Below is a description of the things that are not included in the upfront cost of the cruise that most of us will wind up spending money on during the cruise. All of these items are within your control, so it's hard to say how much money you'll need. Some people buy lots of shore excursions while others spend their money in the spa, but this will give you an idea of additional expenses you may need to prepare for.
The cost of airfare is not included in the upfront price of the cruise, but is almost always available for an additional charge. We'll ask you where you are flying from and quote you the cruise line's price. Most domestic air add-on will be $200-$500 per person.
There are two reasons why it may not be offered: first, you may ask to fly out of an airport that the cruise line cannot service for the itinerary you're interested in. In this case we can find the closest airport to your home that does work. Or second, we may find you a certain promotional cruise fare that can only be booked cruise-only. There may also be a higher cruise fare available to which air travel can be added. In either case, we're happy to show you your options.
You are always welcome to shop for your own air travel and can often save some money by buying the air from someone other than the cruise line. However, before you do that, please allow your CruiseCheap.com vacation consultant to share with you the pros and cons. We will also want to give you the flight time parameters for your specific cruise departure and return. That way you're sure to make the right decision for you.
Alcoholic beverages are not included in your cruise price, and since soft drinks come over the bar there is charge for them as well. Specialty coffees are also almost always additional.
All beverage purchases are signed to your shipboard account and the service charge, a.k.a. the gratuity, is automatically added. Prices are usually about the same as they are at home, and a lot less than you'd find at most hotels and resorts!
Some cruise lines have a soda package, which is great news for families. Not only is it a lot more economical, it has really cut out a lot of whining. In the past, you'd have to pull yourself out of your deck chair every time your kid needed a soda. Now, he or she can approach the bar themselves and hand the bartender their bottomless bottle or show their soda card. Feeling like an adult probably makes them suck down twice as much, but what do you care as long as they leave you alone?
Your personal service staff works hard for you while you're enjoying your cruise, so pleeeeaaaaase tip them before you disembark. Most cruise lines make it easy for you by automatically adding gratuities to your shipboard account, which is usually about $10.50 per person, per day. This amount covers your cabin steward and the waiters and assistants who have served you all over the ship.
Just because you're being automatically billed doesn't mean you don't have control. You can adjust the amount up or down by paying a visit to the Purser's desk; however, it's wise to do so before disembarkation day. In this way you can reward those who gave you extra special attention. And in cases where service wasn't up to snuff, the ship can become aware immediately and take steps to correct the problem.
A few cruise lines are still doing things the old fashioned way. If your gratuities are not going to be placed on your account while on board you should expect to extend your gratuities in US cash at the end of the vacation. Envelopes are provided so that you can hand your servers their tips with discretion.
Or you may have the choice of pre-paying your gratuities along with your final payment. Ask us if your cruise offers this service. It a lot more convenient than running all over the ship. You can't tip someone if you can't find them!
A couple of luxury cruise lines do include gratuities in the up front cost of the cruise.
Ask your CruiseCheap.com agent which policy applies to your cruise so that you know what to expect before you leave home.
Alternative dining options are all the rage onboard contemporary ships these days and the cruise lines have a couple of different ways of charging you extra for them.
For all restaurants other than the main dining room you should expect to find that reservations are required. There is a fee for that reservation that usually runs from $10-$25 per person and the gratuity for the meal may be additional. The rationale behind the service fee is that seating is often limited to less than 100 people at a time, and I guess they figure it will make you show up.
Norwegian Cruise Line has also added a selection of a la carte restaurants on their newest ships. A la carte means you pay as you go, just like any land-based restaurant you're used to. Menu prices are usually the same as you'd find in any tourist location; not outrageous, but probably more than you're used to.
Purists scoff at the idea of paying for food on a cruise ship, but there's a trend here that seems to be popular with folks new to cruising. Besides, it's still your choice. And the menus selections and dining experiences are very different that one can find in the main dining room, so it's been decided that this is value, as well.
Shore excursions are a very important part of your experience in each port of call, especially if you've decided to take the adventure route. But you can also strike out on your own by walking or hiring a taxi from the pierside queue.
Excursions run the gamut from city tours on a bus to flightseeing by helicopter and can often be booked in advance on the cruise line's website. Look there for a complete list of shore tours offered for your itinerary.
If the excursions cannot be reserved in advance you can purchase them on board the ship. Sometimes it's helpful to speak to the experts at the shore excursion desk before making your decision, because once booked there are penalties to cancel them. You'll also have a better handle on the weather and the level of physical activity required.
CruiseCheap.com may also be able to save you money on the most popular excursions. Check out the Shore Excursions topic under the Already Booked section on the left side bar to see if we offer the one you're interested in. We buy from the same outfit the cruise line does, but there's no markup. And these tours can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior to the start of the excursion with a full refund. Good to know.
Most people find that they have time to take only one excursion in each port of call. Excursions generally range from $40-$250 per person depending on what's included. Again, the cruise line's website will have the most up-to-date information.
Your 'welcome aboard' photo is your first encounter with the ubiquitous ship photographers. They'll be on hand to capture all the fun and excitement, and then sell it back to you for $20 for each 5 x 7.
Lots of folks take advantage of their opportunity to have a portrait made while they're all gussied up. You won't have to make an appointment with a photographer at home, pay a sitting fee and then be obligated to buy 24 wallet-sized photos just get an 8 x 10. On the ship you never have to purchase a photo if you're not happy with the way you look, and you can even have it done again and again. Cruises are also great for getting family and group photos taken when you have a captive audience and it's impossible to get everyone together at home.
Arrangements with fancy spas and salons has become one of the hottest new things with the cruise lines in the past few years as passengers are focusing more and more on their well-being. You'll find everything from The Canyon Ranch, to the exotic Mandara Spa out of Asia, to French companies such as La Carita Paris.
Whatever the origin of the mud in which you're soaking, you'll be amazed at the variety of hedonistic treatments in which you can indulge. There are even massage lessons and treatments for couples only! If you've never treated yourself before or you're an experienced spa-goer there's a great time to be had by all.
Some cruise lines even offer pre-packaged menus of spa treatments that can be booked in advance. If not, you can do it on board, and last-minute slots to fill can sometimes be snagged with a discount. Spa treatments tend to be expensive and can range from $75-200 each depending on how long it takes to complete the service.