You're not alone if you wonder how to get free stuff on a cruise. After all, onboard expenses can add up and who doesn't love free stuff? While scoring an actual free cruise involves a lot more work, getting freebies while sailing isn't uncommon. However, there are some tips and tricks for getting free stuff on just about any cruise ship you choose.
The good news is that freebies aren't too hard to find on most cruises. There are some awesome perks lurking right under your nose. Read on for our top eight tips for getting free stuff on your next cruise and make that vacation all the more sweet.
Don't just join the crowd -- up the ante by joining a game onstage for a chance to win free stuff. Many cruise lines host shows, such as the Newlywed Game or Royal Caribbean's Love and Marriage, which rely on audience participation. For being a good sport, couples are often treated to bottles of Champagne and even a specialty dinner for two. You may wind up a little red in the face, but that's part of the fun.
Related: 9 Fun Cruise Ship Games to Try
Even if you haven't budgeted for a lavish spa treatment on your next cruise, consider taking a tour of your ship's spa facilities on embarkation day for freebies. In addition to possible product samples and swiping a cup of fancy fruit water, raffle tickets are usually given out.
Spa raffles might give away everything from free personal training to a complimentary massage. Note that you often have to be present at the drawing to win.
All cruise lines have loyalty programs, and the more you sail, the better the perks -- and that includes free extras. Depending on your status, you can expect some bonuses to appear in your cabin, such as a fruit or dessert platter, bottle of wine, bag of free laundry or a commemorative token like a pin or a keychain.
Not to mention, loyalty members are frequently invited to private events, including captain's dinners and cocktail hours -- of course, plenty of free-flowing food and drink are on offer here, at no expense to you.
It might seem counterintuitive to head to the store for something free, but shopping onboard a cruise ship can be a bit different. A cruise ship's onboard shops often host promotional events throughout each sailing, and in addition to sales, these often include coupons and freebies.
Typically held the first day or two onboard, these giveaways entice cruisers to swing by and check out the goods. Jewelry stores might offer a free charm or pendant, while duty-free liquor outlets might lure you in with free alcohol tastings.
Related: What to Expect on a Cruise: Shopping on Cruise Ships
Nearly every ship at sea hosts trivia games, and if you know your stuff, you might earn free bingo cards on Royal Caribbean or one of Carnival's signature "ship on a stick" trophies. Making a fool of yourself out by the pool could pay even better dividends -- win a dance or mixology contest and you might earn some free drinks or a souvenir to take home.
Then there are lines who make you work for your wares. Cunard, Oceania and Silversea are among the cruise lines that award points or punch cards for participation in various onboard happenings. From bean bag tosses to enrichment lectures, make sure you rack up as many activities as you can muster, and at the end of the cruise redeem them for prizes that typically include cruise line swag.
Related: Cruise Ship Trivia: 6 Things to Know
You don't have to be a serious art collector to poke your head into an art auction. Just for doing so, you'll be greeted with a free glass of sparkling wine -- art auctions are just one of the many places to find free booze around your cruise ship. You might even bring home a small piece of complimentary artwork.
A suite on a cruise isn't free, but suites on most ships come with a wide array of free perks no one else gets to enjoy. And these freebies just might make it worth the upgrade. Cruise lines will offer things like free tote bags and branded slippers to guests in suites, and plenty of lines add more than that.
If your cabin is designated as a spa cabin, expect free access to the thermal suite, yoga mats, exercise equipment, free laundry, bottled water, upgraded toiletries and more possible perks. Family Harbor rooms on select Carnival ships include one night of free babysitting and access to a lounge.
Related: 6 Best Cruise Suite Perks
Not only are Meet & Mingles (also called M&Ms) a nice way to gather and connect with fellow Cruise Critic users, but often they provide access to private lounges and time to chat with ship officers and staff, occasionally including the captain.
These gatherings vary from line to line, but most are offered in the morning of the first sea day and include a complimentary breakfast spread with coffee and pastries, or canapes later in the afternoon. MSC Cruises usually creates a custom cake for the occasion. Royal Caribbean will hold a raffle for larger meetings, giving away some major prizes, such as specialty dining or FlowRider lessons. Be sure to check on the status of Meet & Mingles with your cruise line, as some have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Updated September 21, 2022