A man and woman look into each others' eyes while enjoying a cocktail on a cruise ship
If you’re on a budget and trying to vacation for cheap by taking an affordable cruise, don’t break the bank with all the little extras.

The Best Ways to Score Free Drinks on Any Cruise

It Might Take a Little Creativity, But It’ll Be Well Worth It!

Cruising always seems like it’s going to be cheap — then fees, fancy dinners, and trips to the casino all add up and it seems like you didn’t save anything at all. If you’re on a budget and trying to vacation for cheap by taking an affordable cruise, don’t break the bank with all the little extras.

Most people just want to get on board, sit by the pool and sip drinks while they relax, but those cocktails can often run you three times what they would on land. With the jacked up prices and automatic 18% gratuity, each drink can cost as much as a meal.

Instead of dreading your bill at the end of the cruise, get creative! Of all the cruise tips out there, those that teach you the secrets of how to drink for free on board are the most valuable.

Here are some ways to drink for free instead so you can still pay your rent when you make it back home.

Be a Repeat Cruiser

If you love a cruise, you’re likely to book on the same lines when you vacation. Cruise lines reward repeat guests with free booze, either with drink vouchers or a Welcome Back party, or both.

All you have to do is show up. The Welcome Back bashes provide guests with free booze and allow you to mingle with other cruise lovers.

Keep an Eye out for BOGO Deals

Okay, so you aren’t getting totally free drinks this way, but some of the bars on board will offer specific hours where you can buy a drink and get one free. Take advantage of these times and you’ll be glad you did when you get your bill at the end of the trip.

Check out Some Art

Every cruise wants to part you from your money. If you’re willing to spend some of your free time sitting in on an art auction — whether you’re interested in buying or not — you will usually be gifted with some free champagne or sparkling wine just for showing up.

It’s up to you whether suffering through a bunch of random artwork is worth it to you for a couple glasses of bubbly.

Go to the Captain’s Reception

Everyone is invited to this party and drinks — alcoholic and otherwise — are free. You really just need to put on something other than your bathing suit and look presentable.

If you’re interested in saying hello to the captain, want to chat with other passengers, or just want to hang back on your own with a drink in your hand, this is the place to do it.

Say Goodbye with Free Booze

The day before you head to your home port there is generally a party to thank you for cruising. Free drinks are served, though the options may be funky — but beggars can’t be choosers, right?

You might find a new favorite or something you never want to drink again, but at least it’s free. At the very least, you’ll have a good story.

Plus, there’s entertainment and dancing.

Attend the Duty-Free Tastings

In the first days of your cruise, the duty-free shop usually will offer free tastings of all the alcohol they have to sell. Obviously they want you to buy a bunch of stuff, but it’s not mandatory.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t make a purchase — the cruise line isn’t hurting for sales. Plenty of others are buying booze from the shops to make up for it.

Of course, if you do buy your alcohol at the duty-free, you’ll be saving over buying drinks at the bar. You’ll just have to mix them yourself.

To be clear, you still end up paying about twice as much for it as you would at your local liquor store.

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Take a River Cruise

Cruise ships don’t like you bringing your own booze on board because they don’t make any money off of you. If you buy any in port, they will lock it away until you debark.

This isn’t so on most river cruises.

You spend more for a smaller ship and more luxury, but they allow you to bring your own booze along. Beer and wine are also complimentary at dinner.

Get Involved

Ugh — playing those horrible cruise games sound awful, right? They might well be, or you could jump in and be stupid with everyone else.

You’re never going to see these people again, so join in the line dancing, trivia groups, and other things they use to keep people busy, and you just might be rewarded for winning with a voucher for the bar. Since most things are included, they need to entice you with something and booze is always a welcome prize.

While you may have to put on some real clothes and get away from the pool in order to cash in on some of these freebies, if you really want to drink without going broke, these are some of the best ways to do it.

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