You did it! You decided that sailing the high seas will make for a perfect upcoming family vacation. As a savvy consumer, you've probably Googled and researched every possible way to save money on your upcoming adventure as well. Now what do you REALLY need to budget for when taking that dream vacation.
While a cruise may be one the best travel values for your money, you may not have fully embraced the extras that may run up your bill faster than you can say "ahoy". Here are some of the costs associated with cruising that you may not have factored into your budget.
Extras can be fun and oh so enticing but remember, the more will power you have to say "no", the better your wallet will feel when you get back home.
It is customary on almost every cruise* for you to tip for services provided by your wait staff, cabin steward and other staff members. These tips range from $11-$13 per day per person and are automatically added to your bill upon arrival (usually on the second day of your cruise). This is the only extra charge that I will personally deem as mandatory.
You can get these charges adjusted up or down as you see fit at customer services, however, keep in mind that the staff relies on these tips as most of their salary.
*Some cruise lines add the price of gratuities into their fare price.
Part of the allure of cruising is the exotic locations that your ship with sail to but with a price tag of $25-$200 per person per excursion it can really add up. Be sure to do your research before you leave home. You'll be able to find details and pricing for each excursion in the cruise line's shore tour booklet or on their website.
If you're on a limited budget, you may opt for beach time or a simple city tour instead of an all-day sightseeing tour. Keep in mind that some shore excursions include extras such as food and drinks while others may not, leaving you with the responsibility to cover those costs on your own.
You may also chose to tour independently of what the cruise line offers as this may be a cheaper option. Do your research before hand of the locations that you will visit. There are plenty of online resources such as CruiseCritic.com, that will help you find the best independent tours to take at your destination.
If you chose to go this route, keep this in mind - should you get back to the ship after it's departure time, it will more than likely NOT wait for you and you will be responsible for your own transportation to the next destination.
While some non-alcoholic drinks such as punch, lemonade, tap water, coffee and tea are complementary, other drinks which include but are not limited to soft drinks, bottled water and alcohol are usually not. Some cruise lines offer packages that allow you to pay a set price per day for unlimited drinks; just make sure the price is less than the amount you would normally consume.
Most lines allow you to bring a small amount of wine or champagne (usually one bottle per person) and a limited amount of other non-alcoholic drinks such as bottled water or soft drinks. Make sure to check with your lines' policies before boarding.
Most of the food available onboard is included in your fare and it's seemingly endless. There are a variety of options to choose from that are sure to satisfy almost every palate; everything from 24 hour pizza to steamed Lobster. But, if it's a quiet Steakhouse dinner you crave, that might set you back $70 per couple. There's nothing wrong with splurging a little on your vacation, just be sure to know what you are paying ahead of time and budget accordingly.
Let's face it, nowadays we're connected more than ever mostly in part to social media. It's only natural for us to want to share pictures and updates of our fun vacation with our friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Staying connected in the middle of the ocean will not be cheap and can cost you up to $0.75 per minute. Some lines offer packages at a slightly lower rate per minute, but with the slow connections, it can add up fast.
My advice, let your friends and family know that you'll post pictures when you get home. You might be surprised how much more enjoyable your vacation will be when you unplug and really relax.
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