1. Home
  2. Planning
  3. Cruise Tips and Advice
  4. 12 Super Splurges on Cruise Ships
The Haven on Norwegian (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)
The Haven on Norwegian (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

12 Super Splurges on Cruise Ships

If you really want to live large on your next sailing, cruise lines offer plenty of ways for you to pamper yourself. (After all, the more you splurge, the more money they make.) From something as simple as a massage after a long day of sightseeing to something as extravagant as taking a shore tour by private plane, it's easy to throw fiscal responsibility to those ocean winds and treat yourself to a decadent day.

Want some ideas? Whether you're looking for an affordable splurge (something pricy but doable on an average cruise) or a once-in-a-lifetime experience saved for a special occasion, there's a wow-factor cruise activity for you. Go ahead: Live a little ... or a lot!

Updated March 18, 2019

1. Book a suite and throw a cocktail party in your cabin.

Most cruise ship suites have more space than two people know what to do with in one week. While you can spend most of your cruise luxuriating on your huge balcony, soaking in your whirlpool tub or watching movies on your private entertainment system, you'll be truly living the high life if you host an in-cabin soiree. Your butler can help you with logistics. If you're not traveling in a group, just invite a few newfound friends from the ship.


2. Rent a cabana.

The Retreat on Koningsdam (Photo: Holland America)

Nothing says VIP like having a luxury cabana all to yourself. You can rent one for the cruise on lines like Princess Cruises or Holland America, or book one for the day on a cruise line private island, such as Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay or Disney's Castaway Cay.


3. Plan a spa day.

Whether it's something as simple as getting your hair done for formal night, as unusual as a 24K gold spa treatment, as ritzy as a Botox injection or as elaborate as a whole day at the spa, complete with thermal suite pass and multiple pampering treatments, you can't go wrong with this type of splurge. To make it more special, drag hubby along for a couple's massage or rasul mud room experience, or bond with your family over mother-daughter or father-son treatments.


4. Book a romance package.

Champagne in Bucket Surrounded by Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Photo: RonTech3000/Shutterstock)

If you're traveling with your sweetheart, surprise him or her with a romance package. Offerings include Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries and rose petals on the bed, or such luxuries as breakfast in bed, a framed keepsake portrait, spa treatments, specialty restaurant dinners and even matching bathrobes.


5. Take dinner to new heights.

Skip the plebeian buffet, and eat dinner in a specialty restaurant -- or perhaps a different specialty restaurant every night. For an even bigger splurge, book a private dinner in a private dining room, such as Crystal's Vintage Room, Oceania's Privee or the private rooms in Disney's Palo and Remy. If you've gone all out with a luxury ship or high-end suite, you can also request dinner served, course by course, in your stateroom.


6. Splurge on a shore excursion.

Helicopter Ride Near Napali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii (Photo: kyrien/Shutterstock)

Maybe it's a helicopter ride in Hawaii or sport-fishing in Alaska or flying a fighter jet in Europe. Maybe it's just ditching the bus for the private car. Whatever it is, you'll get bang for your buck when you put down the hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on an exceptional shore tour and live your dreams. If you want to splurge big time, hire a helicopter, private plane or even a limousine to take you touring. Millionaires just don't do coach tours.


7. Hire a personal trainer.

If you've always wanted the full-on body composition analysis, complete with a personalized training plan and a buff Australian shouting encouragement, a cruise is the perfect opportunity. Fitness centers onboard offer state-of-the-art equipment (think Kinesis walls and Peloton bikes) and popular group classes like TRX and Zumba, not to mention gorgeous sea views. Plus, if you splurge on getting fit onboard, you can also splurge on dessert in the dining room guilt-free.


8. Buy an expensive souvenir.

Expensive Jewelry on Display (Photo: Kwangmoozaa/Shutterstock)

A diamond might be forever, but a diamond in a bracelet bought on a special cruise vacation will also bring back fabulous memories forever. So go ahead and splurge on a pricy keepsake, bought onboard or in port -- an expensive piece of jewelry, art to hang in your home or a foreign-label piece of designer clothing.


9. Use the travel concierge to book a private event.

Did you know that many lines, especially the luxury ones, have travel concierges who can help you plan shoreside activities? Maybe your whole family group wants to have a fancy lunch to celebrate a big birthday or anniversary, or you want to arrange a private tour to a nearby attraction or a group outing to go hiking, fishing or diving. Get someone else to do the planning and make the arrangements while you spend more time lounging on deck.


10. Do the overnight, overland tour.

Angkor Wat in Cambodia (Photo: Olena Tur/Shutterstock)

Many exotic itineraries offer the chance to disembark the ship for an extended land tour, complete with hotel stay, and then re-board in a subsequent port. These overnight tours usually take you to key attractions that can't be reached during a day-long port call. Consider an overnight in Cairo to see the Pyramids and Sphinx, a trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia or an adventure to Machu Picchu.


11. Order the most expensive bottle of wine onboard.

Cruise ships pride themselves on their wine lists, and they usually have one super-expensive label onboard, usually just for show. For example, on select ships Celebrity carries Screaming Eagle wines that sell for more than $5,000 a bottle, and Disney Cruise Line's Dream and Fantasy offer a 1947 Chateau Cheval Blanc for a whopping $25,000 (apparently because it's the wine a food critic orders in the Disney movie "Ratatouille," whose main character inspired the name of Disney's specialty restaurant Remy).


12. Book up an exclusive section of the ship, or charter an entire yacht.

Crystal Esprit (Photo: Crystal Cruises)

A few cruise lines have suite complexes that are gated off from the rest of the ship, often with private amenities like sun decks and lounges. Think Norwegian's The Haven and MSC's Yacht Club. While it's a splurge to just book one suite in these areas, you know you're a VIP when you can take over the entire area with your large group of guests (or simply book up cabins to sail empty so you have more space for your friends without any unwanted riff-raff). If you really want to splash out, consider chartering an entire yacht -- such as Crystal Esprit or one of SeaDream's twin yachts -- for your own private cruise party.

Find a Cruise
Email me when prices drop

Popular on Cruise Critic

8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.
Best Time to Cruise
It's one of the most common cruising questions: When is the best time to cruise Alaska, Australia, the Caribbean, Canada/New England, Hawaii, Europe or the South Pacific? The answer depends on many variables. For example, fall foliage enthusiasts will find September and October the best time to cruise Canada/New England, whereas families prefer to sail in summer when temperatures are warmer for swimming. The best time to cruise to Alaska will vary depending on your preferences for viewing wildlife, fishing, bargain-shopping, sunshine, warm weather and catching the northern lights. For most cruise regions, there are periods of peak demand (high season), moderate demand (shoulder season) and low demand (low season), which is usually the cheapest time to cruise. High season is typically a mix of when the weather is best and popular travel periods (such as summer and school holidays). However, the best time to cruise weather-wise is usually not the cheapest time to cruise. The cheapest time to cruise is when most travelers don't want to go because of chillier temperatures or inopportune timing (too close to holidays, the start of school, etc.). But the lure of cheap fares and uncrowded ports might make you change your mind about what you consider the best time to cruise. As you plan your next cruise, you'll want to take into consideration the best and cheapest times to cruise and see what jibes with your vacation schedule. Here's a when-to-cruise guide for popular destinations.