Cruise Vacations - Not All-Inclusive

By: Ray J. Walberg

Planning for your cruise can be exciting and at first it may seem like a very cheap option for a vacation. In fact, taking a cruise can be cheaper than taking a self catering land vacation or getting a vacation rental but there are some things to be aware of when budgeting for your trip.

Ads for cruises are intended to get you hooked on taking a cruise so the lowest price is in bold, large print numbers. This price typically covers only the most basic accommodation which may or may not be available when you try to book it. The advertised price also usually does not include the price of taxes and port charges which can add up to a few hundred dollars extra.

The accommodations on a cruise vary greatly. If you've never stayed on a cruise ship you'd be surprised to find that the accommodations are quite small, even for the more luxurious rooms. This means that "basic" rooms will be very small and you should only go with the cheapest option if you know what to expect. Many seasoned cruise vacationers spend most of their time out of the room and use it simply to sleep and shower. If it's your first time or if it's for a special occasion, e.g. honeymoon or anniversary, it is recommended that you splurge a bit. Consider paying for room with a window or even a balcony. It will make your stay more pleasant and help you adjust to life on the open seas.

The advertised rates are usually per person based on double occupancy. Traveling by yourself on a cruise can be enjoyable but there are added expenses. There is an added cost if you choose to stay in your cabin alone; expect to pay at least one third extra for single occupancy. Another option is to share the cabin with a stranger. Some cruise companies offer a service that will match you up with other same sex solo travelers.

Even though cruises are touted as "all inclusive", there are some things you'll need to pay for out-of-pocket. Food and activities are included in the price of your cruise but alcohol is not usually included. The price of drinks on a cruise is usually higher than you'd expect and can quickly add up. Land excursions at ports of call be arranged on the ship but they are an additional cost. Also consider gift shopping and spending at your ports of call. If you budget at least a hundred dollars a day for added expenses you'll have a more carefree and pleasurable holiday.

Cruises can be a real bargain but be aware of hidden and unexpected costs. You can penny pinch but if you budget a bit more you'll have a more pleasant and carefree vacation.

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