Think that once you’ve paid for your cruise you can lock your wallet away in the cabin safe until the end of the voyage? Think again. After you board your ship there are myriad temptations to get you to pull out your credit card – in fact, on board ship your room key IS your credit card (how easy is that). From spa treatments to shore excursions, alternative dining options, art auctions and more you can easily rack up a bill that’s more than you paid for the cruise itself. While it’s almost impossible to avoid all the additional charges, there are some strategies for minimizing them.
One of the most expensive add-ons to your cruise is the shore excursions. If you usually find yourself spending a great deal on shore excursions it may be worth looking at one of the cruise lines that include these in the purchase price of the cruise. Cruise lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Viking River Cruises and AMAWaterways have most shore excursions included in the cruise fare. While the initial pricing may seem quite a bit higher than on the more mass market cruise lines, you may not wind up paying much of a difference in the end – and the quality of service, accommodations and experience on the “more expensive” cruise lines may make this an easy choice.
Another way to keep a lid on shore excursion costs is to research the ports of call in advance. A good travel agent is worth their weight in gold just for the advice they can give you regarding different ports. Here’s an example: in Cartegena I decided to forego the usual motor coach tour and headed off to wander about the city on my own for awhile, assured by the fact that I spoke Spanish. Just outside the gates of the port I found state licensed guides/taxi drivers who can give you the same tour as those available from the cruise line – but for less than a third of the price. I hooked up with some friends, negotiated a rate of $10 – for all three of us – and did a three hour tour that included the fort, the gold museum and the old city. Yes we had to pay admission to the fort and the museum, but we still wound up paying less than $10 per person for a private tour. The least expensive tour option through the cruise line was $35 per person. Now I give that hint to all my clients calling on Cartegena.
Drink Packages: most cruise lines offer a fountain drink package for between $7 and $11 per day. If you drink more than two fountain drinks (coke, diet coke, ginger ale, etc) per day, the fountain drink package will save you money, buy it when you first get on board. Recently some of the cruise lines have begun to promote an alcoholic beverage package as well, check out the pricing when you get on board, this may be a money saver if you plan to party your way through the sailing.
Don’t let yourself get carried away by emotion in the casino. Look at the casino as how much you’re willing to pay for an evening’s entertainment. Put that amount of cash in your pocket. When your pocket is empty, it’s time to seek alternative amusement – go see one of the shows. If you still have money in your pocket at the end of the cruise – book another one soon!
Book on board. If you know you’re going to sail again, booking your next sailing while on your current cruise is a win-win situation. All you do is pay a minimum deposit – usually $100 per person – and you receive a future cruise certificate. You don’t have to choose the exact sailing you want to go on in the future, you just make a commitment to go on a sailing with the same cruise line some time in the next year or two. In return the cruise line will reward you with shipboard credit – either on the current sailing or on the future sailing, and give you preferential pricing on the future sailing. You can make up your mind exactly when and where you want to sail any time in the next two years (or sometimes more).
And finally… beware the internet. It’s slow on most ships and internet packages are bought by the minute. You may need to check e-mail and stay in touch with home, but don’t linger online writing responses. You can write all your responses offline, and send them at once next time you log on.