One common question I get about sticking to a travel budget is cruises. Once you’ve got your budget flights sorted, in many port towns you can choose from a cruise or just sticking around the city. But which to choose if you’ve only got so much to spend? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself when trying to decide cruise or no cruise.
This seems like an obvious and almost obtuse question, but you’d be surprised at how many people decide to opt for a cruise just because it’s the big attraction, even though they might not even want to cruise. You don’t have to cruise if you don’t want to. But keep in mind, if you’re cruising, that you’re going to be mostly on the boat, and when you’re in port you’ll be severely restricted to a time period that might not allow you to do as much exploring as you want.
There are cruise ships of all sizes and itineraries of all shapes, so consider your options, but don’t forget to decide that a cruise really is the option you are looking for.
First things first is to look at what is not included in your cruise package. Usually getting to the boat is not included. But then what about on board, where fees and premiums can very quickly add up to an expensive trip. A great example are drinks – if you don’t drink much or at all, a week with free soft drinks, coffee, tea etc. can be a great savings. But if you’re a boozehound, then a week onboard paying £8 for a beer might not be all that enjoyable. (And if you were thinking BYOB, you’ll be stuck to your cabin, because technically BYOB is not allowed on many cruises.) But also look at the cost of on board activities, extra fees for excursions, corkage fees for wine you bought on an excursion, etc. Might want to get a calculator – this can get a little tricky, but is worth adding up, trust me.
Many cruise lines, taking a cue from the airlines, have security fees and ever-increasing fuel surcharges. Some include everything in the main price. Is there tax? Do children require a separate tickets or is there a family option at a reduced rate? Be sure you’ve double-checked what the final price will be – there is nothing more frustrating than making a decision and grabbing your credit card, only to stare blankly at the shopping cart screen wondering how the heck the price nearly doubled.
It’s often worth poking around to see what your alternatives are. If you’re not fussy about the itinerary and another company offers something similar but on more favorable terms, then go for the better option. Or would you be better just to stay in a hotel and then get a boat tour of that nearby island you were hoping to visit? If your budget is limited, then spend some time and work out a couple of options to make a better decision.
Are you a regular cruiser? How do you decide whether or not to cruise when on a budget?
Posted : Friday, March 18th, 2011 at 12:00
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.