One of the joys of cruising is that, once on board, you don’t have to pay for anything, right? Well, yes and no. There is often a lot included in your fare, but the experiences and little touches that can make it the holiday of a lifetime usually cost extra.
What’s included in your base fare? First up is your cabin, which will have a steward to service the room and supply the necessities, such as towels or toiletries.
All meals are taken care of – that means breakfast, lunch and dinner, buffet or a la carte (there may be a surcharge for some restaurants) – and all snacks, poolside treats and even room service are included in your fare.
Most activities are also free, such as deck games, movies, Broadway-quality live shows, life classes, dancing lessons, guest lecturers and sessions in anything from origami to Scrabble.
Large ships have at least one signature restaurant with a cover charge to reflect its high-end cuisine, service, decor and dress code. However, prices aren’t exorbitant and are usually worth trying at least once.
But what’s not free in any restaurant or bar is a drink. And this isn’t just alcohol – soft drinks in restaurants, specialty coffees and bottled water all cost extra. So watch the price, as you won’t receive your bill until the final morning.
Shore excursions can be great experiences, so choose the ones that really interest you; and choose quickly, as the best ones fill up fast and can be expensive.
Other paid extras can include beauty treatments, laundry and dry-cleaning, babysitting, personal or small group fitness sessions, and cooking or wine classes.
An additional cost that can take you by surprise is the internet. Being able to contact home from the ocean isn’t cheap and most ships charge for connections. It can be a small daily fee, which is fine for email or Facebook but, if you want to Skype with the family or watch the Grand Final online, you’ll pay a hefty price.
Finally, tips aren’t included. Many lines add to your account a daily amount per person plus a gratuity for bar bills. And you may wish to tip your cabin steward directly. Either way, it’s important to check the cruise line’s etiquette.
How to save
You don’t have to do shore excursions in every port – find your own way around when you can and save your money for the truly special experiences offered by your cruise line.
Signature restaurants are worth it, but you can also eat extremely well in the less expensive dining rooms and buffets.
Research comparable prices at home before you hit the onboard boutiques.
A 24-hour or cruise-long internet package may be cheaper than a pay-as-you-go option.
Tap water is fine – no cruise line would risk dodgy water in the confines of a ship – so don’t buy bottled water.
Tips are discretionary, and you can adjust the amount at the guest services desk.