Home YOU ASK - WE ANSWER Cruises: How really all-inclusive are they?
Cruises: How really all-inclusive are they? PDF Print E-mail

Q: My husband just retired from the Marine Corps, and we’re planning our first cruise. The price quote of less than $100 a day all-inclusive seems fantastic. However, friends warned us that extra charges on the ship and shore excursions can add up. How do we keep our cruise costs within budget?

Jill P., Corpus Christi TX

A: First, we consider cruises to be about the best vacation you can have at any cost. They’re advertised as all-inclusive for one bargain price, and if you stick close to it, a cruise is the most economical luxury vacation.

However, as with everything you buy these days, from cars to flights to hotel rooms, there are heavy add-ons. Here are a few bits of advice on how to keep your cruise costs as close to budget as possible.

1. Cabin: Save a lot of money by taking lowest-priced. No balcony nor big outside view, but you’ll only be in the cabin nightly to sleep. If you want ocean views, get out on deck.

2. Shore excursions: For a couple of hours by bus in port area, the cost is $50 on up. Get together with another couple and hire a local taxi. Much cheaper and no dragging on and off crowded tourist bus.

3. Upscale dining: Special on-board restaurant costs $50 and up extra per meal. The public dining room and buffets are more than adequate.

4. Spas: If you want to indulge for $100 or more per massage, go for it. Otherwise the ship’s pool and whirlpools are more than adequate.

5. Booze and soft drinks: They are overpriced and NOT included, so if you drink them throughout the cruise, you may see an extra $200 or more on the bill when you pay it.

6. Tipping: No getting away from it, and expect it to add at least 15% to your total cost. Check with the purser when you board and find out the most economical and convenient tipping system. It’s usually preprinted envelopes to put tips for stewards and dining room employees.

If you buy drinks at the ship’s bars and theaters, the tips can add another $100 or more to your costs.

Summary: Don’t spoil your cruise enjoyment by counting pennies. Just make smart choices on those costs beyond the all-inclusive budget.

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