The Eight Hidden Costs of Cruising
Every so often, you have probably heard the term "all-inclusive" applied to cruises. A voyage is one of the best values around since all major expenses (lodging, meals, snacks, activities and entertainment) are indeed included in the fare. But there are some items -- mostly of a personal nature -- that are out-of-pocket expenses. So set aside some cash to cover these expenditures to truly make your next sailing the cruise of your dreams. To make sure the incidentals don't break the bank, here are some tips for saving on the "seven seas":
Read the line's shore tour booklet and attend the port lectures given aboard the ship that provide you with more details about the organized tours available for sale on the ship. Prices for these excursions range from about $25 - $45 for a half-day city tour, to more than $200 for some all-day tours, overland programs including meals and snacks, and such exciting offerings as helicopter flight-seeing and hot-air ballooning.
Savings Tip: While you may wish to sign up for some of the ship's tours (particularly if you are not familiar with the port and do not speak the language), you also have the option to tour independently at a fraction of the cost -- or even for free, if you go on a self-guided walking tour. Before setting sail, request free planners with maps, calendars of events and attraction brochures for the ports of call on your itinerary from tourist boards.
Check out books on your destination from the public library, and visit Web sites, particularly the Ports of Call, to give you ideas for touring in the ports. Look over the calendars from the tourist offices for festivals or crafts displays which are sources of good, free entertainment during your visit. Art galleries showcasing local work, parks and beaches are . Other free or nominal charge attractions to check ou includes museums and native crafts exhibits. Hiring a car and driver to take you on a private tour, or just into the center of town, can often be less expensive that the shipboard excursions. But always agree on the price, and in the case of a tour, what specific points of interest will be covered, before you board the car.
Cruise Ships Drinks and Alcohol
Alcohol and other Beverages: Alcoholic beverages and wine are not included in the cruise fare on most lines, with the exception of some ultra-deluxe lines. And your tab can add up: hard liquor, cocktails and wine range from $3.50 - $8 apiece, or even more, depending on the cruise line; soft drinks run $1.50 - $2.
Savings Tip: Most vessels advertise "daily drink specials" you may want to try. At meals, iced tea, milk, coffee and juices are complimentary. If you are traveling with children, find out if your ship offers "soda packages" that feature unlimited sodas during the cruise for about $15 - $20. Or bring-your-own. We pick up soda six-packs in port. Be forewarned, though: cruise line have highly restrictive policies about bringing alcohol onboard.
Shipboard casinos keep getting bigger and bigger, so it is safe to say that the lines are doing well at their tables and slots.
Savings Tip: Set a limit as to how much you are willing to risk, and leave if you lose it. Or better yet, avoid the casino altogether. There are plenty of other diversions onboard, like music for dancing, production shows, variety entertainment and TV-style game shows that will not set you back a penny!
A massage is typically around $90 - $110. Take advantage of ship discounts on port days. Most shipboard spas are operated by Steiner's of London, and the staff, which works on commission, often gives you a sales pitch -- sometimes called a "prescription" -- for you to buy several of their products.
Savings Tip: If you get a sales pitch and do not want the products, just smile and say you will think about it and get back to them. Or be bold right up front, and ask not to be bothered with sales pitches at all. Another tip: check your ship's daily program of activities for ads for spa treatment specials that may be available for one day only or during certain hours of a given day.
You probably want to purchase something to remember your cruise, and it may take a lot of willpower to pass up on the beautiful -- and expensive -- figurines, perfumes, designer fashions and leather goods if you are on a tight budget.
Savings Tip: Avoid temptation by not browsing in the boutiques onboard and ashore if you cannot afford to buy. If you do plan to purchase some souvenirs, check the prices of merchandise at stores back home and bring pages of their sales catalogs for the particular items you are interested in to compare prices. They may be cheaper at home. Local products such as coffee and jellies and handicrafts from outdoor markets and street vendors make good, inexpensive souvenirs.
As at land-based resorts, laundry and dry cleaning charges on a cruise can be steep. A t-shirt can cost $2.50 - $3.50 to wash. Check to see if there is a self-service launderette and use it instead. Typically, washing and drying one load of clothes comes to about $2 - $3.
Savings Tip: If there is no launderette, pack enough changes of clothes for the cruise and do the wash when you get back home.
Film and Other Camera Needs
Getting additional film, batteries and other camera supplies will not only cost you more. Generally, each item will cost $1 - $2 more than if you had bought the same articles at a discount store before leaving home. Plus, who wants to spend precious time shopping for those things? Ships' photographers typically charge $7 - $9 per photo, $15 - $20 per formal portrait.
Savings Tip: Buy plenty of film and other camera supplies on sale at home, and bring more than you think you will need, just in case. Take your own pictures and rely sparingly, if at all, on the ship's photographers.
Many lines recommend about $10 per person per day: $4 per day for the dining room waiter; $2 for the assistant waiter; $4 for the cabin steward. If you have butler service, be prepared to tip that crew member $4 per day. Bar tabs are charged a 15 percent gratuity automatically. When the maitre d' performs a special service, such as arranging for a birthday cake to be brought to the table, he should be tipped as well. U.K. travelers will find that tips are typically built into the cruise fare. You can, of course, give tips for exceptional service.
Savings Tip: These folks -- particularly the waiters, assistant waiters and cabin stewards -- work very hard. Unless the service has been poor, tip the recommended amount. And add a little more, if you can, for outstanding attention.
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