Welcome back everyone to part 2 of my series on my favorite type of vacation, the cruise ship vacations. There is nothing I like more than setting sail on these extremely large ships and heading off to somewhere in the Caribbean and being able to see a few countries along the way. You can’t get enough sunshine, ocean, and cocktails, so let me tell you, cruise ship vacations are the definite way to go. In my previous article, I went into doing your research before the cruise as well as choosing the right room for you. In this part I am going to dive into paying for the cruise and allocating spending money.
So, you have figured out where you wanted to go on a cruise to, picked out your departure port, and chose a room you feel is adequate for your budget, so now is the part NOBODY wants to do, and that is pay for it and also budget for any out-of-pocket expenses. You have gone through the booking engine and it is time to pay your deposit on your cruise. On Carnival there is a $250pp deposit owed on all cruises 6 days and longer so more than likely, this is the amount you will be required to pay. Your typical family of 4 will cost $1,000 in down payments unless you book around one of Carnival’s sales where they give reduced deposits of $50-$100 per person. Reduced deposits are showing up more frequently these days, so just look out for these sales.
On a typical balcony room for a family of 4 you will be looking to pay $700-$850 per person for the cruise which amount to around $3,000. After you pay the deposit you will be left with $2,000 to pay and you will be asking, when do I pay the rest? Well on Carnival, the answer is your cabin needs to be paid in full 75 days or 2.5 months prior to your cruise. If you book your cruise ship vacations far enough in advance, you won’t have to worry about a huge payment that needs to be paid. If you booked your cruise a year in advance, you will have 10 months before the cruise needs to be paid off. What I like to do is pay monthly so it doesn’t feel as bad. For the previous example, you would need to pay $2,000 in 10 months or just a monthly payment of $200 or $50 per week. When you break it down like this, it doesn’t feel nearly as bad as paying $2,000.
How much cash do you need for your cruise ship vacations? The answer is ZERO! Well there is a catch here and that cruise ships have done away with accepting cash while on the boat. Your room key doubles as your form of payments for everything you can buy on the boat: Snacks, Liquor, Paid Dining Options. All you do is walk up to the bar, they swipe your room key, and that’s it, you’re done! This can be an issue as you need to keep track of all your spending. You can track this by going to guest services for a printout or you can check your spending on your in-room television. However, you will need cash if you are going off the boat while in port on excursions, shopping, or eating/drinking. What I like to do is allocate a certain amount of funds needed per port and add $300 as just-in-case money so I don’t run out. So if my excursions, shopping, taxis, and eating is going to cost around $700 for my family, I will bring $1,000 as a safe bet. I would rather have too much than not enough and have to use credit cards in foreign countries.
There are some hidden costs when going on your cruise that you need to know about before booking so there aren’t any surprises when your cruise ends. Customary for cruise ship vacations is there are gratuities charged per person on all cruise lines. These gratuities help pay for your room steward, your dining staff, and ship activity coordinators. Across the cruise lines the cost may vary, but on Carnival it is $12 per person, per day. For a family of 4 on a 7-day cruise you are looking at $336 additional to your cruise. You may think this is a lot but this is all the pay these employees will get. You have the opportunity to remove the gratuities or give your own, but I find that it is easier to just let it stay. For gratuities you can either pay for them in advance or if you don’t, they will charge to your room account on Day 1, so either way, the cruise line will get their money. The other not so hidden costs, but more like costs you should be familiar with is the premium dining options. For example, on Carnival you can make reservations for a meal in the steakhouse, but it is not included in your cruise fare like your nightly dining room meal is. For the steakhouse you will be charged $35 per person but you will be able to eat, filet, surf and turf, lobster tails, and all the other steakhouse staples. Until recently the Steakhouse was $20, but the closer it gets to an on-land steakhouse, the less attraction it has for me personally. Cruise ship vacations make a lot of their money on “pay to play” dining and other assorted items. This is just another revenue stream in the quest for maximum profitability. Gone are the days where EVERYTHING is included and you can eat like a king. Today, eating like a king will cost you.
That brings us to the end of part 2 on my cruise ship vacations series. As you can tell I am very passionate about cruising, so if there is any questions you have for me, let me know and I can surely point you in the right direction!