If you’re thinking about setting sail, especially now that the heart of winter is right around the corner, remember to think of expenses beyond the cruise itself as you plan your budget. You’ll want to account for everything before and during the cruise to make sure you don’t bust your budget.
Most cruise lines have great deals on airfare to get you to the cruise’s departure city, but do your research. Compare the cruise line’s fare to various airlines’ fares. When purchasing the flight to your cruise departure port, consider cashing in frequent flier miles to save on expenses.
The optional activities you purchase when the ship stops in port can range in price from as little as $30 to $300 or more per person. AAA Travel experts recommend booking excursions before your trip begins, especially if there’s a popular excursion you don’t want to miss. Another option is to book your excursion through a third-party vendor like shoretrips.com. This company might have more availability and prices may be a little lower. Just make sure you’ll be back for departure time since the ship won’t wait for passengers on non-cruise-line-sponsored excursions.
The staff onboard these floating resorts are happy to help and work very hard to keep you comfortable throughout your cruise, but when it comes to gratuities, each cruise line is different. Some cruise lines are all-inclusive—and that includes all tips. Others allow you to prepay gratuities before your trip. And many cruise lines don’t include gratuity in your cruise price, so be sure to find out before your board. Most ships provide guidelines for how much to tip, as the amount varies depending on staff positions. For cruises that don’t include gratuity, tips typically are given at the end of the cruise. Some ships make it easy and allow you to add the tip on to your shipboard account.
When you book your trip, find out if alcohol and select other beverages, such as soda and bottled water, are included in your cruise price. Often, they’re not. Some cruise lines offer beverage cards that allow you to prepay and save on beverages before you embark.
There are a host of other cruise expenses you should pencil in to your planning budget: onboard and in-port shopping; specialty dining onboard; salon/spa services; professional photo services; and phone and internet access.
YOUR ONBOARD ACCOUNT
Typically, cruise ships are cashless, meaning onboard you will be required to pay for everything (alcohol, shopping, soda, etc.) with the shipboard account created for you and managed with a personalized card given at embarkation. This onboard account will need to be linked to a credit or debit card you provide, and you will be billed the total charges at the end of the cruise.
Be sure to keep track of spending because it can be easy to go overboard when you’re not using cash or your own card. Frequently you can access your account on the TV in your room.