Where can you get outstanding food, waterfront accommodation, live entertainment, and tons of amenities all included for one price? On a cruise! We LOVE cruises and there are lots of great financial perks to booking a cruise.
But it's also important to not forget about the hidden financial costs of cruising. As an ETD reader – you are already smarter than the average bear – so here's a little extra knowledge to affirm your own experiences – or learn something new.
Cruise Smart, Cruise Happy
#1 – Gratuities
First-time cruisers usually say two things: 1) I enjoyed cruising a lot more than I thought I would; and 2) why didn't anybody warn me about tipping & gratuities? Gratuities are a necessary evil – they reward hard-working cruise staff who clean your rooms, make dining special, and greet you as you explore the ship. But they can add up… typically up to $14-$15 per person, per day charged to your bill at the end of the cruise (read more via CruiseCritic). For a family of four – this can be up to $60 per day or $420 per week. Make sure to budget for gratuities beforehand, or pre-pay if you are so inclined.
#2 – Drinks
Every cruise line is different, but soda and alcoholic beverages are typically not included in your cruise packages. These can be purchased on a per-drink basis or via a drink package for unlimited sodas or alcoholic beverages. Do the math and see if purchasing a drink package might be a financially sound decision for you.
#3 – Excursions
When your ship arrives at port, you'll be free to get off and explore the surrounding area. But your cruise line will tempt you with an irresistible menu of fun local excursions (tours, adventures & more) you won't want to miss. These won't be free. Be on the lookout (or ask) about promotions. They aren't always offered but if they are – jump on them, there is usually a very short promotional window and excursions may fill up quickly.
#4 – Phone & Wifi
One of the best things about cruising is unplugging and unwinding. Shut that phone off and enjoy the moment. But if you must stay connected – look for free Wifi perks or discounted Wifi packages. If your cell phone plan has free international/roaming calls – wait until you get to your port and you should be able to get a signal. We recommend avoiding using the phones on the ship altogether unless it is a real emergency or you are so wealthy you don't need to ask the price.
#5 – More Gratuities (on perks & free stuff!)
Cruise lines may offer up some great perks & free stuff when you book. That's awesome – congrats! But also be aware that free drinks packages, specialty dining, and other perks may also carry a separate gratuity charge. Check the fine print on your bill – if you don't think you'll use the perk (i.e. free specialty dining) reach out to the cruise line to decline the perk and remove that specific gratuity charge.