It's true that a la carte charges are on the rise. Royal Caribbean, for one, recently tacked on a dollar to the cost of eating at Johnny Rockets and added a fee for ordering late-night room service munchies.
But rather than focus on how the economy is hurting cruise lines' and cruise passengers' wallets, Cruise Critic member mistyinca has started a discussion on the Cruise Critic message boards about the best things that can be snapped up for free, from lanyards in the casino to Champagne at the art auction. Of course we realize that these things are actually included in your cruise fare, along with the other standard inclusions (cabin, food, entertainment) -- but spare us the technicality.
So what other "freebies" are our members picking up at sea?
If you don't want to pay for a tall cappuccino at the for-fee coffee bistro, order one in the main dining room. It's free on many ships.
Feeling pain in the head (screaming kids) or Gulliver (seasickness, stomachache)? Head to the purser's desk for some aspirin, Bonine or Pepto -- gratis.
Want to cash some U.S. traveler's checks without paying the hefty fees often levied by onshore banks? Numerous cruise lines will let you do just that onboard.
We could go on ... and we will. Some of the other discussion highlights include free liquor tasting in the duty-free shops, decks of cards at the purser's desk (on many ships, at least), soft-serve ice cream, giveaways during the port talks ("sit close to the front as they usually throw items off from the stage," advises karen116), free drinks at the captain's and past-passenger parties, and free video games for kids in the kids' club. Likewise, cruise lines have been known to dole out free facials -- if you're willing to serve as model.
And sometimes coincidence opens the door for free stuff acquisitions. Brenda33 "found out accidentally.....minor wardrobe malfunction.....that you can get a little packet of sewing needs....needle and thread. Saved the day!" And member Capt65 "got a free butt massage from a drunk lady who mistook me for her husband one night.....at least that was what she mumbled...." Less pleasurably, when outerbks was stricken with Norovirus, he found out that he could get Imodium and a nausea shot free of charge.
Member blond_wf_duhhh resourcefully picks up "free souvenirs such as books, magazines, sunglasses, towels, fruit, etc., off of lounge chairs that have been unoccupied for more than 30 minutes." And Iwannacruznow knows "a guy who takes a picture of his photos in the photo gallery. So I guess that's free."
But remember: Just because it's free doesn't mean you're necessarily interested in it. Thirsty Cruiser mentioned a number of complimentary items he won't be picking up, including "crappy poster at the art auction" and "coupons in the shopping guides for crappy stuff you can get free in port."
Are we missing anything? Join the discussion.
--by Dan Askin, Assistant Editor
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How to Get More for Free at Sea
February 2, 2009