pass, room key... ultimately, it's a "Sail 'n
charge, charge and you can see the cost of your cruise
vacation rising faster than a helicopter over Alaska's glaciers.
Holding down the add-on expenses isn't easy—after
all, it's your vacation, you deserve it, and you want it to be
special. However, there are ways to keep those costs minimal.
Start in the planning stages.
Most cruise lines offer air and sea packages that save you the
trouble of hunting for and booking your own flights, but they may
not be the most cost-effective choice. You may be able to save a
tidy sum by searching for a discounted fare on the Internet or by
using the miles you've accumulated in an airline frequent flier
By arranging your own air, you'll
be responsible for transfers between the airport and ship.
However, a real bonus is that you may save enough not only for
transfers, but also for a pre-cruise hotel stay. It's always great
to arrive early to unwind and to insure that you won't miss the
boat—a real possibility with airline
delays and cancellations.
Whether or not to BYOB (Bring
Your Own Beverages) is a hot cruise passenger topic. Many cruise
lines look the other way at soft drinks and bottled water toted by
embarking passengers, but they are increasingly intolerant of
allowing them to bring alcoholic beverages on board. A bottle of
wine or champagne for a special occasion are usually okay, but
don't even think of carting on a case of beer. If you must
BYOB to save money, stick to soft drinks. Or, be creative and send
yourself a cost-effective bon voyage gift of your favorite spirits
to be delivered to your stateroom by the cruise line.
Bar drinks and wine typically
cost about what patrons would expect to pay at a nice lounge or
restaurant in a resort or at home (depending on where you live).
Keep in mind, unless you really want a souvenir glass as a
keepsake, order your umbrella drinks in regular glasses—you
will pay extra for the fancy glass. Wine by the bottle is a
more economical choice at dinner than ordering it by the glass.
Any wine you don't finish will be kept for you for the next night.
Gifts of wine or champagne ordered from the cruise line
(either by you, a friend, or your travel agent) can be taken to
the dining room. Wine from any other source will incur a
"corkage" fee of approximately $8-10 per bottle.
Naturally, tap water is always
plentiful and free. Why not bring along a powdered drink mix such
as Crystal Light for a flavorful and refreshing change? An
insulated cup or mug makes it easy to prepare and keep chilled—cabin
stewards keep ice buckets filled in passenger staterooms. Or,
order up a pitcher of fruit juice from room service. Juices are
complimentary and a healthy choice.
In lounges, order the less
expensive "bar brand" mixed drinks or the reduced price
drink-of-the-day. On some ships discounted "beverage
cards" for unlimited fountain soft drinks and/or a set number
of mixed drinks are available. Be sure to attend the Captain's
Welcome Aboard party where complimentary drinks are usually served and, if
you are a repeat passenger, don't miss the repeaters' get together
for the same reason. It really isn't fun to sit around drinking in
your cabin and a big part of a cruise is the sociability
found in public areas of the ship.
& Games of Chance
Just don't go there if you can't afford losing your
vacation cash. On the other hand, feeding a $10 roll
of quarters into a slot machine can be entertaining, as can a
session of Bingo. Determine if you can afford to lose your
"seed money" and play responsibly, if at all.
Smile for the ship's photographers. Portraits can be a lasting memory of your
cruise, but you are under no obligation to purchase them. Take
your own camera and ask a fellow passenger to snap your photo. If
your camera is digital, you won't even have to pay for developing.
Yes, you can spend extra on
alternative dining in fancy restaurants at sea. However, there
isn't any need to. You can eat yourself into oblivion in the
dining rooms, buffets, or by ordering room service at no
additional charge on almost any ship. For a special treat and the
low cost of about $15 to $30 per person, you can experience a
really upscale dining experience.
Some ships have high-end ice cream stands and coffee bars that
charge for these treats. No need to put extra charges on your
account for them, though. Complimentary ice cream is often served
during the late afternoon in the buffet area and offered as a
dessert selection in the dining rooms. Free coffee and tea are
usually are available 24-hours a day someplace on most ships and
an insulated mug brought from home can be handy to fill up at
the beverage station.
Tipping is one of the most
personal and controversial aspects of cruising. Some luxury lines,
such as Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea Cruises, and
SeaDream Yacht Club, include tips in the cruise fare; other cruise
lines do not and you are strongly encouraged to reward good
service. Most cruise lines suggest a tipping guideline and some
even add those amounts automatically to on board accounts. If you
wish to adjust the amount, simply do so at the Purser's Desk.
This is a good time to point out
that ship-to-shore telephone calls are very expensive—ranging
from $6 to $10 a minute. Most ships are wired for Internet
access these days and email is a far cheaper way to stay in
contact with the office or family. Connections can run from 50
cents to a dollar a minute and often are slow. If your cruise ship
has a 'package' deal of a certain number of minutes for a set fee,
you will often pay less per minute. However, if you can wait until
you arrive in ports of call, shoreside Internet cafes are often
inexpensive and have fast connectivity.
To save money while online, set
up a simple web-based email account with Yahoo. Accessing Yahoo is
universally very fast and you can get web-based email anywhere in
the world. Don't use the email address assigned to you on your
cruise ship; it's almost always more expensive than using a
web-based mail account.
Your cell phone is another option to the pricey cabin phone.
Most ships offer cell phone access these days, so check with
your phone service carrier to determine whether they have an
agreement with the cruise line's service provider. In addition,
you will also have to enable international roaming in order to
use your phone on board and in most ports. Per minute charges
will be billed by your mobile phone service company.
& Dry Cleaning
These services can really add up,
especially laundry, as charges are per item and the rates are
similar to those charged in hotels. Top category suites on some
cruise lines, such as Silversea Cruises and Holland America Line,
include complimentary laundry service. If doing laundry is
important to you and you don't want to send it out to be done,
look for a cruise ship that features a low-cost or free
self-serve laundry room (they usually feature an iron and ironing
board in addition to washer and dryer). An alternative is to wash
hand laundry and hang it to dry in your bathroom. Tuck a small
bottle of laundry liquid and clothes pins in your suitcase.
Don't bring along a travel iron
to touch up wrinkled garments! Irons are a fire hazard. Instead,
pack a clothing steamer or hang wrinkled items on the bathroom
door while you take a steamy shower. Wrinkles should fall out.
No one wants to contemplate
getting sick or having an accident during their cruise, but
unfortunate things can happen. Most group insurance policies do
not cover members when they are out of the country and Medicare
assuredly does not. Check your coverage before leaving home and
consider purchasing travel insurance for peace of mind and
unexpected contingencies. It can be a wise investment because the
cost of a typical policy may run about the same as a trip to the
You may feel it's your duty to
shop, but it won't be free. Ship boutiques are stocked with
jewelry, tee-shirts, crystal, fancy formal wear, and liquor and
cigarettes at duty-free prices. What they don't carry, you will
find in shops at nearly every port of call. Limit your purchases
to necessities and try not to forget essentials such as your
toothbrush—items we take for granted often
cost far more on a cruise ship than at the local drug store.
These can carry a big price tag,
so select them wisely. Shore excursions range from a simple
half-day bus tour for less than $50 per person to exotic
adventures and helicopter flights that can run hundreds of dollars per
person. Some tours are cheaper if you arrange them yourself,
either by contacting a tour operator ahead of time or hiring a
guide when you arrive in port. In the latter case, the per person
cost can be cut even further if you share your guide and
transportation with another couple.
Salons, Personal Trainers & Specialized Exercise Classes
Modern cruise ships have
elaborate spa and salon facilities that offer a menu of massages,
body wraps, facials, and skin treatments as well as hair and nail
services for both sexes. Unless your cruise plans include this
type of pampering, get haircuts and manicures before leaving home
and bring along your own polish for fingernail touch-ups. Many
ships also have therapy pools, steam rooms, and saunas. Steam and
sauna are generally included in the cruise fare; the use of
thermal suites and therapy pools often are not. You may be able to get a free mini-spa
treatment or hair styling by volunteering on embarkation day to be
the "demo" person during their spa and beauty
Large cruise ship gyms feature an
array of exercise machines available without charge. Also
complimentary are most simple aerobics and exercise classes, but
some specialty classes (such as yoga) and personalized instruction
are extra. If there is any question in your mind, ask about fees
before you join a class. Walking and jogging around the deck are
always free and offer the benefit of invigorating sea air.
The cost of a simple day at the
beach can skyrocket if you rent snorkel gear, floats, and other
water toys. While there's nothing you can do to cut down on the
cost of a jet ski rental, you can save money by bringing along
some of your own toys. Discount and sporting goods stores sell
snorkel gear relatively cheap and a blow-up rubber raft can cost
as little as a few dollars. Take your own and if you don't want
to bother carrying them home, give them away—you
can really delight a local youngster with a simple gift and save
money to boot.
Scuba tours are often offered for
certified divers, but independent arrangements can be made with a
local dive shop and you can bring your own gear. Golfers may avoid
equipment charges by bringing their own clubs, but should be
prepared for hefty greens fees at resort courses.
With wheeled luggage you can
manage it yourself and avoid the open palms of airport skycaps and
hotel porters. Do not stiff the stevedores at the pier, though.
You want your bags to make it on the ship, not land in the water.
Just a reminder... make sure your
luggage doesn't exceed the airline's weight limit and allowance
for the maximum number of checked suitcases. Airlines now tack on
a variety of fees these days, so check ahead and you won't be
unpleasantly surprised at the airport.
On the last morning of every
cruise there are increasingly frantic announcements requesting
that so-and-so report to the Purser's Office to settle an on board
account. I've often speculated whether or not they overextended
their credit card limit. A bit of pre-planning not only will make
all the difference in the enjoyment of your cruise, but it can
also take a lot of the worry out of straining your resources.
IS & Is NOT Included In Your Cruise Fare
& Sea Programs: How They Work
(Cruising) Pirate's Cache (how to get freebies on board)
Savvy Cruise Travel: The services offered by major cruise
Strategies for smart
Your Cruise Vacation
You Should Know About Travel Insurance
Limitations for Cruisers