Cruise holidays - money-saving tips for passengers

Two balcony chairs overlook the ocean behind a cruise ship after a rain shower

Part of the joy of a cruise, whether luxury or not, is that almost your every need is taken care of. But having spent a small fortune on the fares themselves, it's all too easy to find yourself forking out even more for various on-board extras. Here's how to keep the spending under control.

Tipping tactics
The whole idea of tipping is that you reward those who provide a good or above average service. Yet many cruise ships add automatic tipping to passengers' bills, meaning you'll pay a fixed amount on top of your daily bill. Once you've boarded the vessel, ask at the information desk to see if this is the case - you have every right to request that it is removed from your bill, leaving you free to tip as you please.

Wait for wi-fi
These days most of us carry our smartphones and tablets with us on holiday, but browse online while you're on-board and you'll likely end up paying a hefty bill for a poor connection. Save your social networking until you dock at port and head for an Internet cafe or another place that provides free wi-fi instead - you may find that the crew know where the hotspots are, so follow them and you can save yourself a bundle.

Don't buy when you can get it for free
Just like a hotel, cruise ships make money by offering convenient (but often expensive) in-cabin options, or even special extras that come with a sizeable price tag. Instead of slurping that expensive bottle of water in your room, for instance, keep a bottle in your hand luggage that you can refill at port or buy a few cheaper bottles at a local shop when you dock. The same goes for extras such as afternoon tea - undoubtedly a favourite with Brits. Before you go for the silver service, take a look at the free buffet. There's a good chance you'll find the same delicious cakes and cream teas on offer without having to put your hand in your pocket.

Beware buying on-board
The lure of duty free shopping means cruise ships can be a great place to pick up a few bargains, with designer boutiques, jewellery stores, gadgets and even art on offer. But don't be tempted to unleash your credit card with gay abandon - stick to the rule that if you wouldn't buy it at home, don't buy it on board. The good value on offer might seem too good to pass up, but the bill can very quickly mount up.

Extending your holiday
Where your cruise includes a flight home from its final destination, it is often the case that you'll have only 24 hours before the plane leaves. If you'd rather have a little more time to explore when you disembark, contact the cruise firm before you book and see if you can do a deal that doesn't include the flight. And if you don't fancy taking all your evening clothes and other cruise ship attire with you on your extended holiday, the ship will often agree to keep luggage on board for you to pick up when it docks back in the UK, typically for the very reasonable price of £30 a case.

Do you regularly go on cruises? What money-saving tips would you give to first-timers? Leave your comments below...
Essential Tips and Advice for Cruise Holidays