Home TIPS Cruise prices are great, but expect add-ons
Cruise prices are great, but expect add-ons PDF Print E-mail

Cruise ship with dollar sign

We just returned from an excellent cruise out of San Diego down the Mexican Baja coast to Cabo San Lucas and return. We had a comfy balcony cabin, great food, fun games and Vegas-style entertainment, for about $600 each for the five night trip. All were included in the price. Ya can't beat such a deal!

No real complaints, but if there’s a downside to such bargains, it’s because the cruise extras can be extra expensive. If you’re planning a sailing soon, enjoy the heck out of it, but here are tips for avoiding possible rip-offs:

1. Drinks: You get coffee, tea, juices and lemonade free, but soft drinks and booze are extra expensive. We paid $5 for Cokes and up to $10 for beer and mixed drinks.

2. On our cruise, there were buffet meals, hot dog/burger/pizza stands and the main dining room for sit-down meals, all included. However, if you choose to go to exclusive special dining rooms, an extra fee of $25 per meal is added.

3. Excursions at ports run from $100 and up each, and usually include guided bus tours to the usual tourist spots and shopping marts. In many port towns you can get off the ship and wander around on your own for free. Or you can gang up with another couple and take a taxi to the same places for a total of about $50. Excursions ashore that offer swim with dolphins, sting rays or snorkeling can cost $150 an up. You’re not allowed to take your own pix, and souvenir pix of you holding a dolphin can cost $50 and up.

4. Each ship has a retail mall, often very posh stores with grossly overpriced goods. For instance, a logo t-shirt worth $5 sells for $20. Also, on the last day of the cruise, prices may come down 50%, but are still higher than you’ll find in regular stores. Of course, the ship’s logo or picture of the port city on the front make the t-shirts attractive souvenirs and bragging subjects for the folks back home.

5. Fine art auctions: Not sure if these are authentic or rip-offs of copied works of familiar art and artists. However, the auctions are highly hyped, and may include ringers in the audience who keep boosting the prices. You could be talked into buying a painting for $500 (plus s&h) that could cost $100 at your local mall’s art gallery.

6. Tipping is potentially the biggest expense on cruises. Our fare of $600 each for the trip required about another $100 each for tips. You’re expected to tip your cabin steward, the dining room maitre d, head waiter, assistant waiter, busboy, bartender and maybe a dishwasher or two.

A total of $10 or so in tips daily for each day of the cruise really adds up. No way to avoid this, but ask your travel agent about the option to sign up in advance for tip totals to be automatically added to your bill. Otherwise, you’ll need to run around on the last cruise day giving out cash to half a dozen or more crew people.

Don’t get me wrong. On our most recent cruise, the service people were absolutely great, and we know they’re away from their familes six months or more a year, and are paid minimum wages or less. So, to us tipping them was a pleasure. However, when you sign up for a $600 bargain cruise, be aware that you’ll be expected to pay out much more in tips.

7. Photos: There’s the photo guy at the gangway as you board the ship, and the usual guy with the camera who roams ship’s dining rooms, clubs, pools and other places shooting pix. Prints are posted and cost $25 to $50 each. With today’s cell phone and digital cameras, you should be able to take all the pix you’ll ever need, make jpegs on your computer and print them at home for about $1 each.

Additionally, there’s usually a fashion photo guy set up with glamor lights and sets. The prints can be of great pro quality, but unless you’re looking to be discovered by Hollywood, do you need the glamor shots for $150 each?

8. Finally, we certainly believe cruise bargains today are well worth it, but once you’re aboard, be aware of all the ways you can be induced and seduced to shell out a lot more dough.


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