Have you ever thought of taking a cruise as a digital nomad? When thinking of cruise ships, you might think of elderly couples tanning at the pool deck, sipping sparkling wine, and playing boccia.
This picture might be correct for some cruise lines. But there are so many different cruise lines, that attract very different crowds. From the elderly adventurer to the once-in-a-lifetime explorer, from the newly retired freed boomer to the family holiday. Different cruise lines attract different people.
And then there is the question of purpose. Why do you want to do a cruise? There are many reasons to choose a cruise ship. A cruise can be a form of transportation as a substitute for planes.
It can be a form of cheaper accommodation that takes you to islands you would normally never want to spend the money on.
A cruise can be a place to join pool parties, pilates classes, and ping pong compilations. But it can also be simply a place to relax and recharge.
Let's see how to find your ideal cruise line, and what to think about when going on a cruise.
🌱 Travel health insurance for cruises
13 tips when taking a cruise as a nomad
#1 Use the cruise as a form of transport
When you want to travel from one continent to another, let's say from Europe to Latin America or the USA, a cruise can be well spent as a substitute for plane tickets, accommodation, and food.
At first, cruises seem to look like luxurious expenses. But: If you invest time in researching, you can find discounts up to -80% of the price. It is possible to find cruises from Miami to the Caribbean and back to Miami for less than $300. This includes transport, accommodation, food and drinks, and the travel experience of course.
You can find 14-day transatlantic cruises for less than $700 (well, that excludes the internet in most cases), especially when looking into repositioning cruises.
The point is, if you want to go from A to B anyway, a cruise doesn't need to break the bank. In many cases, when calculating through the expenses you would have anyway, it can work out.
And of course, in many cases, it is a lot cheaper to stay overnight on a cruise ship instead of flying to the Bahamas and spending a few nights there, or flying to Norway, renting a car, and driving to the fjords yourself.
#2 Choose your cabin wisely
If you are afraid you are sensitive to the ship's motions, you might want to choose a cabin in the middle of the ship. A ship with 14 decks, for example, shows the least motion on decks 4-9. If you choose deck 5, for example, you want to ensure that you are neither close to the front nor the back of the ship. You want to have a cabin in the middle of deck 5.
Of course, cabins on lower decks are cheaper than cabins on upper decks.
#3 Buy your daily must-haves before the cruise
Most things you can purchase on the cruise will be a lot more expensive than on land. If you love chocolate, make sure you stock up for the entire cruise. The same goes for sun cream, hygienic or beauty items, electronics, and alcohol.
Yes, alcohol. Some cruise lines allow a small amount of alcohol to bring on the ship. For example, Celebrity Cruise Line or Norwegian Cruise Line allow you to bring 1 bottle of wine per person. But note, if you want to enjoy the wine at a restaurant, you pay a corkage fee. It might be better to open the bottle just in the public areas on the ship.
#4 Book the internet package beforehand
When taking a cruise as a nomad and not as a vacationer, you might want to purchase internet packages.
Cruise ships have updated their internet access and use Starlink. If you can choose between a Standard and a Premium version, please note that you can't do much with the Standard version. If you need internet for calls, uploading and downloading media, or anything more than just email, you need the Premium version which can cost a lot. However, it is worth it and it is stable. I used the Celebrity Premium package on a transatlantic cruise and it was really stable and fast.
Cruise lines like Virgin, for example, include internet packages in their ticket fees. Other cruise lines, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity, Princess Cruise, etc. make you pay between $15 and $40 per day.
Internet packages will not get cheaper once you are on board. You should check if the package is cheaper, before boarding. You can simply call the cruise line and ask them.
#5 Check in early and take part in raffles
Maybe you think that sounds silly but if you check in early, you can take part in raffles in many of the ship's areas. You can attend raffles to win onboard credit, spa vouchers, dining discounts for specialty restaurants, free wine tasting, and more.
Additionally, checking out the different areas of the ship as an early boarder might give you access to discounts. The cruise lines are generous on the first day, make sure you make use of it.
#6 Ask for an upgrade
The advantage of checking in early gives the possibility of an upgrade. When you ask kindly the guest relation, if there is a way they could upgrade you to another room category, there is a good chance they upgrade you.
#7 Take the automatically added tips off your bill
On some cruise lines, it is allowed to take the automatically added tips (gratuity) off the bill. I don't want to get into the topic of tipping too detailed. But as a European, tipping is not a mandatory concept. We tip when we receive the extra mile of service, and not just by default.
And I am not saying, I don't tip but I don't want to encourage businesses to pay low wages (like waiters in the USA, for example, who sometimes get only $4 per hour) and it is on the customer to make up for that miscalculation. No no. I tip 10% and only for amazing service.
Back to the cruise, so cruise lines will charge you something around $10 to $20 daily (!) as added gratuity. You can ask the guest relation to take that off and you simply decide (like an adult) at the end how much you want to tip and give the guest relation cash in an envelope at the end of the cruise.
PS: I had conversations with crew members about their salaries. In many cases crew members can save up all their salaries and after they worked 3-4 seasons on a cruise ship, that allows them to start a business in their home countries. Cruise lines are not contributing to modern slavery, that is a misconception. There are way worse industries (and countries) in the world that take advantage of their workforce (stadiums that had been built for the Football World Cups, for example).
#8 Walk, walk, walk
The amount of decks and the overabundance of elevators makes it hard to choose the abandoned staircases. You probably only meet crew members on the staircases. And they know why: The average cruise guest gains 3 kg per week.
Add the fact that all meals are included, food is available 24/7, and people tend to celebrate being on a cruise with cocktails and sparkling wine and you can see that 3 kg is just the beginning.
You can avoid gaining weight with these simple tricks:
- Stick to your "normal" diet. If you want to eat through all the buffet choices, take small plates and tiny portion sizes.
- Switch white wine to red wine and keep the cocktail and beer rate low. Don't purchase alcohol packages. They are not just very expensive but you need to drink a lot to make them worth the money.
- Promise yourself to never ever use the elevator but visit every deck every day and make it a habit to get to know every corner of the ship.
- Use the free gym, and make use of the running track.
- Join free dance classes, and tournaments if they offer something that interests you.
- Go for regular walks on the ship. Walk up and down the decks, from the front to the back, and get your 10,000 steps a day.
- When visiting a port, check on Google Maps the distance to the sights you want to visit and just walk as much as possible.
#9 Make use of all the free stuff
Cruises tend to be expensive, especially when booked spontaneously and through the wrong websites (although there are amazing websites that offer regular deals up to -90% and the cruise becomes less expensive than traveling on land (considering transport, accommodation, and food).
To get the best price value, make as much use of all the free stuff: The gym, the theatre, and shows, the live music, the lectures, the raffles, the tastings, the presentations, the pool, ping pong, and pool billard tables.
#10 Don't pre-book land excursions
This depends on your itinerary. When going to places like Bermuda, or city ports in Europe, I don't see value in joining the land excursions. Check beforehand how far the port is from the sights you want to see and simply organize yourself.
When in Europe, you can use public transport or walk from the port right into the city, for example in Barcelona.
In other destinations, such as Bermuda or the Bahamas, you can simply use the local bus and drive around the island. Just keep in mind that if you miss to return on time, the ship won't wait. If you are late, they will leave you behind.
#11 Track your expenses daily
If the cruise line offers an app, make use of it and track your daily expenses. You might think the daily cappuccino is not worth tracking, but when you pay $6 for each cup, it adds up.
#12 Avoid the shops and the casino
Cruise lines get very pushy to upsell their services, such as spa treatments, luxurious items in the shopping deck, and tickets for the casino.
Spending money on these upsells is always to your disadvantage. From spa treatments to designer bags, you will always pay a high price for it.
And obviously, avoid going to the casino.
#13 Join social dinner tables
Depending on the cruise line, it is possible to ask guest relations to seat you at a social table. Here you join a table of other cruise guests who simply want to mingle and meet people.
Taking a cruise comes with many misconceptions. I would have never considered taking a cruise. But my partner kept talking about it and eventually, I found myself on a transatlantic cruise and it was just amazing.