Considering Taking A Cruise?
If you’re new to cruising or are just now considering your first cruise, we’d like to help you understand what’s involved in taking that cruise and the costs and ways to save..
Cruising may actually be one of the best values in travel today, especially when considering family vacation resort costs, meals, transportation. It’s like an all-inclusive resort with the added advantage of visiting multiple destinations. Almost everyone has planned a family vacation where after it’s all done they’ve realized they went way over budget. Hotels, car expenses, gas, meals, attraction admission, they all add up and often can’t be accurately predicted.
Cruising has several areas of fixed costs:
- The original booking cost (the amount indicated after choosing a cabin)
- Port fees and taxes (often these are provided at the time of booking)
- Tipping (these are calculated on per person per day)
In addition to those above there will the expense of getting to and from the departure port and parking, if any.
After the above listed expenses everything else is based on paying for extras or add-ons. Those usually include sodas and alcoholic beverages, speciality dining, shore excursions, gambling in the casino, onboard shopping and the spa. If you can resist all of those, your vacation cruise will be completely paid for by those fixed costs.
There’s a lot included in that all-inclusive price (prepaid fare, port fees, taxes and tips) included:
- Three meals per day in the main dining venues.
- A huge buffet for three meals a day.
- Great entertainment each evening in the theater from Broadway style shows to headline singers, comics and more.
- Live lounge entertainers (Tip – buying a drink is not required).
- Access to swimming pools and hot tubs.
- Scheduled activities like sports, trivia and more (think belly flop competition or “The Marriage Game”).
- Games like bingo and often a free small stake to play in the casino.
- Usually free coffee, ice cream, pizza and more are available all day long.
- Free camp programs for children.
Some cruise ships offer additional entertainment venues like ice skating shows, acrobatic shows, diving demonstrations, educational lectures and they’re thinking up new ideas to add all the time.
So it really is possible to take a cruise, have a great time and not spend anything extra. But if you want more than that basic cruise experience and you don’t want to go overboard (the pun just happened), you will need to set a budget for those extra expenses. For that we have a number of tips and ideas on not just saving many on many of those extras but also some suggestions on saving money before you depart on the cruise.
To start with there are ways to save in booking a cruise. They include:
- Use A Travel Agent – When booking a cruise, a travel agent is your best friend. Not only are the costs of the cruise the exact same, there are opportunities to save some additional. Read HERE for more information.
- Keep Watching Fares After You Book – Cruise pricing is much like airline pricing; it changes constantly based on complex formulas about how many people have booked and overall travel trends. The difference is that after you buy an airline ticket you done, they won’t change your ticket cost. In cruising they will normally adjust you fare downward if there’s a better price right up to the time of your final payment.
- Always Book Your Next Cruise Onboard – Every cruise ship has a future cruise office onboard and if you book with them you will usually receive a few extra perks that can include reduced deposit, cabin upgrades and free add-ons. So if you think you want to keep cruising, don’t miss that opportunity and your travel agent will still get the commission.
After booking there are more options to save – or at least reduce your onboard extra costs.
- Shore Excursions – Cruise shore excursions aren’t free and at times they can be very pricey. They do have some real advantages to consider. First they’re well planned out for you, no metro tickets to buy and no need to figure out where you’re going and how to get there. Next, there’s no risk of being late getting back and on your own the ship will sail without you. If you plan ahead you can actually see more, spend less and eliminate that risk of being late. Read HERE for more information.
- Specialty Dining – This has become a big “add-on” money maker for the cruise ships, and it can also have a big impact on your budget. The biggest issue we have is the food and service onboard is usually exceptional. So why spend a lot of extra money? If you want to splurge, say for a special occasion, plan ahead. Often making a reservation and paying ahead of the cruise can result in good savings (it also allows you to budget ahead). Booking a speciality dining reservation on the first day of a cruise can also involve a discount.
- Alcohol and Other Beverages – If you’re looking at where cruise ships make the most money – this is it (Also the casino). Drinks are expensive and we’ve seen family and friends completely blow their budgets on drinks. Again plan ahead as most cruises now offer drink packages (a prepaid option often offered in tiers). Before you buy do a little math based on what you expect you’ll drink to make sure the package is right for you. Once you decide stay within your budget. Also, some cruise ships allow passengers to initially bring on board a bottle of wine. Your stateroom attendant can provide you with glasses and that alone can save you $25 to $50. Read HERE for more information.
- Spa and Salon Treatments – Everyone has their own priorities but this one comes at a premium. Spa packages average $50 per person per day. Yoga, Pilates, and spinning classes are usually extra but the gym and steam rooms are normally free to use.
- Special Cruise Activities (Like go karts, sky diving, etc) – Depending on the cruise line, the ship and the activity these range from free to a hefty charge.
- Shopping – Most shops onboard feature souvenirs for the ports visited and the cruise ship itself and the prices seem in line for what they are. There are also speciality shops for jewelry, watches, fashions, cameras and more and often the prices represent a savings (often duty free). One area of note is “art”. These programs are common on cruises and are a franchise and most often provide auction sales. If you’re interested in buying art – know what they’re offering and what it’s really worth (using some internet time with a search on Ebay can be a real eye opener).
- Onboard Photos – Portraits onboard can become treasured keepsakes and the ships photographers have become very good at their craft. Just keep in mind that you don’t have to buy that photo and at times you’ll be offered a photo package so decide what you’re will to spend.
- Cruise Wi-Fi – We’ve all become addicted to the internet but at sea it can become an expensive addiction. Also, the speed isn’t what you’re used to at home. Before you cruise check out the cost and what packages are available. If it’s too pricy, in most ports there are inexpensive options but be aware of the risks of using public wi-fi (VPN is a good option).
- Phone Calls At Sea – There is a phone in your stateroom and you can call home with it, but expect to pay $5 to $8 per minute. You can also use your cell phone but expect to pay about the same (check with your provider before you sail). The only cellular provider that has reasonably priced cruise packages is AT&T and that’s because they own a company called Cellular At Sea. Read HERE for more information.
- Gambling In The Casino – Most ships have an onboard casino and just like the on land options it is likely to cost you some money, but nobody is forcing you to play. Often they’ll try and get you to play with an account credit which is basically free money**.
- Onboard Laundry – Available laundry services vary by ship from a do-it-yourself laundromat to full send out laundry service. For longer cruises consider clothes that you can rinse out and dry. Read HERE for more information.
Want to read more about cruising? Find a list of our articles all about cruising HERE.
** In some instances there is actually a way to cash out the credit without playing – details HERE.