Cruising right past my budget
What they said: “All meals are included.”
What they meant: There will be food available while you are on the boat. When you get off the boat (and believe me, you will want to get off the boat!), you are on your own. Lunch and snacks in tourist towns can be really costly. In one port, I paid $3 for a bottle of water. Also, be sure you know what is included in the all-inclusive meal plan—many ships charge for “extras” like alcoholic beverages, soda, and even ice cream.
What they said: “You can see a lot in a short period of time.”
What they meant: You can get to a lot of places in a short period of time. To actually see a lot, you will pay a lot. On my trip, the average shore excursion was around $60 per person; more elaborate excursions cost well over $100 per person. We found out the hard way that venturing out on our own was harder and no cheaper.
What they said: “We are equipped with the latest in communication technology.”
What they meant: Good luck trying to get online. I paid $60 for an hour of Internet service. During my 60 minutes, the connection dropped four times. During many portions of the trip, there was no service at all (I’m sure some people found that relaxing—I am not one of those people!) I was able to use my cell phone occasionally; however, I used it sparingly to avoid international roaming charges.
What they said: “Enjoy our first-class service.”
What they meant: You are expected to tip well for everything. When I went to pay the final bill, I found that they had automatically added $15 gratuity per day for me and another $12 gratuity per day for my children. The tip was split among people who worked in many areas of the ship where we never once set foot. I visited the office to have the amounts adjusted more appropriately. While the total amount of the tip did not decrease (and the $200+ really impacted our overall cost of the cruise), I was happy to be able to give our very patient evening waiter his fair share.
What they said: “We have some great last-minute deals.”
What they meant: The cost of the cruise may be affordable; however, getting to the ship is another story. We booked the cruise before booking the plane tickets and that turned out to be a costly mistake. There are some great last minute deals on sea travel, but last minute air travel is expensive.
Don’t get me wrong, the trip was amazing (except for the missed flight—but I'll save that story for another day!) My only advice is to take your time and consider the total cost of the trip so you don’t go overboard and sink into debt (sorry, I couldn't resist!)