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Have you ever wondered why you can get cruise ship tickets so darn cheap? I mean, just hop on over to cheapcruises.com and see all the awesome and ridiculously inexpensive deals you can get on Bahamas and Caribbean cruises. We were able to secure our 4 night cruise to the Bahamas for only $249 per adult. I know what you’re thinkin’, pretty flippin’ sweet, eh? (what am I Canadian now?) And though it looks good on paper, there were a LOT of expenses I didn’t really consider, so I want to tell you about them before you go on your cruise ship.
- Taxes and Fees and Fees and Taxes. Before we even stepped foot in sunny Florida, we were hit with our first BIG unexpected expense. Our taxes and fees to book the cruise added up to an additional $183.60! Not only that, but we were also unable to bring our child on the cruise without paying for him as a passenger, even though he was only 10 months old. Now, for veteran cruisers, you may have known this, but I had no idea. So now our $500 cruise was pushing $900. But hey, for 4 nights in the Bahamas, entertainment and food all included, we decided to go for it anyway.
- Shore Excursions. I know, I know, everyone knows that shore excursions are expensive. But honestly, I had no idea that they were THAT expensive. We decided to pass on most of them and just relax on the beach or ship, but my wife really wanted to do Parasailing. Sounds cool! So we pulled out the info packet and opened it up and found that it was $89 per person! GAH! If we both decided to go, that’s $178 gone for 5-7 minutes in the air. That’s like another 2 nights on the cruise! Since I like not dying in the ocean and wanted to save some money, my wife ended up going with her mom and sister-in-law instead.
- Alcohol. The cruise ship margin on alcoholic beverages has to be somewhere near 500000% because O.M.G. were drinks expensive! And how can you refuse? You go through the DMV waiting line, show 16 pieces of ID to get on the ship, lug your 200 lbs. of luggage over to the ship and then wait in another line to board. You step on board, sweatier than Mike Tyson at a spelling bee, and they hand you a fruity rum drink with an umbrella in a blinking cup. Good luck saying no to that. Now, I can count on 8 fingers how many drinks we purchased on our trip, but at $9 a pop, that puts at over $70 in beverages alone!
- Pictures. Now, being the proud owner of a Canon Rebel T3 digital SLR camera (and having no clue how to use it (typical, I know)), the thought honestly NEVER crossed my mind that we would need any kind of professional pictures on board the ship. We were well equipped to snap awesome photos of any precious memories that would occur. But as we entered the ship, I saw full on photo shoot setups with background pictures, professional lighting and photographers whisking the crowds through their setup, snapping a few shots and rolling more people in. In each port there were photographers taking photos, at dinner, out at the pools, virtually everywhere you turn, someone was snapping your picture. I felt like Justin Bieber at a high school prom. Every night, they had a growing display of 8 x 10 photos out in the ship, with some pretty awesome pictures of our family. I realized that we would not leave the ship without some photos, so I started to price them out. $20 for a single 8 x 10 photo?! UGH! Well, if we hit 5 photos, that’s $100 right there, and there were WAY more than 5 great pictures that we wanted. So I looked at their package deals to get the digital copies of the photos. $250!!! Well, at least we were able to split the cost up, but man that was expensive. We also opted to take all the prints home for another $50 (got over 50 prints). So $300 later, my budget is shaking it’s fist at me, but we have some awesome family pics.
- Gratuity. Yes, I believe that everyone in the service industry should get paid gratuity. Yes, I enjoy tipping well, especially for stellar service. But being on an “all inclusive” cruise, I was thinking that it was all paid up front and that would be the end of it. I had assumed it was part of the “taxes and fees” portion of the invoice. Nope. First, we were charged $12 per person per day for general gratuity. Yes, our son paid $48 in gratuity fees because he’s generous like that 😉 We were charged gratuity on every drink purchased, including lattes. We were also charged gratuity on the pictures purchased. So, overall, we paid $225+ in gratuity over the course of 4 days. And since I didn’t not plan on that amount, my budget picked up it’s things and moved out for the week.
I Did Not Budget Well, But You Can
I admit, I didn’t not expect a lot of these charges because I just didn’t know. I had done some research, but with conflicting information online, we were left wondering what we would be charged for and what would be included. Now, I know. I hope my experience can help you budget for these somewhat hidden expenses, and allow you to enjoy your first cruise ship! I recommend setting up a savings bucket for your vacation, putting away what you think you’ll need for the cruise, and then add an additional 20% more for other “hidden” expenses that might come up. Then, go spend your money guilt-free and have a great vacation!
Comments: Have you ever gone on a cruise? Me too! What are some unexpected expenses you ran across? Did you find yourself overspending on Bahama Mamas or Coco Locos? Does anyone else think sitting in a hottub with other cruises to be not only awkward, but also probably the biggest cesspool on the entire ship?
Oh, and look at me rockclimbing!