How To Avoid Extra Cruise Spending
Cruising is one of the best vacation values going.
The "all-inclusive" fare includes accommodations, meals, and
entertainment. Still, there are extra costs that can really bloat
the cruise cost. Here’s some insight into what to look for and how
to keep your budget afloat.
Last summer, John and Helen Finch of Pittsburgh
took their first cruise ever, a seven-day Alaska inside passage
cruise on the Sun Princess. Faced daily with attractive art,
Helen decided to attend one of the ship’s onboard art auctions.
Before she knew it, she ended up paying hundreds of dollars on
several lithographs—not something she planned for. On top of that,
she and John had visited the spa, ordered cocktails daily, booked
tours, and gambled in the ship’s casino. When all was said and done,
the Finch’s had tacked on an additional $2000 to their cruise.
Cruise lines have always charged additional fees for shore
excursions, alcoholic beverages, and spa treatments. Now, lines are
expanding their menu of extras to include luxuries such as art
auctions, premium restaurants, Internet access, and other onboard
activities. The key to avoiding a final bill that empties your
wallet is knowing what to expect and planning which services or
items you'll buy.
Shore excursion fees can be expensive,
particularly on destination intensive itineraries such as Alaska,
Europe, and Hawaii. In most instances, it's easy to arrange your own
excursions and save money. Most destinations have tourist
information on their websites listing local companies that offer
excursions. There are even companies on the Internet that can book
your shore excursions before you leave home. Check out Port Promotions and Shore
bottled water, and alcoholic drinks can really add up, particularly
at the prices charged on most ships. These refreshments are not
included in the cruise fare on most lines (with the exception of
some ultra-deluxe lines). Obviously, cruise lines prefer that you
buy alcoholic drinks directly from them. Still, you may be able to
sneak a bottle aboard in port for consumption in your cabin. If you
are traveling with children, find out if your ship offers "soda
packages" that feature unlimited sodas during the cruise for about
$15 to $35.
the new mainstream and premium cruise vessels offer alternative
restaurants with an extra charge ranging from $5 to $25 per person.
As an example, NCL's "freestyle cruising" offers a variety of
excellent alternative dining, including sushi at a reasonable cost
($5 to $10).
With the exception
of a few premium and luxury cruise lines that have a "no tipping
required" policy, you're expected to tip your cabin steward, dining
room waiter, and assistant waiter. Many lines recommend that each
passenger tip about $9 per day to the cabin steward ($3.50 per day),
dining room waiter ($3.50 per day), and assistant waiter ($2 per
day). Bar bills are automatically charged a 15 percent
Some cruise lines offer the option of pre-paying
gratuities by adding them to your credit card. Aboard other ships,
you leave cash in an envelope the last evening of your cruise.
Understand these folks work very hard to make your cruise top-notch.
Unless the service has been poor, tip the recommended amount. For
outstanding service, add a little more if you can.
Shipboard casinos are getting
bigger and bigger, which means that more and more passengers are
losing money at sea. If you decide to roll the dice, set a limit as
to how much you wish to risk and leave if you lose it.
While pampering goes well
with a cruise vacation, frequenting the ship's spa can be costly. A
massage can range anywhere from $60 to $120 (plus 18 percent
gratuity) per hour. The staff on most shipboard spas works on
commission for Steiner Leisure of London, and often give you a sales
pitch for their products after your treatments. Unless you really
like the products, don’t feel compelled to purchase them. If you
want to use the spa for less, look for discounted specials that are
offered at given times on the cruise.
Many cruise lines hold expensive art
auctions onboard. Paintings, lithographs, or sculptures can run
anywhere from a hundred to several thousand dollars. Unless you an
art aficionado, avoid this part of the cruise.
Most ships have
Internet access, but often charge up to a dollar per minute. Some
ships like Disney’s offer unlimited use for a fixed fee, usually
around $80 for a seven-day cruise. You can save a lot of money by
visiting the nearest Internet facility in port, which are usually a
fraction of the cost.
and dry cleaning charges on a cruise can be exorbitant. For example,
a t-shirt can cost upwards of $3 and a pair of underwear $1.50 to
wash. Check to see if there is a self-service launderette that is
much cheaper, typically $2 to $3 per
Buy plenty of film and other
camera supplies at home, because once onboard, the price doubles. As
an example, an underwater camera cost $20 on my last cruise versus
$9 at Wal-Mart. Also, keep in mind that the ships' photographers
typically charge $8 to $12 per photo and $20 to $30 per formal
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