Cruise Vacations:

Ten Hidden Costs of a Cruise Ship Vacation


1. Port Fees and Taxes. Did you know that on cruise vacations the advertised price is not the total price? Experienced cruisers know this to be one of the hidden costs of cruises but if you've never taken a cruise before, you're in for some sticker shock at check out. What most people think of as “port charges” are itemized separately on the cruise bill. Port fees and taxes are the taxes that foreign jurisdictions impose on arriving passengers. The practice of itemizing these charges came about a decade ago after a legal decision in Florida prohibited cruise lines from charging passengers any fees beyond the advertised ticket price, except for the taxes and fees charged by a government agency.

Here's how it works: When a cruise ship enters a port of call, there are expenses based on a per passenger count that must be paid. These fees usually go to support the facility where the ship is docking or tendering, security, the longshoremen that tie up and release the vessel, and related charges. Industry standards in the cruise industry has passengers pay these nominal charges over and above the published cruise fare. They can add up to 5% to 8% of the entire advertised cruise price unless you purchased your cruise at a deep discount at which point you will pay your fees based on the published fare of your cruise. That's how an insider price for a $9.99 cruise can turn into a $169 total price - which is still a great travel deal for any cruise ship vacation!

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2. On board Drinks (Sodas and Alcohol). On cruise vacations, most cruise ships only provide water, ice tea, lemonade, and coffee for the price of their cruise. You have to pay extra for bottled water, alcoholic beverages, wine, and even sodas since they are not included in the cruise fare on most lines (with the exception of some ultra-deluxe lines). And your bar tab can add up quickly since the cost of Hard liquor, cocktails and wine ranges from $3.50 to $8.00 a piece or more, depending on cruise line (higher-end lines tend to charge more for drinks); soft drinks will run $1.50 - $2.00; and you will pay extra for specialty coffee drinks like cappucino or lattes.

Savings Tips:
• Most cruise vacations have advertised "daily drink specials" on the ship that you may want to taste as they can be rather fun. You can also purchase wine by the bottle in the dining room and your waiter will keep it stored for you to serve at your next dinner. This can save you money over the purchase price of wine by the glass.

• Find out if your ship offers "soda packages" that feature unlimited sodas during the cruise for about $15 - $20 .

• You can bring-your-own bottled water on board or you can pick up soda six-packs of soda in port. I always purchased plenty of bottled water before I go on a cruise. If it's too much water to carry, then consider refilling water bottles but make sure you comply to health and safety standards. I sometimes will get several glasses of water and then fill my water bottles with the water from the glasses.

• Do not bring alcohol on board unless it's a souvenir you want to bring back home as it will have to be stored for the duration of your cruise. Be aware that most cruise line policies on bringing alcohol on board are highly restricted.

3. Tipping for Ship Personnel. Your cruise fare does not include tipping the ship personal and here are cruise vacations tipping guidelines . Many cruise lines recommend about $10-$12 per person per day to be given to the dining room waiter ($4 per person, per day), assistant waiter ($2 per person, per day) and cabin steward ($4 per person, per day).

If you have butler service, be prepared to tip that crew member $4-$5 per day. Bar tabs are charged a 15 percent gratuity automatically. When the maitre d' performs a special service, such as arranging for a birthday cake to be brought to the table, he should be tipped as well. You can, of course, always give tips for exceptional service.

Savings Tip:
Cruise vacations are no vacation for your waiters, assistant waiters and cabin stewards as they work very hard and many of them don't get a day off, so unless the service has been poor, do tip the recommended amount. You can also add a little more for outstanding service or attention.

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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer

For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more