If you have cruised recently, you probably realize that the cost of the cruise that the travel agent or web site quotes is just the starting point. There are some cruise lines where everything is included, but they are the minority. When you add the cost of shore excursions, souvenirs on and off the ship, liquor with your meals, and various other extras, the total cost of your cruise can be significantly higher.
Your biggest “extra” expense is most likely to be shore excursions. The cruise lines make it easy to sign up ahead of time onboard your ship, or even book them before your cruise starts. But, if you wait until you arrive in port, you will find many taxis and guides competing for your business. If you hire one of them you can be more flexible in your itinerary, and probably save some money. Don’t be afraid to bargain with the driver, especially later in the day when most tourists have already arranged their land tours. Be aware, though, that if something goes wrong with your self-arranged tour, such as car trouble or a traffic jam, the cruise ship is not obliged to wait for you if you can’t make it back to the ship by the scheduled departure time. The cruise lines use this fact to scare you into taking one of their sponsored shore excursions, where they must wait for you. But if you have enough risk tolerance, you can save some money by doing your own thing.
When you book a shore excursion through the cruise line, part of the experience is likely to be a stop to buy souvenirs from their preferred vendors. If you have the time and opportunity to walk a block or two to visit some other shops you may find the same merchandise at lower prices. Just be careful not to go so far that you find yourself in an unsafe area. On my last cruise, a local woman approached me and warned me to carry my purse tucked up under my arm rather than hanging down at the end of my hand as I had been carrying it.
Wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages are not included with your meals on most cruise lines. Check with your cruise line ahead of time-some will let you bring wine on board, but most won’t. However, if you can find any alcohol in a completely plastic container, no glass or metal, you can probably get away with bringing some onboard in your suitcase. On our last cruise we “smuggled” some liquor aboard in a plastic bottle in our suitcase and no one was the wiser. The cruise ship may also try to sell you a “wine package” with your dinners. We checked into this and found that even buying the least expensive package (there were three price points) was more expensive than buying a glass or two with dinner on a “pay as you go” basis.
Finally, some cruse ships have “premium” dining rooms where you must make a reservation and pay extra to dine, presumably for the top notch service and ambiance. We did not visit any of these, and our friends who did visit these dining rooms had mixed reviews. Some said the service and food was much better, some that it was in fact not as good as the main dining rooms.
I hope these tips were helpful, especially if you are new to cruising. Bon voyage!