Updated January 30, 2019
The most basic money- and time-saving tips for cruisers who like to go the spa or fitness center are generally common sense and well-known to most cruisers. Use the gym on a port day when most people are off the ship, leaving your favorite pieces of equipment open. Book a spa treatment for a less popular time, again such as a port day, when the spa is offering discounts. Book multiple spa treatments to rack up progressive discounts (10 percent off the first, 20 percent off the second and 30 percent off the third at Steiner-run spas, found on many cruise lines).
But if you're an avid spa-goer or gym rat, we've got a few, less obvious tips and hacks to help you make the most of your spa or fitness center experience.
If you are booking a spa special or part of a 10/20/30 promotion, and you want to be 100 percent sure you get the discount you're due, pre-pay for your spa treatment onboard. You'll see the price ahead of time, the gratuity is automatically included (and you won't accidentally double tip in a post-treatment haze) and you just might skip the hard sell at the end as your therapist won't need to wait for you to sign anything.
Enter the raffle (but beware):
Yes, we know it's one big sales pitch and you'll have to forego 30 to 40 minutes of sunbathing by the pool to sit through a handful of presentations about acupuncture, medi-spa services, teeth whitening and more, but at the end of each embarkation day spa presentation, there is a raffle and someone does win. Why not you? (Drag your significant other with you, too, to get two entries into the raffle.) If you do win, check the fine print when booking your free treatment as some spa receptionists have "accidentally" booked a treatment for which the certificate is invalid, leaving winners to pay the bill.
Ask about a re-polish:
If you don't look too closely, it's easy to believe the only manicures available on a cruise ship are the more expensive, fancy treatments that include exfoliation and hand/arm massages. If all you really want is polish on your nails, $40 to $60 or so is asking too much. Look for the words re-polish on the spa menu or ask the spa receptionist about it. The option to just have polish put on without any of the extra fluff is almost always available and is considerably less expensive (usually about $20).
Opt out of the hard sell:
One of the biggest complaints spa-going cruisers have about their spa experience is the hard sell that always follows whatever treatment they've gotten. One of the easiest ways to avoid this is to write on your intake form "Not interested in purchasing products, do not try to sell." This works about 90 percent of the time; the remaining 10 percent you'll get a therapist who says she's not trying to sell you anything but just wants you to know what would be helpful. Our solution to that is to say "Great. I make all my purchases at the end of the cruise. Write down what you recommend on a piece of paper, and I'll take a look at it later when I'm making purchasing decisions." This second approach is also good for those who are afraid they'll get a less-than-stellar treatment if the therapist knows ahead of time that she won't be making an additional sale.
Skip the medi-spa consult:
Unless you're interesting in shelling out a few thousand dollars on a treatment the results of which might not even be evident until you're long off the cruise ship, don't waste your time on a medi-spa consult for Restylane and Dysport (non-injection treatments). The receptionist will refuse to give you a price if you ask, so we're telling you -- it'll cost at least $5,000.
Start your own yoga class:
Don't want to pay for a yoga class? Bring a yoga mat with you and opt for self-directed yoga on the pool deck early in the morning. Other early morning fitness enthusiasts just might spot you and ask to join.
Up your weight resistance:
The free weights you find in cruise ship fitness centers generally don't get much heavier than 75 pounds. If you need more than that, pack your own resistance bands, which are lightweight and take up almost no room in your suitcase, then pair them with dumbbells to up the resistance.
Grab a cold one:
Some cruise lines, particularly luxury and river cruises, stock cold water or even sports drinks in small fridges in the gym. Before heading out on a shore excursion, a quick stop by the gym to pick up a cold drink to take with you is always a good idea. Even on mainstream lines that won't have free bottled drinks, there will always be a water fountain for filling up your water bottle. Some gyms also stock chilled towels for use after a workout. If you've been lounging on the sun deck for the day and need a quick chill, swing by the gym and grab a cold towel.