Updated July 2018
People often misunderstand what is and what isn’t included on a cruise, and if you are not an experienced cruiser an advertised "All Inclusive" cruise may be confusing. Drinks, excursions, shows, gratuities, room service, and activities are among some of the things that spark curiosity as to whether they are included or require you to hand over that all important cruise card.
Whether you are cruising on a budget or happy to splash out, one thing is for sure, cruising can be incredible value for money and you could easily try out the most exciting experiences without a handful of bills at the end of your holiday. There are some things that all cruise lines offer as complimentary so here are our top 10 free things to do onboard:
1. Watch a show
Cruise ships boast some of the best entertainment around. With world-class singers, dancers, performers, acrobats and more, many cruise lines pride themselves in offering some of the best entertainment at sea, and continue to raise the bar with onboard entertainment.
Iglu Cruise top pick: Check out Royal Caribbean's Broadway shows including Mamma Mia!, Grease and Cats or Norwegian Cruise Line's exclusive parternship with Cirque du Soleil.
2. Eat in the Main Dining Room
Most cruise ships boast an extensive range of restaurants, with some offering over 30 different dining venues. Some alternative restaurants are offered for an extra cover charge, however, meals in the main dining room are included within your cruise fare. Some of the most exquisite dishes are found at sea, so take advantage of this enticing food.
Iglu Cruise top pick: The Grand Dining Room on Oceania Cruises is home to some of the finest cuisine at sea, including their signature 28-day dry aged steak.
3. Relax in a whirlpool
Whether you go away to relax or explore, at some point you should revitalise with a refreshing dip. Unwind from everyday stress, recover from a day of exploring or simply relish the surroundings in a heavenly whirlpool. There is no extra charge to use the whirlpools and Jacuzzis onboard.
Iglu Cruise top pick: The cantilevered whirlpools on Royal Caribbean's Freedom and Oasis class ships offer heavenly whirpools that suspend 112 above the ocean...incredible.
4. Watch the sunset
One of the most breathtaking views on any cruise, you should try to experience this at least once during your holiday. Whether it is the sunrise or the sunset, take yourself to the top of the ship (or your balcony if you have one) and prepare for one of the most spectacular sights you will ever see. The intense colour of the sun combined with the radiant colours of the sky reflecting on the open ocean is a sight many would pay to see, let alone experience it for no charge.
5. Try something new
Whether it's surfing, ice skating, rock climbing, playing golf or taking a dance lesson, there are so many activities to do onboard that you could probably try something new every day. With something for the whole family, there will be an activity to cater for every age group and interest. Cruise line activities are complimentary unless you require private tuition.
Iglu Cruise top pick: The Flowrider on Royal Caribbean's Freedom and Oasis-class ships is a thrilling surf simulator that pumps 100,000 gallons of water per minute. A once in a lifetime experience that assures fun, laughter and adventure.
6. Go for a swim
There is no charge to use the swimming pools onboard which is great as most ships offer a range of different pools, from family pools to adult-only areas. If you go away to simply soak up the sun then these paradise-like pool areas with their comfortable sun loungers will be your ultimate retreat.
Iglu Cruise top pick: WaterWorks, the onboard waterpark found on Carnival Cruise Lines boasts spiralling waterslides, splash zones and an array of pools. Guaranteed fun for the whole family.
7. Afternoon tea and cake
Even though we love to go on holiday and experience new destinations, we still love our home comforts. Whether it's a late morning snack or an afternoon treat, head to one of the onboard cafes and indulge in a refreshing tea and choose from an array or fresh cakes.
Iglu Cruise top pick: Regent Seven Seas offer complimentary afternoon tea every day. Held in various lounges with a pianist, wide selection of teas and themed delicacies including cakes, crepes and chocolate desserts. Yum!
8. Watch a movie
Whether it be an indoor movie screen or 'Movies Under the Stars', catching a film is even more enjoyable on a ship than the cinema at home. Submerge yourself in a comfortable chair, grab some complimentary popcorn and enjoy some of the best movies of all time.
Iglu Cruise top pick: Movies Under the Stars on Princess Cruises boast a 300-square foot poolside movie theatre that gives you the opportunity to enjoy blockbuster movies against a backdrop of sea, sky and sunset.
9. Explore the ship
Cruise ships of today are floating masterpieces and spending some time to explore the decks of your ship is lots of fun. With art galleries, gardens, secret walkways and new venues to be found at every turn, simply exploring your ship guarantees hours of enjoyment.
Iglu Cruise top pick: Holland America Line offer complimentary self-guided iPod art tours that allow you to explore and learn all about the unique artwork onboard.
It is almost certain you are going to indulge a little more on a cruise than you normally would. For those who like to keep in shape or even those who want to take an after-dinner stroll, the fitness centre and jogging/walking tracks are free to use from morning till night. Boasting modern gyms with state of the art equipment, a workout is certainly more enjoyable with a great view.
Iglu Cruise top pick: Celebrity Cruises offer AquaClass staterooms that include complimentary access to spa facilities and rooms located close to the gym.