Cruising is one of my all-time favorite ways to travel. I've been cruising since 2001 and am glad to share what I've learned with you.
After writing my last post about the hidden costs of cruising, I realized I had more money-saving tips and hidden costs to uncover. So, here we go!
1. WiFi Doesn't Come Cheap
Once upon a time, in a land far far away, people would cruise to disconnect from reality for at least three glorious, work-free, responsibility-free days. Nowadays? Please. Everywhere you go on the ship, you see people with a cellphone in hand, posting selfies. I must admit, I'm one of those people.
On our last cruise, we spent $115 on our internet package. Most cruise lines will offer different packages, from just access to your social media accounts to full internet WiFi capabilities so you can check email and surf the web. It's an expense that many don't think about, but it's certainly one that most cruisers will incur.
2. The Professional Pictures Add Up
At the end of a cruise, you will have your memories and your pictures. Cruise lines know that and they take a ton of pictures of you. Every time you get off the cruise, you will feel like a celebrity with the cameras flashing in your face. During dinner, they will come around and take pictures of you and your traveling partner(s). There will be studio-quality sets set up on the main deck and you can take tons of pictures every night. And then comes the time to purchase, where you will easily spend a whopping $19.99 per picture. It adds up. Quickly.
Purchase Your Photo Package in Advance
Know beforehand how many pictures you want to purchase. Even before you cruise, you can usually get a good deal on a cruise package that fits your budget. I recommend doing this before you cruise, so you aren't swept away by emotional purchasing when you're looking at 100 photos you took in 5 days.
Or Save Money by Taking Your Own Photos!
If you don't want to purchase a photo package, take your own pics for free! This is what my hubby and I usually do.
3. Credit-Card Linking Leads to Big Spending
When you get on the ship, or even before when you're doing your online check-in, you will be asked to link your credit card to your cruise account. Once onboard, you get a cruise card, Carnival (which is our preferred cruise line) calls the card "Sign and Sail." You will use this card for everything while on your vacation. It acts as your room key, it will be scanned when you get on and off the ship. You will use it when making your purchases on the ship. If you have it linked to your credit card, you will be surprised at how quickly the charges add up.
Picture this: You are enjoying a day at sea. You book a spa treatment ($150) and enjoy a hot stone massage. Feeling relaxed, you go poolside and are approached by a friendly waiter offering half-off on the day's specialty cocktail ($7.50). You opt for a romantic dinner with your boo and make reservations at the steakhouse, where you will, of course, also have a bottle of wine ($200). You stop by the fun desk and book a dream excursion ($130). You cap the evening with a few hours in the casino, where you charge another $100 to your card while you sip on another drink ($10) and play blackjack or your favorite slot. When you lay your head on your fluffed pillow, you have no idea that you spent almost $600 in one day.
You get your printout at the end of the cruise and you've racked up a $2,000 bill. Yikes! You had no idea you'd spent so much, after all, you were just having fun.
If I had $1.00 for every sad and bewildered face that I saw on the last night of the cruise, I'd probably own Carnival by now.
Don't Link Your Credit Card to Your Cruise Account
There's a solution: Cash. Don't link your card to a credit card. Instead, opt for a cash account. When you get on the ship, you'll go to guest services and deposit the amount of cash you are willing to spend during your cruise. When the cash is gone, your spending is over. You can check your account whenever you want and monitor your spending. Our last cruise was amazing. We put $700 in cash on our account and left the cruise with over $450.
4. Excursions Can Be Pricey
Part of the fun of cruising is visiting multiple places and experiencing a taste of their culture. But, boy oh boy, it can get expensive! Most excursions will last between 2 and 4 hours and can cost anywhere from $45 and up. You just have to balance the value of the experience with the cost of the excursion. I remember spending about $150 to swim with dolphins. I loved it and treasure the pictures that captured my memories. These days, I go for the more laid back excursions.
Pros of Scheduling Excursions Through the Cruise
A great benefit of scheduling an excursion through the cruise is they know where you are and they know when you are back on the ship. They have also vetted the vendors and to some extent, they guarantee your excursion experience.
Pros of Skipping Cruise Excursions
If all you want is a nice island tour or trip the beach, considering skipping the cruise excursion and do an island tour once you get off the ship. Every single port we've ever visited, we've been able to get a tour for a fraction of the price that the ship charges and we still have a great experience.
Many of the tours are identical to the ones offered by the ship. But there's no guarantee of what you're getting, so it is a risk. My rule of thumb: If it's going to be a strenuous activity, I will book through the ship. If it's just a lazy day and an island tour, I opt for picking a tour once I get to the port.
5. The Casino Can Get the Better of You
Like to gamble? Cruise ships have a million and one ways for you to gamble your money away. I enjoy time in the casino but my husband doesn't. So, we have to set a limit that we're willing to spend and then have enough willpower to walk away. My last cruise, I was speaking with a young man who'd been drunk gambling and spent waaaaaaay more than he'd planned, and we were only on day 2 of 8 days.
© 2019 Monica Lynne Foster
Monica Lynne Foster (author) from Canton, MI on September 26, 2019:
Monica Lynne Foster (author) from Canton, MI on September 26, 2019:
Your'e welcome. I agree. They do sometimes fall short on great excursions.
Josh Carter from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic on September 26, 2019:
I enjoyed the article, thanks. I learned that cruise ship operators skip some of the best tours and charge higher rates for the ones they include. I was on a trip to the Northern DR and learned about Sosua Beach, Cabarete and lot of other great beaches that were not included in the list, and these are top beaches in the area but the cruise line made more profit from the ugliest ones.
Liz Westwood from UK on September 26, 2019:
This is a really helpful guide for cruise travelers.
Monica Lynne Foster (author) from Canton, MI on September 20, 2019:
Thanks Linda! Most people use their credit card and link it to their cruise account. I’ve done it and didn’t have any issues but I spent so much more than I’d intended. Cash is the only way I do it now!
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 19, 2019:
Using a credit card on a cruise sounds scary. I think I'd take the cash option that you describe. Your tips for avoiding hidden costs sound great.