7 Ways to Upgrade Your Budget Cruise

by Fran Golden

7 Ways to Upgrade Your Budget Cruise

by Fran Golden

Sure, you can pat yourself on the back for getting a cheap fare on a cruise, but just because you got a deal doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a low-end cruise experience. If you had to settle for an inside cabin in order to get the price down, your stateroom may be on the small side. But you’ll still have access to the same food, entertainment, and activities as everyone else. In addition, there are also ways to add a little luxury to your budget cruise, regardless of the line you’re sailing on. Here, seven ways to upgrade yourself.

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Thermal Suite in Carnival Vista's Cloud 9 Spa / Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Sunshine's Cucina del Capitano
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1. Buy a wine package.

Enhance your dining experience and save at the same time by booking a multi-bottle package. On Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, three-bottle packages are priced from $77, or you can upgrade to a deluxe package ($97) or a premium package ($114), where you start getting into some French and Tuscan wine options. Tip: If you don’t finish a bottle, you can have it corked and enjoy it the next night.

Enhance your dining experience and save at the same time by booking a multi-bottle package. On Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, three-bottle packages are priced from $77, or you can upgrade to a deluxe package ($97) or a premium package ($114), where you start getting into some French and Tuscan wine options. Tip: If you don’t finish a bottle, you can have it corked and enjoy it the next night.

The Retreat on Koningsdam
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2. Book a private cabana.

You’ll feel like a VIP with your own open-air space, decked out with cushy furnishings and views. Attentive crew will fetch drinks and deliver such niceties as a cooling spritz of Evian. Prices start at $45 a day on port days for a cabana in The Retreat on the latest Holland America Line ships; $50 for a half-day for a cabana at the adults pool on the latest Princess ships.

You’ll feel like a VIP with your own open-air space, decked out with cushy furnishings and views. Attentive crew will fetch drinks and deliver such niceties as a cooling spritz of Evian. Prices start at $45 a day on port days for a cabana in The Retreat on the latest Holland America Line ships; $50 for a half-day for a cabana at the adults pool on the latest Princess ships.

Thermal Suite on Norwegian Breakaway
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3. Buy a pass to the thermal suite.

Head to the spa early in your cruise to inquire about passes to the spa retreat, a private relaxation area decked out with steam and sauna rooms, scented showers, and heavenly heated ceramic beds, plus sometimes a heated pool with jets. The number of guests are limited, and the staff will try to sell you a weeklong pass (from $119 per person) but you can ask if any day passes are available (from $30 per person).

Head to the spa early in your cruise to inquire about passes to the spa retreat, a private relaxation area decked out with steam and sauna rooms, scented showers, and heavenly heated ceramic beds, plus sometimes a heated pool with jets. The number of guests are limited, and the staff will try to sell you a weeklong pass (from $119 per person) but you can ask if any day passes are available (from $30 per person).

Boxing with a trainer on Norwegian Getaway
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4. Hire a personal trainer.

Hire someone to introduce you to a new exercise routine — and, best of all, show you what you’re doing wrong and help you improve your form and technique. Rates start at $85 an hour, and specialized training sessions may also be available that involve a boxing ring (on Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean) or a Kinesis Wall.

Hire someone to introduce you to a new exercise routine — and, best of all, show you what you’re doing wrong and help you improve your form and technique. Rates start at $85 an hour, and specialized training sessions may also be available that involve a boxing ring (on Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean) or a Kinesis Wall.

Culinary Arts Center on Koningsdam
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5. Take a cooking class.

Food lovers can indulge in their chef fantasies by taking lessons from an experienced shipboard or visiting celebrity chef. Holland America Line offers hands-on classes from $29 and, on the new Koningsdam, these take place in a special test kitchen.

Food lovers can indulge in their chef fantasies by taking lessons from an experienced shipboard or visiting celebrity chef. Holland America Line offers hands-on classes from $29 and, on the new Koningsdam, these take place in a special test kitchen.

The Chef's Table on Carnival Vista
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6. Reserve seats at the Chef’s Table.

You can splurge on this extraordinary dining experience on a variety of ships, and the chefs will show off their skills and talk food with you and a small group of fellow guests while you’re served. Wine pairings are typically included and sometimes so is a tour of the galley. Prices are $75 on Carnival Cruise Line, $85 on Holland America Line, and $95 on Royal Caribbean. Just be sure to book as soon as you get onboard, as these experiences sell out fast.

You can splurge on this extraordinary dining experience on a variety of ships, and the chefs will show off their skills and talk food with you and a small group of fellow guests while you’re served. Wine pairings are typically included and sometimes so is a tour of the galley. Prices are $75 on Carnival Cruise Line, $85 on Holland America Line, and $95 on Royal Caribbean. Just be sure to book as soon as you get onboard, as these experiences sell out fast.

Champagne and strawberries on Princess
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7. Get your stateroom decorated.

Regardless of the line you’ve chosen, you can prebook treats such as a bottle of champagne or a plate of strawberries, and have them waiting for you and your travel companion. Or, do something completely different and order cabin decorations (from $25 on Carnival, $49 on Royal Caribbean). It may sound cheesy, but welcome banners are sure to put a smile on the face of your cabin mates, especially the littlest travelers, and the signs on the door will help you find your cabin all week long.

Regardless of the line you’ve chosen, you can prebook treats such as a bottle of champagne or a plate of strawberries, and have them waiting for you and your travel companion. Or, do something completely different and order cabin decorations (from $25 on Carnival, $49 on Royal Caribbean). It may sound cheesy, but welcome banners are sure to put a smile on the face of your cabin mates, especially the littlest travelers, and the signs on the door will help you find your cabin all week long.

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