Budgeting Tips for a Cruise to Tonga
Cruising the Pacific Ocean on a luxurious cruise, hopping from one idyllic island to the next, is not a bad way to explore the South Pacific. Tonga is on the itinerary of many cruise ships, as we outline in Taking a Cruising to Tonga, but it’s also a place where many cruise liners can charge unnecessary costs for activities, excursions and food. To make sure your trip to paradise isn’t more expensive than it needs to be, we’ve put together this list of ways to save money on a cruise to Tonga!
Just so that it’s clear, this list is about saving money on a cruise ship to Tonga, not about the cruises and boat trips within Tonga.
1. Book Shore Excursions Independently
As much as a cruise is about the experience on the ship, it’s also about the amazing places you visit. Tonga’s ports of Nuku’alofa and Vava’u have amazing experiences that await, from island tours to swimming with whales! However, cruise companies are renowned for over-pricing shore excursion activities, as some cruises are known to mark up the price by a whopping 300%! Book your activities independently, either direct with activity providers or on booking engines like Viator or Tripadvisor instead! Get inspired for things to do at the port you’re visiting with our 10 Must-Dos in Nuku’alofa and 10 Must-Dos in Vava’u.
2. Book Some Onboard Activities on Port Days
Now let’s get to those activities on the boat! From the spa to rock climbing, there is more choice than ever when it comes to onboard activities. However, all those activities add up. As most passengers leave the boat on port days, cruise companies have the habit of heavily discounting their onboard activities. So if you have your mindset on that indulgent spa treatment, book it on a port day and save big bucks. If you’re strategic enough, you could even pamper yourself early morning and have a whole day to explore your destination too!
3. Check out the Free Things to Do in Nuku’alofa
Nuku’alofa is one of the most popular ports that cruises call at in Tonga. You can even enjoy the city without spending a dime, as the city centre is a mere 5-10-minute walk from Vuna Wharf, where your ship will call at. We recommend meandering the amazing array of handicrafts at the Talamahu Market and the Langafonua Handicrafts Centre. Check out the sights, like the Royal Palace and the Royal Tombs. Or how about an affordable cultural tour at Ancient Tonga (more info on Viator and Tripadvisor)? And the list continues in the 10 Free & Cheap Things to Do in Nuku’alofa.
4. And Check out the Free Things to Do in Vava’u!
Neiafu, the second-largest town in Tonga and the hub of Vava’u, is another stop on many cruise ship itineraries. Following the same advice to the point above, you can also find a great deal of free and cheap things to do in Vava’u to fill up your port day. Mingle with the locals at the Neiafu Market, browse the amazing crafts at one of the shops, take a tour of the Vava’u Pearl Centre, take a tour of the incredible ‘Ene ‘io Botanical Gardens with pick-up included and more!
5. Get Tongan Pa’anga Onshore, Not on the Ship
With extremely unfavourable exchange rates (for you, not for the cruise ship), exchanging money can be one of the most costly things to do on a cruise. Onshore, we’ve found much more advantageous rates from currency bureaus in the towns. If you want peace of mind having currency before arriving in Tonga, get yourself some Tongan pa’anga in your country of origin before boarding your cruise. Although the rates are not likely to be as good as in Tonga, you will still save plenty compared to exchanging currency on your ship.
6. Don’t Tip Too Much
It might sound harsh, but there’s a good reason not to tip, as it’s likely that you’re tipping already… Many cruise liners have a policy of including gratuity (understand “mandatory tip”) to all their pricing. This means that any tip you give to your waiter or staff will be given on top of the already-included tip.
7. Scout Out the Restaurant and Drink Specials
Of course, some cruises will include buffet meals in the cruise rate, but if you’re a bit of a foodie, you’ll probably be tempted by the array of restaurants on your ship. In this case, hunt for specials, especially at lunch, and save big bucks on food! Another nifty trick is that if you do not finish your bottle of wine, you can ask to cork it and keep it for your next meal. Some cruise ships even allow you to transfer your wine bottle to any restaurant onboard.
8. Eat Onshore
Sticking with the food theme, you can also save money on eating outside of your cruise ship’s buffet by checking out the restaurants onshore when you’re in Tonga. Food in Tonga is very well priced, a cultural experience and absolutely delicious. Not sure where to start, what about checking out our Favourites Eats in Nuku’alofa or Best Restaurants in Vava’u for start? If you want to go ultra-cheap, see the Top Cheap Eats in Nuku’alofa.
9. Bargain for a Good Deal with Your Travel Agent
One of the most profitable travel products for travel agents to sell is cruises. For this reason, you’ll find that they have a bit more room to play should you want to give your bargaining skills a try. If you bundle your cruise with flights or other accommodation, you are bound to be able to get yourself an upgrade, a discount or some freebies – it’s always worth asking!
10. Buy Souvenirs Onshore
There are two reasons you will want to buy souvenirs in Tonga, rather than at your ship’s gift store. The first is the point of this article, to pay generally better prices for Tongan souvenirs, while the second is because the souvenirs in Tonga are almost always handmade and unique – you’ll see craftspeople making the souvenirs right before your eyes! Check out gift stores worth visiting in Where to Buy the Best Souvenirs in Tonga.