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Friday, April 15, 2016

Finding the Freebies, Cruising to Save

Just because we’re giving up thousands to cruise doesn’t mean we still don’t want to save a buck or two when we can. In fact, there are some ways to snag freebies—particularly booze—if you just know where to look.
Book mark. Your best freebies are before you book. While you’re exploring cruises, ask your travel agent, “Are you offering cruise credits or benefits with this trip?” If the travel agent wants your business, you’ll most likely be offered cruise credits that you can use for just about anything on board. Or, your travel agent may offer you a meal in a specialty restaurant, drink package or to pay for your insurance. For more, see this earlier posting.
If you’re booking directly with a cruise line, keep your eye on their promos. They often throw in freebies like a drink package or restaurant meal.
Booze your way. The mass market ships all allow you to bring some wine on board, but not a lot. Royal Caribbean allows two per stateroom and Princess is okay with one per person. While you can’t bring it out of your room without paying a fee, it’s still nice to have for sipping on the balcony under a brilliantly setting sun.

Welcoming you onboard Princess with Love.
The rewards of loyalty. The cruise lines all have loyalty clubs where the more you sail with them, the greater the benefits. These can range from a reception with free drinks to free wine tasting events to free dry cleaning to a free logo gift. Royal Caribbean's Diamond level, perhaps the most generous of the cruise lines' loyalty programs, offers unlimited drinks during happy hour in their lounge (note: not all ships have one), as well as three drinks a day loaded on your sea card to redeem during these hours.
They also often offer tours of the theater backstage, galley and engine room—rare treats that give you both a peek behind-the-scenes, as well as some small talk starters. (Did you know that some production show dancers look at empty hangers dangling in their closets to see how rough the seas are?)
A toast and some Love. Don’t be tempted to skip the Captain’s Welcome event, because it usually comes with a free glass of wine or champagne and on Princess these days, also melt-in-your-mouth Michael Love chocolate truffles.
Go Concierge on Celebrity and champagne awaits.
And while a lot has changed on Celebrity over the years, the crew still greets you at the gangway on embarkation day with a glass of champagne. And if you go Concierge class, there’s a bottle of champagne waiting to greet you in your stateroom.
Share your secrets or bare your legs. The game shows and contests on the ship often give prizes to those who bare their souls in the Newlywed Game takeoffs or their lower limbs in the hairy leg contests. Gifts can range from bottles of champagne to logo items.
And while they cost to play, the Bingo games sometimes offer great prizes, like a huge room upgrade to the ship's best suite for the rest of the cruise.
Play for prizes or watch for laughs.
Talk about shopping.  If you can stand them, the port shopping talks, which are essentially infomercials for the cruise line partner stores, do offer some useful info about what to look for, particularly if jewelry is your goal. You can get discount coupons for many shops, and there’s usually a prize or two given away during the show. The art auctions also serve champagne to whet your appetite for bidding.
Meet and Mingle to munch and more. The Cruise Critic Meet and Mingle events vary greatly, from morning gatherings in a lounge to “cabin crawls,” where you can see a sampling of the different stateroom categories. Sometimes, they provide a small gift to everyone and there can be random drawings for bigger ones.
So, despite the cruise lines’ frequent pitches and enticements to get you to spend more than you’ve already paid out to get on the ship, you can still score a few treats while keeping your money in your wallet, safely reserved for your next cruise.