As a subscriber to Travel and Leisure Magazine I have noticed that quite often their featured hotels and destinations are priced well over what my vacation budget would allow. Recently, in their “Ask T+L” segment, a reader wrote them looking for advice on cruising on budget. While I found most of their advice well founded in suggesting things like cruising from a nearby home port to reduce or eliminate airfare, cruising in shoulder or off peak seasons and booking early, I did find that the advice was missing a few key components.
First the article suggests booking about two years in advance. While this might many times get a cruiser the best price up front, often cruise lines offer deep discounts for cruises booked in the last 90 days. While these discounts are only offered on ships that are not completely filled, when that window arrives, these can sometimes be very good deals. To take advantage of these offers, cruisers have to be able to be flexible and able to travel when the deals are available. If you travel plans aren’t that flexible, then booking early is still the better choice.
Also, the response failed to mention the extra charges for which the cruiser must budget. The article mentions a 7 day Carnival for as little as $659 per person, but fails to mention the additional costs associated with cruising. First, the mentioned price would be for double occupancy, and single supplements usually nearly double the price. So if the traveler wants that price, she would need to make sure she has a traveling companion. Second, that price does not include soft drinks and alcohol purchases. If one was to purchase 4 soft drinks a day or a modest two alcoholic beverages a day, this would up the price by about $5 to $15 per day. Tipping, which is now a fully expected part of the cruising industry, would add another $10 per person per day. While many cruisers bypass shore excursions all together, the cost could easily add another $200, probably even more if the cruiser really wanted do extensive tours in just two or three ports. So even with modest estimates of add on charges, the cost of the cruise has now gone up from the original $659 to an expected cost of about $1000. These prices are based on modest estimates; most cruisers end up spending much more on board with higher alcohol purchases, casino gambling, fitness classes, spa visits, and specialty dining.
Cruising can still be one of the best vacation values, but it is important for those on a budget to understand that the cruise fare more than likely does not include all vacation expenses. When you are cruising on a budget, make sure you have budgeted for all your expenses, not just your cruise fare.