So you want to plan your first cruise, well you’ve come to the right place. Cruises today can range from just a couple hundred dollars to well over $10, 000 and beyond so it can be the trip of a lifetime. While there are many who are able to take numerous cruises, most of us will experience the dream of a cruise Only once and you certainly want to ensure it is memorable (and for the RIGHT reasons).
The further into the future your are able to plan for your trip the better off you will be as you will have a better selection of room choices and date options. 1 year (if possible) is a good starting point. If you are a flexible, a last minute type of person, & able to reach a port city with short notice, you can often find GREAT pricing on last minute cruises, although the room selection is extremely limited the price trade off may be worth it.
Step #1: SET A BUDGET: Just like in real life, even on vacation we need to have a realistic budget in place for our vacation. The price of the cruise IS NOT the only money you will spend. There are the costs of getting to & from the cruise, excursions, FUN money, tips, and possible unforeseen costs.
Estimated budget for 2 people on a 7 day cruise (your budget may prove to be different). Your cruise cost (including port charges) is just the beginning $1, 000. Usually the down payment is $200 per person with the entire balance being required in full 90 days prior to sailing. Many of us will drive / fly to the port city so the gas / airfare is another cost $400. You can ask your cruise line if they offer a deal to include airfare, hotels, & transfers but most often you will find better deals on your own. Virtually all cruises from the US and going to foreign countries so a PASSPORT IS REQUIRED $200. Wanting to ensure we do not MISS the ship, we fly in a night early and get a hotel $150. Transportation from the airport to the hotel to the ship & back to the airport to return home $80. Tip for the baggage handler for your 4 – 5 bags $10 CASH. Once you get on the ship, your are assigned a key card which acts as your room key & as a credit card. Each cruise line is a cash free zone for purchases on board.
So you will use the key card to make purchases. You will need to place a minimum deposit of $100 per person in your cabin $200. Tips for the room stewards, wait staff, & others will automatically be charged to this key card. Daily tips are estimated at $12 – $15 per passenger per day. For a 7 day cruise this will be $168 – $210. Excursions offer unique experiences based on the port city are available. On a 7 day cruise you generally will visit 2 – 3 port cities. Excursions can range from $35 – over $500 per person per port. You may want to research the excursions your cruise offers before you sail as they are able to be booked online before the cruise. If you wait until you are on board, you may miss your opportunity as all excursions have limited capacity. So here let’s say we book a $35 per person excursion at port #1, a $50 per person at port #2, and we go a bit bold and enjoy a $200 per person excursion at port #3. Total excursion cost $570.
*** A note about excursions: You most often times can book those same excursions on your own through the excursion company directly for a better price, however, the ship will not guarantee those excursions and if you find yourself running late to the ship, the ship will not wait for you and you may miss returning before it departs. You are then on your own (and at your own cost) to get to the next port city to be able to again board the ship. It is a good idea to have the emergency number to the cruise line in those situations to advise them of your situation to see if they are able to offer any assistance. ***
Eating & drinking on board. Most of the food is FREE. Breakfast, lunch, dinner & room service food are included with your cruise fare. Most ships have several other eating areas which may charge for special food items and these can be done on your key card. Some even offer special dining options which will incur additional charges. Those are optional. Let’s say your additional snaking is $25. Water, juice, milk, coffee, & tea are also complimentary. Soda, shakes & malts, & liquor will incur additional charges. Each purchase you make on board for food, drink, and even some other purchases will have an additional tip added to the bill. Unlimited soda cards are available for purchase with price varying by cruise line. Some package deals will include your liquor in the cost of the cruise but you do pay more up front. Keep in mind, the cruise makes it real money once you are on board and liquor is a big money maker. The cost of drinks on board are going to be very expensive. Let’s say we have a reasonably fun time at $200. Don’t forget the mini bar. Many rooms will have a small fridge stocked for your benefit. You will also find large bottles of water in your room, these too have a cost if used. You can request your room steward remove those if you prefer so as to not be tempted. Gambling on board is very popular. Each ship has it’s own casino. Remember, the odds are always in the house’s favor. The possible cost is solely dependent up to you and can very greatly. If you do not yet play and want to learn, there are free gaming videos showing on your stateroom tv or many hold live classes daily. You will certainly want to have memories of your vacation. The cost of souvenirs and other such FUN items can be as high as you want but we will call it good at $150.
Possible unforeseen costs: Remember, you are in a foreign country. Phone charges: Your cell phone may work, but you will unknowingly pay outrageous per minute charges (possibly as high as $5 per minute) when calling home to check in on the loved ones. Similar charges can occur while on the ship; using your cell phone or the stateroom phone. Contact your cell provider before you leave, many do offer the option to add for a month additional coverage for calling worldwide. This will potentially save you hundreds of dollars. Illness or injury: Many people may become seasick, or otherwise ill, or may find themselves injured in some way. The ship infirmary is available but costly and the staff are not U. S. trained medical personnel. If you are prone to motion sickness, see your doctor before sailing for motion sickness patches to help prevent trouble. You can bring any medication you need aboard, you should have a smaller sample of what your regularly keep at home just in case. Any infirmary charges will be added to your room key charge card. If injured or seeking medical assistance while in a port city you will need to pay those costs at the time of service and then try to get your insurance to reimburse you those charges when you return. It is always a good idea to advise your health insurance before leaving of where you are going and find out what / how they will cover such expenses.
Missing the departure time: If you find yourself running late to the ship, the ship will not wait for you (unless on a ship sponsored excursion) and you may miss returning before it departs. You are then on your own (and at your own cost) to get to the next port city to be able to again board the ship. It is a good idea to have the emergency number to the cruise line in those situations to advise them of your situation to see if they are able to offer any assistance. Be aware of the changing time zones. Most cruises will move through several time zones during their journey; sometimes in a different time zone each day. Keep your watch and or cell phone on the correct time zone you are in as this will be the ship’s time and determines when they will be departing. Do not attempt to keep your original time zone and try to count forward or backwards as you may be wrong and miss the ship departing.
Lost or stolen identification: When you are leaving the ship to enter a port city, each person is required to have their government issued photo ID (drivers license) & and the on board room key as that identifies each person as being registered and able to board the ship. Without those you will not be able to return aboard the ship. You may need to call the nearest U. S. Consulate or Embassy for assistance, or call home in order to recover & have sent new identification documents. Most likely if this occurs, your money and credit cards are gone as well, calling your credit card companies immediately to cancel and re-issue those cards is a must. Do not keep everything in one place. Have credit cards in 2 different places (a pocket & a wallet) so if one gets lost you will still have the other. While this may not assist you in case of a lost ID, you will then have access to funds in order to expedite a replacement ID.
Legal problems: Many countries will have different laws than the U. S. & just like here, ignorance is no excuse. Be careful about drinking, drugs, driving, and other such pitfalls many can find themselves in when outside of the U. S. While you are on vacation do not let your common sense go on vacation as well. Ask the police to call the cruise line emergency number. When you booked the cruise they requested emergency contact numbers. They can then make those additional calls to your loved ones for assistance which you may not be able to make. Give them All of the relevant information, your name, your ship, the city you are in, the police captain’s name and number & address to where you are being held as well as with what you are being charged. You should then also request the cruise line And the police to contact the nearest U. S. Consulate or Embassy for assistance. If you are able to post bail or pay a fine, do so, and them immediately return to the ship. While it is nearly impossible to estimate what the possible unforeseen cost may be, it is highly recommend you have with you a credit card able to cover for an additional $5, 000. Unless you are in a catastrophic accident, a $5, 000 credit card should cover almost all of the above scenarios and allow you if needed to return home directly.
So from the above your total estimated budget for the 7 day cruise for 2 is: $3, 195. 00 plus keeping an available credit line of $5, 000 for possible emergencies. Depending on your situation, you may want to look into purchasing travel insurance which may cover your costs in case you are unable to take the cruise. This cost can vary and you will want to ask your booking company for those rates.
Hopefully, I did not scare you away from taking your first cruise. I have found the several I have been on with my wife and children to be a blast and a cruise is, to me, the best way to visit the rest of the world. I have just found that not knowing all of the additional monies which can be spent on a cruise can cause a loss of enjoyment when you are actually on the cruise. If you have all of the above in place and already budgeted for, then you no longer need to worry about the money aspect while on vacation and can actually enjoy your cruise. If your are still reading this and I hope you are, the next article in my series is: So You want to take A Cruise Step #2 When & Where to Cruise.