7 Ways to Make Your Cruise Even More Special

For a few extra bucks, you can make your cruise even more special.


Everything you need to have a good time is already included in the price of your cruise. You don’t need to spend one extra cent if you don’t want to. But you may want to budget for a few extras once you’re on board. Here are some of the main ways you can upgrade your experience as you sail the seven seas that will make your cruise even more special.

1. Specialty Dining

Every cruise ship has places you can dine for free. There is usually at least one dining room and a buffet. But most ships also offer alternative dining options. For a small fee, you can eat at a sushi bar, steakhouse, teppanyaki house, or pizzeria, for example. Prices usually range between $10 and $30, depending on the restaurant. Many ships also have a full-service cafe, where you can buy specialty coffees and pastries for a few bucks.

make your cruise even more special

2. Beverage Packages

Water, coffee, and tea are always available on typical cruises. Most also offer free juice at breakfast and some sort of water-based beverage, like iced tea or lemonade, throughout the day. But if you’re thirsty for a pop, bottle water, or anything with alcohol, you will need to open your wallet. But there’s a loophole. You can buy a beverage card that lets you drink as much as you desire, and it usually costs much less than you would spend overall buying one drink at a time. You can get either alcoholic or nonalcoholic versions of the card so the entire family can take advantage.

make your cruise even more special

3. Spa Treatments

Ships of all shapes and sizes have an on-site spa. But beware, the prices are typically well above anything your would spend on land. A massage typically costs at least $120 but can be close the $300 if you’re in the mood for a something more specialized, like a seaweed wrap. If you’re really looking to treat yourself, you can even get acupuncture, Botox, and cellulite treatments on many ships. But relax, there are a few affordable ways to pamper yourself on a cruise, such as a scalp massage, haircut, or manicure.

make your cruise even more special

4. Shore Excursions

If you’re not sure what you want to do when your ship docks at each cruise port, fear not. There are plenty of tour options available through the cruise line. They would with the best local tour companies and guides to make sure you have the best experiences on land. Whether you’re into adventure, culture, shopping, or history, they’ll have something for every taste. Parasailing over the open ocean, horseback riding on the beach, a cooking class at a local restaurant, a visit to the outlet malls—you’ll find it all and more at every scheduled stop.

make your cruise even more special

5. Celebrations and Gifts

Are you celebrating a special event during your cruise? For a small fee, you can arrange to have your room decorated with flowers, balloons, special signs, desserts, wine, and more. You can choose from a variety of themes, including birthdays, anniversaries, and bon voyage. Even if you’re not sailing, you can surprise a friend or loved one by contacting the ship in advance. You can also purchase cruise merchandise and other gifts in advance of sailing so that they’re waiting in your room when you get on board. I’ve secretly hoped someone would surprise with a celebration or gift, but alas…maybe they’ll read this post and get the hint.

Pro Tip: If your travel agent lets the ship know about your special day when you book the cruise, you may get a little something special for free. That’s right…I said free. On my last sailing, I got a gift card for a bottle of wine and a free photo of my choice from the photo studio. It was lovely.

make your cruise even more special

6. Photo Packages

Wouldn’t it be great if life were like the movies and every minute of your special getaway was captured on film (or digital thingamabobs)? Well, every cruise ship has a photo studio to do just that. Every time you get on or off the ship, a team of photographers will be on standby, ready to snap a shot of you at each port. At night after you’ve dressed for dinner, they’ll have impromptu portrait studios set up in strategic locations around the ship. You can even hire a photographer to follow you around for the day.

make your cruise even more special

7. Shopping and Sales

If you love to shop, you don’t even need to step off the boat to do it. Designer handbags, fine diamonds, and couture cosmetics are just some of the upscale items you can purchase in the ship’s boutiques. You’ll also find duty-free tobacco and alcohol, candies and chocolates, costume jewelry, cruise merchandise, cheap tees, and knick knacks. You want it, they got it. And they have special sales every evening. One night you might get a deal on scarves and sunglasses, while the next night there may be a special offer on earrings or t-shirts. The deals are often amazing.

make your cruise even more special

Pro Tip: You can purchase just about everything on this list in advance of your sailing by contacting your travel agent or accessing your online itinerary. You can even buy gift cards to make purchases in the ship’s shops. This way, you still don’t have to spend any extra money once you set sail.

These are some of the main ways you can make your cruise even more special. What other ways can you think of? Share them on the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.

Cruise Inspiration: 5 Facts that Will Make You Want to Set Sail

More people are taking cruises than ever before.


In fact, the cruise industry is booming. It’s estimated 100 million people will take a cruise in the next four years. How’s that for cruise inspiration? But, if you’re anything like I was 10 years ago, you’re still a bit leery about the whole concept of cruising.

You may think it will make you less of a traveler because you aren’t planning every minute of your own itinerary or because you only spend a few hours in each port. But I’ve learned it’s just the opposite.

When you’re on a cruise, the entire world opens up to you in a whole new, luxurious, affordable way. Places that were once off-limits due to price, location, or other factors are now at your fingertips thanks to the cruise industry.

cruise inspiration

Still need more cruise inspiration? Check out these five cruise facts that will inspire even the biggest skeptic to hop on board a cruise ship.

  1. You get the same experience whether you pay top dollar or sail in the cheap seats.

    People in low-priced inside cabins eat at the same restaurants, swim in the same pools, and have access to the same entertainment as people who stay in high-end suites. Yes, there are some extra perks if you spend the big bucks, but you can still have an utterly amazing experience in an inside cabin. Cruising is all about affordable luxury.

  2. You can see a lot of places in a short time for a low cost.

    On a cruise, you get to sample a variety of destinations the same way you sample different foods at Costco. A little taste tells you if you want more so you can plan a longer vacation to a particular destination in the future. If you don’t have a lot of time or money and you want to be pampered, you simply can’t beat a cruise.

  3. It’s safe.

    There are cameras everywhere on a cruise ship, and you’re almost never entirely alone. People walk the halls at all hours of the day, and crew members are never more than a stone’s throw away. Cruising is ideal for solo travelers or women who want to enjoy their vacation without worrying about their safety. You’re more likely to be attacked by a bear than you are to fall overboard, sink, or be assaulted.

  4. There are so many ships to choose from.

    Over the next four years, there will be 65 new cruise ships sailing on rivers and oceans around the world. Big or small, there’s bound to be at least one that suits your personal style. River cruises will take you to ports larger ships simply can’t access. And ocean cruises will bring you unparalleled activities and entertainment. Which will you choose? I hope to see them all.

  5. You will have a good time.

    Nine out of ten cruisers say they will sail again. This means there is a 90 percent chance that you will thoroughly enjoy yourself on a cruise. Those are some pretty good odds.

Have I missed anything? What inspires you to cruise? Sign up for the members-only Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group to share your ideas about cruise inspiration with like-minded travelers around the world.

6 Benefits River Cruises Have Over Ocean Cruises

Aside from the fact that they’re both on the water, river cruises have little in common with ocean cruises.


And that’s why I love them. Don’t get me wrong, I adore cruises of any kind—big, small, and everything in between. But river cruises have their own special blend of magic. Like ocean liners, you can hit several countries (and sometimes continents) in one trip, but river cruises have a few charms you won’t find on a larger cruise ship.

Check out these six advantages river cruises have over ocean cruises.

1. Get the Best Parking Spots

River cruise ships are much, much smaller than ocean-going vessels. They can fit into way smaller spaces as a result. This means you get the best parking spaces at each port. Often, you get off the ship right in the heart of the action. There’s no need to drive from a nearby city or take a tender, which can eat up a lot of your free time. A great example is Venice, where ocean cruise ships are banned from sailing into the lagoon. You need to find a way into Venice from the shipyards just outside the city. It’s a hassle and quite time-consuming. River cruises simply sail right into the city.

river cruise

2. Unique itineraries

Easy access to hot spots, like Venice, are just one perk of being on a smaller ship. Perhaps an even bigger bonus is the ability to sail into smaller, lesser-known ports. River cruise ships take you to places you simply can’t go on an ocean liner. For example, on one voyage, I visited the Christmas markets in Colmar, France, a place I didn’t even know existed. It’s the most charming, little traditional French village—the kind of stuff fairy tales are made of. In the Mekong Delta, we walked right off the ship into rice fields or tiny villages that have yet to be touched by mainstream civilization. River cruises take you to all kinds of places you never knew you wanted to go but are so quaint you’ll never want to leave.

river cruise

3. Enjoy Plenty of Local Flare

Ocean cruises are known for their over-the-top entertainment and nonstop fun and games. It’s incredible, and you’ll never wont for something to do. River cruises offer something completely unique, though—a chance to experience the local culture. They, literally, bring people from nearby communities on board the ship to entertain passengers. In the Black Forest, for example, we were treated to a demonstration by a local wood-carver. In the Mekong Delta, a dance troupe put on a traditional performance one night, while a professional chef treated us to a tasting of indigenous fruits and ice creams. The entertainment is much more low-key, but it’s an amazing glimpse into the lives of the people in the places you’re visiting. It’s truly enlightening and delightful.

river cruise

4. Kick Back and Relax

While ocean liners are geared toward family fun, you won’t find any kids on a river cruise. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the peace and quite. Sitting on top of the ship watching the world go by is one of the most serene and enjoyable experiences. Grab a book, lay back on a lounger, and enjoy the view.

river cruise

5. Almost All-Inclusive

Most ocean cruises come with a fairly thrifty price tag. You’ll likely pay quite a bit more for a river cruise, which may seem like a disadvantage, but it’s actually not. The cost is a bit more because absolutely everything is included in your fare. You want beer or wine? Or maybe you’re a soda lover? Either way, drink til your heart’s content. Want to check in back home? Simply log into the Internet at no extra cost. You’ll even get a choice of shore excursions to take part in—or not—each day. Do as much or as little as you want. It’s up to you. And you’ll never need to pull out your wallet.

river cruise

6. Make New Friends

While you’re likely to see a few familiar faces here and there on a ocean-going cruise ship, it’s impossible not to get to know the other guests on a river cruise. There are typically fewer than 200 people on each sailing. My last river cruise had only 57 of a possible 120 passengers. We made a few new friends, who we still keep in touch with today. It’s an intimate atmosphere on board a river cruise. You’ll get cozy with each other quickly.

river cruise

These are just a few of the advantages river cruises have over ocean cruises. And while I love them both, each one has its own unique style. Which do you prefer, and why? Share your thoughts with the Wanderlust Wayfarer Facebook group.