When I got married last year, I had this brilliant plan for a honeymoon - a cruise. It simply couldn't miss - seven days of all inclusive lodging and food for $542 a person. While we could have looked at more expensive cruises. However, the bargain cruise included everything we were looking for - transportation to the following islands: St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Lucia.
Is it really that cheap? Yes!
I could eat $400 or more alone of food alone in 7 days at a restaurant. While the lodging was small and had no windows, it was adequate for the amount of time that we were going to spend there. I enjoyed many free activities that I never tried before, such as rock climbing and roller blading. We got to see comedians and musicals for free. Seeing Bowser from Sha Na Na was worth the price alone.
Is it really that cheap? No!
Like any good business, they do their best to upsell you. Upselling is when they make you buy more than you originally intend. While food and drink were included, soda is not. I've got an addiction to diet soda that I can't shake. I sprung for a $48 package for all-you-can drink soda. Of course, alcohol is not included and you are not allowed to bring it on board. If you want to drink, you have to pay restaurant/bar prices.
We didn't think about the biggest cost of all - what do you do when you get to the islands? The cruise company is happy to set up excursions on the island. Excursions ranged from $40 to $200 per person. When you go to five islands, you are looking at spending $200 to $1000 per person. We spent around $250 to $300 in excursions. We found that this is the one extra cost that was unavoidable - the quality of the vacation significantly declines when you don't get to visit the island.
There is a lot of tipping. It is usually done at the end of the trip, but you tip various people for each day of service. At the end, we spent over $100 in tips.
The Internet still costs money and you pay by the minute. It was very, very difficult for me to keep up with my Internet businesses without feeling my wallet getting lighter and lighter.
Lastly, there is the shopping. It's not surprising, but the cruise company employs a full-time Director of Shopping. His job was to be an expert on watches, jewelry, nearly anything that you could buy on the islands that you visit. When you turned on the television, they have a cruise channel and his sales pitch was constantly on. We stayed away from these "bargains", channeling our inner Cap.
When you add up the drinks, excursions, and shopping it certainly can get expensive.
How Can I Save Money on Cruises
We found a few tips that can you help reign in the cost of cruises:
- Drinks - I certainly didn't drink $48 worth of soda on the trip. I didn't even come close. Much of the time, we were away on an excursion. As for alcohol, the cruise's policy is extremely strict - they are happy to drop you off at the next port if you violate it. However, we talked to guests who rebelled and snuck alcohol in. On one excursion, we purchased a small bottle of local rum. While we should have announced it and checked it before going back on the ship, we simply forgot. While they checked our baggage, must have missed it. An hour later we realized that we had accidentally thwarted the system.
- Excursions - It's really difficult to save on these trips. We found that we could save money on many islands if we planned ahead. For instance, if we knew the bus system, we could avoid taxis. Sometimes we found our own excursions like going to the Mount Gay Rum factory tour.
- Internet - On Royal Caribbean, you can buy a package of minutes. When I logged on, I would open up a pile of Firefox tabs and load pages rapidly. I would then log off until I had read all that I could, before logging on again and continuing. When we were in US Territories, like St. Thomas, I made use of my cell phone's Internet. The best way I found to save money was simply to realize that I was on my honeymoon - I shouldn't be on the Internet anyway.
- Food - When you are on an excursion, you have to pay for your food. However there's all that food on the ship that is free with the price of your admission. We decided to location-shift that food. That's a fancy way of saying we made sandwiches to bring with us on the excursions. We ate a hearty breakfast to carry us mostly through the day.
- ATMs - There is an ATM on the ship, but it's extremely pricey - up there with some casinos. We were able to avoid fees by using our USAA card. I highly recommend belonging to bank that reimburses these ATM fees.
To Cruise or Not To Cruise?
This was an extremely difficult question to answer. We came away with feeling that there was simply too much to do on the cruise. It sounds like a good thing, but it is exhausting. The excursions started early and took through most of the afternoon. There was a little time to shower and get ready for dinner. After dinner, we caught some entertainment before it got late and we had to consider going to sleep to do it all again the next day. You might not believe this, but I prefer Lazy vacations, sitting by the pool, maybe reading a magazine.
If you have never taken a cruise vacation it may be worth looking into. You never know if it's for you if you don't try.
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