Cruise lines are coming hard after first-time cruisers. They want your business to help fill all their shiny new ships.
Without attracting a younger class of travelers, business will die off for cruise lines. Really, I mean die off. The older generation of loyal cruise fanatics can't live forever, so the ships need fresh, young cruisers onboard.
You might have noticed in recent years all the new ships being built (or renovated) to include all sorts of bells and whistles aiming to attract new cruisers. I like the variety of activities. You can certainly choose to be more active on ships that have waterparks, water slides, ice skating rinks, bumper cars, surf simulators, sky diving, ropes courses, ziplines, etc. The lines also are offering more specialty dining and unique culinary experiences onboard.
This is all good. And the prices often seem right. You often can find cruise deals in which the base price per person is less than $100 a night. Cruising in general offers a fantastic value when compared with land-based travel.
But you better be wary of the overall price. You might shop for, find and pay a low list price to get onto the ship. Additional items can quickly add to your bill if you are not careful. It's your vacation, and you certainly might be willing to pay for many of these added items, but In The Loop doesn't want you to be caught off guard and disappointed in your trip. That is no way to travel happy!
Watch out for these hidden costs (they really sneak up on you because you don't fork over cash each time; you swipe a plastic cabin key card and a charge is added to your account):
Beverages. Unless you can live with the drinks included in your base fare, you are going to have to pay up. Lines generally include water (non-bottled), ice tea, lemonade, coffee and orange juice in your fare. You have to pay for your beer, wine, booze, fresh-squeezed orange juice, premium coffees, sodas and bottled waters. You can buy drinks packages to help quench your particular thirst. Soda-only packages run from $5 to $7 a day; other drinks packages can range from basic to premium (meaning you can order top-shelf brand cocktails) and include booze, beer, juices and bottled waters in some combination depending on the package. These cost anywhere from $20 to $60 per person per day depending on the cruise line and how exhaustive you want your drink options to be. Don't forget the gratuity (around 15 percent) added to the drinks package price, too.
Spa/sauna. Of course spa treatments like massages, hair or skin treatments, nails, teeth, waxing, seaweed wraps, etc. will come with a price. But you also typically have to pay up to use the sauna area on a ship. Lines charge about $40 to $50 for a day pass for cruisers to use thalassotherapy pools, hot tubs, steam rooms, ceramic heating chairs and whatever else they may offer in their sauna areas. These can be very relaxing and pleasant experiences, but they are not free.
Restaurants. Perhaps the biggest change with the new ships and refurbished ships is the proliferation of alternative or for-fee dining options. You still can eat at the included main dining rooms or buffet for no added costs, but some ships now offer 10 or more locations onboard where you will have to pay extra for a meal. While some of these dining experiences are truly extraordinary, you have to be willing to shell out $15 to $50 per person to grab a seat at the table. Lines also are adding premium pizza and dessert options for which you pay an additional $5 or more.
Personal training/fitness classes. New ships offer broad spaces chock full of modern equipment for you to use to get your workout and earn those extra calories consumed during your voyage. But fitness classes like spinning, TRX, yoga, pilates and boot camps and personal training sessions cost more. You'll pay about $10 for a fitness class and more than $50 for a personal training session. Package deals are available to buy a batch of sessions, too.
Excursions. Don't forget your destinations! Once your ship gets into a beautiful, exotic port, you are going to want to go explore. Whether you book your own excursion with a tour company independently or use the cruise line's shore excursion services, you are looking at $50 per person or much more depending on your activity (and tipping your guides, too). A basic island open-air coach tour might be relatively cheap, while a full-day power-boat ride and snorkeling tour with beach time, shopping, booze and lunch included would be a lot more.
Note: Some cruise lines offer an all-inclusive experience. Those are mainly high-end luxury sailings. This discussion here is all about the typical major mass-market cruises you can find. You already knew that, though. You know how I know that you knew this? Because anyone who can afford one of those all-inclusive lines wouldn't be drawn to this article title. So, for the rest of us who scrape by to get in as much travel as we can, we'll keep an eye on every last dollar, thank you very much.
Thanks for reading,