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Now that you know how much your cruise will cost…Here’s our number one tip for making it CHEAPER: sign up for Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and book your trip through through Expedia, Travelocity, or CruiseDirect. The rebate amounts from these travel agencies changes frequently, but are often as high as 10%. So just by visiting one of these sites from your Rakuten account you can save 10% on your cruise! It really is that simple. There’s no cost, no membership, no nothing. But first you have to join Rakuten.
About this calculator: This tool will give you a rough estimate of the cost to take a cruise vacation. A cruise definitely costs more than the ticket price. There are a LOT of other necessary (and optional) expenses: travel to and from the cruise port, tipping, drinks, port fees, excursions, etc. The purpose of this website is to list and etimate the amount of all these ancillary expenses. Of course there’s also your own travel style to consider – are you going as cheaply as possible? Or do you not mind splurging while you’re on vacation. All and all, this calculator does a good job of estimating the total cost of a cruise for 3 different travel styles. It’s up to you to add figure which type of cruiser you are and to subtract any costs that don’t apply to you. Obviously your cost will be determined by your exact choice of cabin type, number of days, number and quality of excursions, amount of drinking, etc, etc.
The Total Cost of a Cruise: Budgeting for all the Extras
Controlling the extra expenses that can pile up on a cruise is important, because those relatively small-dollar add-ons and line-item expenses that can be easy to pay for while out at sea. Once you’re back home at the kitchen table, though, those credit card bills for perks you don’t even remember can make you feel a little seasick.
Shop Cruise Packages Ahead of Time
Definitely do comparison shopping to get the best rates for the cost of the voyage itself. If you have the flexibility, shop during the first quarter of the year, what industry insiders call “wave season”. Just as many retailers offer big discounts after the holiday season, the same goes for cruise lines that typically lower their rates from January through March. You may also score extras like free shore excursions and bargain-priced cabin upgrades.
Additional Travel and Lodging
You’ll also need to calculate the cost of travel to get to and from the ship, which may include airfare. If you are traveling to get to the port, it is a good idea to stay overnight in a hotel the night before your cruise. That way if your flight is delayed or other problems come up you will still have some time to make adjustments without running the risk of getting to the dock after your ship has sailed. So make those travel reservations and include the expenses in your overall cruise trip budgeting plan – including any long-term parking fees or taxi and shuttle costs. Do you want travel insurance? That’s another cost to factor into your projections.
Shore excursions are essentially tours of the destinations where you disembark, led by professional tour guides. That can be a great way to find your way around, see the popular sites, and navigate shopping and dining. Expect to pay from $50 to $100 per person for bus tours. If there are some really exotic opportunities like helicopter tours, SCUBA diving, hot air balloon rides, and so forth, then the prices can rise to $300 or more. Talk to the cruise line ahead of time to ask about specific excursion opportunities, what’s included, and the prices. Most guided excursions will probably fall into the $75 to $150 range, however, which you can use as a general guideline.
In addition to the main dining room, cruise ships usually have a variety of other specialty eateries where you may enjoy everything from gourmet foodie experiences to family fare. You should budget between $20 and $50 for most of these, and twice that for fine dining that includes wine and more expensive dishes. If you can get the pricing information from the cruise lines ahead of time, that’s best. Otherwise a good way to project is to consider than you’ll pay roughly what you’d pay for a similar kind of restaurant on land – plus a premium of about 25 percent.
Beverage and Bar Tabs
Expect to pay about two dollars for bottled water, $2.50 for a can of soda, about $3.50 for ordinary beer, $5 for craft beer, and $6-$7 for a glass of wine or a cocktail. Espresso drinks cost about $4-$6. For those who are allowed to bring their own wine aboard, there may be an extra “corkage” fee – which can range from about $12 to as much as $30 or more per bottle. Talk to the cruise line to find out their policy and what they charge. Keep in mind that if you open a bottle of wine and don’t finish you can usually have them re-cork it and serve it to you again at a later time.
Shopping and Souvenirs
Shopping on a ship is similar to shopping inside an airport mall. Expect to pay a premium of 25 percent or more for anything you buy on the ship – whether it’s sunglasses or a souvenir mug or tee-shirt. The exception that you may encounter is duty-free shops on the ship, where there may be some good bargains on perfume, liquor, cigars, and that sort of merchandise. Take along of list of land-based retail prices to help you make consumer-savvy choices when buying on the ship.
Whether you use a public computer or your own laptop, most cruise lines will charge a wifi fee of about $4 per log-in. On top of that expect to pay about 75 cents per minute, or as low as 35 cents a minute if you buy bundles of minutes in bulk. You can also use cyber cafes where you disembark, where the fees will likely be much cheaper – as much as 75 percent less than what you have to pay on the ship. Check with your cruise line, though, because some lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean are offering packages of unlimited Internet access.
As is the case with land-based spas, the fees you pay depend upon what treatments you chose from the menu or what extra health and beauty products you buy. But budget about 35 to 40 percent extra for comparable treatments on a cruise. Whereas a land-based massage might cost $90 an hour, for instance, one on the ship will likely cost $125 an hour. The same goes for facials, pedicures, and similar treatments.
Classes and Group Activities
If you want to take classes – which may mean learning to make your own jewelry or doing yoga or taking a spinning class with a professional trainer – budget a minimum of $10 per class for group instruction and $25 per session for one-on-one instruction.
Want some time to yourself away from the kids? Babysitting in your cabin costs about $15 an hour at night, and group daycare, typically available during “working hours” costs approximately half that much per child.
Cabana and Deck Space
Many cruise lines offer deck space and cabanas in adults-only and more quiet and private areas of the ship, with features like lawn furniture and fruit trays. For those privacy upgrades you can expect to pay about $150 a day if you are out at sea, and about $100 a day if you are anchored in port.
Laundry and Dry Cleaning
Dry cleaning or ironing will likely cost you about 20-30 percent more than you are accustomed to being charged at home. Send a T-shirt to the ship’s laundry and it will probably cost $3 to have it cleaned and folded overnight. Some ships do have self-service laundry facilities, though, where you do a whole load of clothes for around $5 or less. You can also save up your dirty laundry and go a laundromat when you are in port – although that may cut into your sightseeing and shopping time.
One of the fastest ways to lose money and destroy your budget is to play table games in cruise casinos – where the odds always favor the “house” – in this case, the ship – and not the player. Especially if your judgment is impaired while gambling because you are buying overpriced drinks, one thing can lead to another until you are deep in the red. But that does not mean that if you like to have fun gambling in a responsible way you should deny yourself. Just be sure to set a budget and stick to it. If you want to gamble $100, then go for it – but as soon as you lose that $100 leave the casino, before you get in deeper debt.
One exception may be bingo, which may not be as exciting as roulette or poker, but is extremely popular on cruises. The reason it may be a safer bet is that while the opportunity to play will probably cost a 15-20 percent premium compared to on-shore bingo, some of the prizes are incredible. In some instances you can win a free cruise or thousands of dollars. Just set a limit on how much you’re willing to spend and stick to it.
People who work for cruise lines generally depend on tips to help make up for lower wages, so it should be standard procedure to tip generously for good service. Most travel guides recommend budgeting about $12 per person, per day, for those who perform essential services such as servers and cabin stewards – and 15 percent or more for bartenders. Check to see, though, if the gratuity is included because some cruise lines automatically charge about 15 to 18 percent for services like those offered in the spa or at a bar.
Just as airlines have their frequent flyer programs, if you are an avid fan of a particular cruise line you can earn valuable rewards to offset the cost of your next voyage. Earning “Elite” status on Princess Cruise lines, for example, entitles you to perks such as no-cost shoe polishing, laundry, and drying cleaning. At Princess, to become an Elite member you have to take at least 15 cruises or spend 150 days on Princess cruises.
Those who want to reach that status sooner can do so by upgrading, because each time you book and sail in a full suite, or sail alone in a stateroom in which you pay the exclusive occupancy fare, it counts as two cruises. So if you plan to sail often, you may also want to look into loyalty programs offered as incentives by your favorite cruise lines.