be able to message them onboard without paying for an internet package.

While buying everyone a WiFi package is an easy choice, it can be very expensive.

Instead, we'll leverage the Royal Caribbean app because it has a free chat feature.

If your kids are under 13 years old, they're not allowed to have a Royal Caribbean account.  In that situation, we'll log them into one of our accounts and we can still message them even if we are effectively messaging ourself.

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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