Luxury cruise lines keep secrets. That might come as a surprise considering that luxury cruises already offer a massive amount of free perks and extras in exchange for splurge-worthy pricetags. Even so, there are plenty of tips and tricks any cruiser should know before they board their first or 15th luxury cruise. Special treats, experiences, luxe freebies and even in-cabin additions are all on the list of things you might not know about.
With that in mind, we scoured Cruise Critic's Message Boards, compiled notes from our own sailings and then dug even deeper for more inside information on the lesser-known perks of luxury sailings. Read on for our favorite expert, insider tips to make your luxury cruise an even more pampering experience.
On luxury cruise lines, you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. With a little notice, most luxury lines can arrange just about anything. If you have a complicated request, reach out 90 days before embarking, while 24 to 48 hours should suffice for simpler requests. Special meal requests are generally free unless your request is extravagant.
Most luxury ships allow you to order room service from the main dining room dinner menu. Butlers or stewards will serve your meal in courses, if you like, just like in the restaurant. Better yet? Don't expect an upcharge.
Main dining room dinner menus on cruises are usually traditionally arranged. Just like a high-end restaurant, you should expect several courses to move from appetizer to dessert. However, luxury cruise experts know you can order whatever you want, whenever you want. Request an entree as a first course, two appetizers as the main event or just make a meal of sweets. No one will bat an eye.
On formal nights, some luxury lines serve complimentary caviar as a starter, usually with blinis or potatoes. It's also acceptable to ask for a second serving.
Can't score a reservation for a specialty restaurant? Try asking in person. Hosts on luxury cruises are reluctant to say no to requests and will do their best to accommodate you. If they can't, they might bend a rule and let you order from their menu via room service (usually a no-no unless you're booked in one of the ship's priciest suites).
If you're counting stars poolside or sipping cocktails at a bar and suddenly have a craving, you can order from the room service menu. On many luxury lines, any goodie on the room service menu can be yours pretty much anywhere on the ship. Ask any passing crew or pick up a house phone to place your order.
Some lines deliver their choice of complimentary canapes to your cabin or suite every afternoon or evening, with daily rotating selections. If you want the same canape every day or want to make requests given your dietary restrictions or preferences, just let your butler or steward know.
Food and beverages are included on many luxury ships (check ahead). So why not throw a cocktail or dinner party in your cabin or suite for your travel party or newly made friends. It won't cost a penny if you're ordering off the complimentary food and beverage menu. (Though you might want to tip your butler extra for helping with setup, cleanup and other needs as they arise.)
Although sommeliers present just one complimentary white and red wine for dinner, they have a stash of other wines they're happy to open for you. If you'd like to try something different or that you've never had, ask him about those options.
While wine is always included on luxury ships, sometimes you want to splurge on a bottle from the for-fee wine list. No worries if you can't finish it at once; your server can mark the bottle and save it for another night -- they'll even whisk it to a different dining venue.
Related: Best Cruise Ports for Wine Lovers
Cocktails are complimentary on luxury cruises, but servers and bartenders often default to well liquor. If you have a preference, ask if your favorite vodka, gin, rum or other alcohol is available when you place your order. You might be surprised at the selection of labels included in your luxury cruise fare.
Mini-bars are usually pre-stocked with the ship's choice of brands and beverages. Ask your butler or steward to replace any you don't like with those that you do.
Luxury ships usually stock hyper-allergenic toiletries if you have an issue with the offerings on hand. Check with your butler or steward on embarkation day.
The bigger and more expensive the cabin or suite, the better the perks. Before making a final choice, read the fine print and see if the perks add up to enough value to make booking a higher-level accommodation the real bargain.
Related: The 9 Best Cruise Ship Suites
If you haven't already conveyed the information with your cruise documents, let your steward or butler know if you're celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Luxury lines like Silversea or Regent Seven Seas are known to tiptoe in and decorate your suite while you're away. Hearts, flowers, balloons, a cake -- it's always a lovely surprise.
If your cabin is feeling crowded or you can't squeeze your luggage under the bed or another tucked-away space, ask your stewardess if a piece or two can be stored elsewhere on the ship.
Spa fees are exorbitant on luxury cruises. Most ships offer port-day spa specials and discounts if you purchase multiple treatments at once. Some even offer sample mini-treatments and discounts on embarkation day.
Luxury cruise lines offer numerous complimentary enrichment classes every day, like language and dance lessons, and wellness seminars. Read the daily chronicle to see what's free and note which activities need advance sign-up.
Feel free to engage with the lecturers from enrichment classes when they're not working. You can stop to chat by the pool or in a coffee shop, just be conscious to share their free time with other passengers.
Didn't have time to download books on your tablet or buy paperbacks before you left on your cruise? Visit the onboard library. Upscale cruise ships stock hundreds of books to borrow (Seabourn is particularly renowned for this). And if you brought a paperback you don't want to take home, there's usually a shelf to leave it for the next passenger.
Show up at a complimentary exercise class and you might be the only one, or one of a few, who do. You'll score a private or semi-private class with a fitness instructor without paying extra.
Complimentary shuttle service in most ports is standard for luxury cruise lines. If the ship doesn't dock directly in town, the shuttles will take you to a central location, eliminating the need to haggle with a taxi driver.