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Cruise To Mexico On A Budget Spent Only $200 For Everything

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Going on a cruise can be a lot of fun. You set sail, enjoy the beautiful ocean views, island hop, explore different places, and just have a blast! But of course, cruises aren’t free or are they? Sure, going on a cruise can cost you a lot of money. But, there’s ways to enjoy a cruise to Mexico even if you’re on a budget.

We actually got our cruise fully paid for with credit card points. Find out tips and tricks on how you can get your free cruise too. 


We used our credit card points to pay for all costs of a 5 night Carnival Cruise to Mexico. The total cost for the cruise came about to be almost $1,000. We were able to apply our credit card points to cover the full $1,000. This meant that we got a FREE 5 night cruise trip!

Just because we got a free cruise trip didn’t mean we planned on blowing a lot of money on the trip. We only ended up spending $200 for the full 5 night cruise which went to two different islands.

If you’re planning to go on one, there’s a few tips that I’ll share so that you can also have a blast without breaking the bank.

1 Save on Beverages

If you have never been on a cruise, be warned that you will be bombarded with drinks (alcohol, sodas, coffee) everywhere! The downside is, it’s not free! You’re going to have to pay for every single drink and it can really add up.

To save money on drinks, you’ve got to be prepared.

Cruise lines may usually offer a drink package which allow you to drink cocktails, coffee, sodas, all at a cost. It can be about $50 per person/day. That can easily tack on $250 per person for a 5 day cruise trip.

If possible, skip the drink package.

What you can do instead is bring your own wine or soda on board.

Drinks To Bring On Carnival

  • 1 750 ml bottle of wine per person
  • 12 sealed cans per person
  • Cannot bring on water

Different cruise lines have their own set of rules regarding what you can bring on ship. It’s important to check their rules before deciding to bring your own drinks on board. The last thing you want to happen is have it confiscated.

For Carnival, we skipped the drink package and brought on 2 of our wine bottles and a case of soda. Since, we couldn’t bring water, we ordered some to the room.

Avoid The Corkage Fee

One thing to keep in mind when bringing your own wine is how to avoid the annoying “Corkage Fee”.

Whatever you do, don’t bring your wine bottle to dinner at one of the cruise ship’s main formal dining halls. They’re going to charge you a fee. It can be anywhere from $14-$15.

What you can do instead is, bring the wine to any of their informal dining options so they won’t charge you.

Check For Drink Specials

When you’re on the ship, you’ll most likely get an itinerary booklet. It’s going to have all the day’s events, specials, entertainment, and more. Check it out, it’s going to have some great things in there.

Some days, they’ll even have specials for drinks.

For example, one day Carnival was running a special on beers for 50%. Instead of a $6 beer, we got them for $3. You can save the most on drinks if you find those specials.

Cost: $15 for beers

Overall, you can save hundreds by bringing your own wine, avoiding the corkage fee, and looking for deals on drinks.

2 Free Dining

Another way you can end up spending money when you don’t have to is by paying for dining at one of the specialty restaurants.

Why spend money on the food when there’s tons of free dining options?

Remember when I mentioned the little itinerary booklet with all the specials, deals, and events? It’s also a good reference tool to find out which restaurants cost money.

If you want to save some money, make sure you avoid the restaurants that charge you.

On Carnival, there were so many free dining options to choose from.

  • Main Dining Room
  • Lido Restaurant (Buffet)
  • Pizza Pirate – Open 24 hours, fresh pizza
  • Guy’s Burger Joint – Customized burgers
  • Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que – BBQ
  • Bluelguana Cantina – Mexican food
  • Fresh Creations – Salad bar
  • Pasta Bella – Pastas
  • Swirls – 24/7 Frozen yogurt
  • Carnival Delie – Deli sandwiches
  • SeaDogs – Hot dogs
  • Off The Grill – Burgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken, chicken tenders, and fries
  • Room Service – A lot of free items to choose from like, continental breakfast, sandwiches, salads, desserts, and more.

There were so many free dining options to choose from, we didn’t have time to eat at all the restaurants.

3 Free Events

The itinerary on Carnival Cruise Line was ridiculous, in a good way! Literally every hour, there’s always something going on. You definitely won’t be bored.

If you’re not careful, this is another way you can easily spend money. They have a lot of free events/shows/and entertainment. Some of the events do cost money so just be careful.

Some events that could cost money is the poker, whiskey tasting, spa treatments, and so much more.

We avoided all the events that had a charge except one which was Bingo. We paid $15 for 3 tickets and ended up winning $5 back from a free scratcher they gave out.

Tip: If you want to play Bingo, wait till later on in the trip because the prize amount will increase significantly

Overall, all the events were enjoyable. There were comedy shows, evening performances, trivia, and more. We had so much fun! Carnival’s entertainment was awesome!

Cost: $15 on Bingo for 3 tickets

4 Land Ho’-Day 1 on Land

Once you hit land, you’re probably going to explore the island. Again, you could end up spending a lot if you book tons of excursions.

Instead of booking those expensive packages, explore the island on your own. Go on an adventure.

You’d be surprised how much fun you could have!

Rent a Scooter in Cozumel, Mexico

Our first stop was Cozumel, Mexico. We rented a motorized scooter and paid $35 for the rental and insurance all included. We also negotiated with the renter, we could’ve easily spent double had we not haggled.

Cost: $35 for scooter rental

Man and Woman Riding Around in Scooter Cozumel Cruise to Mexico On a Budget - My Financial Hill

Riding around in the scooter was so much fun!

If you’re ever in Cozumel, try it out.

When you get off the dock, there will be a line of businesses along the street that rent scooters. Talk to a few of the vendors and find the best deal. That’s the good part about Mexico, you’ll get far with haggling.

Once you get your scooter, the vendor can give you a map or directions to get around Cozumel. It’s really not hard at all. It was actually pretty safe too. There’s a separate pathway for scooters far from the main road which makes riding around much safer and very scenic.

We zipped around Cozumel, ate at a local restaurant, bought some souvenirs, went snorkeling in Playa Palancar (Beach), and headed back to the ship in the late afternoon.

Cost: $24 consisting of $10 for Tacos, $10 for sunglasses and $4 magnets at a local store

Go On Your Own Snorkeling Expedition

You don’t have to pay for a snorkeling expedition, you can just do it yourself. Plus, a lot of the paid expeditions will bring everyone to the same beach which makes it really crowded. You can easily go off on your own adventure and find different beaches in Cozumel that’s not as packed.

When we got to Playa Palancar, we whipped out our own snorkeling gear and checked out the fishes/lobsters in the water. We had our own snorkeling expedition!

You can basically have your own snorkeling fun for free.

One thing to keep in mind is, if you’re on the beach you will most likely have to pay for beach chairs and umbrellas.

We paid a fee of $10 to rent chairs and a shared umbrella. We didn’t mind since we got to stay out of the sun and leave our belongings on the chairs. 

Cost: $10 Rental Beach Chairs and Umbrella 

Skip The Beach Umbrella and Chair Fee

So, of course you could always save that $10 and skip the beach chair and umbrella. Or you could get it for free!

After a couple of hours of snorkeling, we decided to eat at the restaurant that sat right on the beach. They were offering free beach chairs and an umbrella if you ordered something from them.

We ended up ordering a fajita platter and soda for a little snack before we headed back to the ship.

Cost: $15 Fajita Platter and Soda

Tip: If you plan on eating by the beach, check to see if they offer free beach chairs and umbrellas. That way, you don’t have to pay unnecessarily.

Check Out The Small Shops Along The Road

Drinking Coconut By The Beach Cruise to Mexico On a Budget - My Financial Hill

On the way back to the cruise port, we stopped by a coconut stand on the side of the road to get a coconut drink! It was the best coconut drink I ever had. The gentleman made it fresh on the spot! 

Cost: $6 Coconut drink with rum added (Regular coconut drink $3)

There were a few shops along the road from Playa Palancar going back to the ship.

They sold things from beautiful hand woven blankets, clothes, souvenirs, and fresh coconut drinks. It’s definitely worth checking out.

5 Day 2 on Land

If you’re on a 4-5 night cruise, chances are you’ll be stopping off at more than 1 port.

Our second stop in Mexico was Progreso.

We did so much in Cozumel that we wanted to just take it easy in Progreso.

Take a Free Shuttle To The Beach

Two Beach Chairs With Umbrella By Progreso Beach Cruise to Mexico On a Budget - My Financial Hill

When you get off the ship, there will be free shuttles available to take you to the nearest beach called Playa Puerto Progreso.

Once you get off the free shuttle, all you need to do is walk 5 minutes to the beach. It’s very close by.

The beach of Progreso is actually very laid back. It wasn’t really crowded, the water was a warm turquoise color, the sand was nice and soft, overall it was a nice beach.

Get Free Beach Chairs and Umbrella

Just like most beach areas, those chairs and umbrella’s aren’t free.

Walk along the beach and try to haggle with different vendors to see what they offer.

Some may offer free beach chairs and an umbrella if you order from their restaurant. That’s what we did.

The great part is, you don’t have to step foot into the restaurant. It’s close by the beach so the waiter will come to you, take your order, and bring you food / drinks. It’s actually very nice to hang out right on the beach and enjoy some delicious fried fish and drinks.

Overall, we did splurge a little bit at this particular place because we wanted to enjoy our scrumptious fried fish by the water and drinks. We ended up spending $50, $20 for the fish dish, $20 for drinks, and $10 went towards tip and tax. Overall, I don’t regret it since it was our last land day before going back on the cruise ship. 

Cost: $50 Lunch/Drinks on the beach

After our beach day we were headed back towards the shuttle and went through the market. We picked up 2 magnets for $5 for souvenirs. 

Cost: $5 for Souvenirs

Once we got back on the cruise ship, we enjoyed one more day of being on the cruise ship since we were sailing back to our home port. It was sad to have the trip come to an end. 

6 Debarkation 

If you ever go on any Carnival cruise trip, be prepared to have a lot of fun. The best part about cruises are that you can have a great time without spending a lot of money.

Don’t fall into the trap thinking that a few dollars spent here and there isn’t much. It can really add up.

Once your trip comes to an end, you’re going to get an overall bill for everything you purchased while on the cruise.

If you were mindful and didn’t overspend, then the total shouldn’t be shocking.

Ours came out to under $1,000, which we paid for fully using credit card points. We also ended up spending $200 cash in total for a 5 night cruise, which isn’t too shabby I’d say.

One thing I need to mention is try saving some money for your cabin steward. They do such an amazing job and getting your room nice and clean all day, it seems. They definitely deserve a nice tip. We tipped our steward $25, however I think he deserved much more than that. I’m going to have to increase my budget for our next steward.

Cost: $25 Tip for cabin steward

Total Spent:

  • $15 for beers
  • $15 on Bingo for 3 tickets
  • $35 for scooter rental
  • $24 consisting of $10 for Tacos, $10 for sunglasses and $4 magnets at a local store
  • $10 Rental Beach Chairs and Umbrella 
  • $15 Fajita Platter and Soda
  • $6 Coconut drink with rum added (Regular coconut drink $3)
  • $50 Lunch/drinks on the beach
  • $5 for Souvenirs
  • $25 Tip for cabin steward
  • TOTAL $200

Budget Friendly Cruise Tips:

  • Bring your own case of sodas/wine and purchase the cruise’s water package 
  • Avoid the corkage fee by avoiding bringing your own wine to formal dining areas
  • Avoid purchasing the cruise line’s drink package, it can tack on additional $280-$300 per person
  • Check out their drink special discounts (We purchased beers at 50% off on the cruise ship when they advertised)
  • Try their no-fee dining options
  • Stick with their no-fee activities (There are tons of them)
  • If you want to try playing bingo, wait till their jackpot gets higher (usually towards the end of the trip)
  • Try to avoid booking the excursions and go for your own adventure
  • Sodas and other beverages can quickly add up, bring your own bottled water especially when on land. 
  • When purchasing anything in Mexico, try to negotiate, a lot of the vendors will haggle with you
  • Try not to buy too many souvenirs (Do you really need to buy all your co-workers, friends, family something? It can really add up)


If you’re looking to go on a nice cruise, it doesn’t have to put a strain on your finances. Even you could get a free cruise, or even spend minimally while still being able to have tons of fun.

What’s the point in life if you can’t enjoy it. You can still go on great trips and vacations but being budget conscious can help you save more money for your next adventures.

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