I've been on more than 20 cruises. Here are the 4 things I always pay extra for on my trip.

I've been on more than 20 cruises. Here are the 4 things I always pay extra for on my trip.
  • I've sailed on more than 20 cruises, and I tend to splurge on the same onboard items every time.

  • I usually go on at least one excursion per trip, but I always book it ahead of embarkation.

  • Though I don't do a ton of shopping on the ships, I'm willing to buy alcohol I can't find at home.

Cruising is one of my favorite ways to travel, and I've done my fair share of it.

I've been on more than 20 voyages since the '90s, sailing with cruise lines including Royal Caribbean Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Though I always avoid spending money on certain onboard items — like unlimited drink packages and spa products — there are certain things I consider worth the splurge and buy almost every time I set sail.

I'm willing to pay extra for alcohol I can't find at home

alcohol section of duty-free store on cruise ship
alcohol section of duty-free store on cruise ship

If I buy alcohol from the duty-free shop, the staff brings it to my room at the end of the trip.Michelle Glicksman

If there's a certain type of alcohol you like, you can usually find it at onboard duty-free shops.

Although you can purchase alcohol at any time during your cruise, the staff usually won't deliver the bottles to your room or suite until disembarkation day. They're meant to be taken home and enjoyed there.

The shops also tend to carry several types of alcohol that I can't find at home, such as Hennessy Pure White.

Many ships sell my favorite makeup, beauty, and fragrance brands

When I head into the onboard duty-free shop, I can usually find popular beauty brands like Benefit Cosmetics and Dior.

The prices are often slightly lower than the ones I'd find on land. Plus, I don't have to pay import, sales, value-added, or other taxes when I buy these items from the shop.

I always try to book at least one excursion per cruise

tour bus — guide wearing red shirt talking to bus full of tourists
tour bus — guide wearing red shirt talking to bus full of tourists

I prefer to book my excursion tours through the cruise line.Michelle Glicksman

On some trips, I book excursions at every port, especially if they're each in a different country. However, I always plan ahead and purchase my excursions prior to embarkation — and I always try to book at least one.

Cruise lines often run specials for travelers who book excursions in advance, and I can put those savings toward future adventures.

Knowing my days are already planned before I board the ship gives me peace of mind. Plus, I can be sure that the excursions I'm interested in aren't sold out, which is often the case if I wait to book them until I'm on the ship.

When I reserve a spot on an excursion through a cruise line, I'm confident that I'm going to explore the port with a vetted tour company, which makes me feel safe. If I'm delayed returning from one of these excursions, the ship also has to wait for me. However, if I were to come back late from a self-booked tour, the boat could leave without me.

Of course, you don't have to purchase excursions through the cruise line. Companies such as Viator offer tours, and some provide transportation to and from ships as well.

Activities I never partake in off of the ship are almost always worth the money

I go on cruises to enjoy myself, so I always partake in interesting, one-of-a-kind experiences on the ship.

For example, I've paid for a laser-tag game and a go-kart ride on a Norwegian ship, and I've also done an escape room on a Royal Caribbean ship.

I might not have won any of the games or competitions, but I had fun, and that's what vacations are all about.

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