Package vacations are often great deals for families, but there are often costs that aren't advertised in the flyers. While I'm a great fan of cruise vacations, there are a lot of unadvertised costs involved. Those magazine ads that itemize a cruise in comparison to other vacations make a valid point; the cruise package is a good deal for a family in comparison to other vacations. Take advantage of the package, but budget correctly. Here's what's missing.
These aren't really unseen, but we tend to forget about them. Gratuities are included in most onboard charges. Upon boarding the vessel, an account is set up which allows cruisers to purchase drinks and other items without carrying cash. At the end of the cruise the bill for all the fun arrives. While this can be something which easily gets out of hand, the wary cruiser can budget it well or even pay for the purchases with cash and avoid this tallied bill. However, what may not be expected is the gratuity bill. Gratuities fall somewhere around $10 a day per cruiser. A seven day cruise for a family of four can incur a tip bill of $280 which is hefty when unexpected. Check your ticket packet for the gratuity rate of your cruise line.
You're not getting the most out of your vacation if you don't take some shore excursions and see the sights. These are fabulous side trips, but they add up quickly. Some are as little as $25, but again, that adds up to $100 for a family of four. If the boat stops at three islands, be prepared to pay $300-$400 for excursions. Exotic trips cost more, but they're worth it. Again, it's all in the preparation. Those brochures show people scuba diving and hiking, but they don't add that into their advertised prices which are the basic room price only.
Yes, you're on the boat which is your mode of transportation, but there are others. How will you get from the hotel to the boat? What about transfers from the dock to the airport? Your travel agent or cruise line can assist you with this.
Airline tickets are also a huge part of your costs. Depending upon your departure location, the cost of airfare can often be the most expensive part of the trip for third and fourth person cruisers. For instance, a third person cruiser can cost as little as $208 for a week's cruise while his airfare can cost upwards of $300.
Lastly, even with some shore excursions taxis are required. If you plan to do shore shopping, taxis are a must. At times they're expensive, and other times they can offer flat fares which are reasonable. Even some shore excursions end in places other than the piers, allowing tourists to explore towns at their leisure. This means cab fare is in the future.
While the advertisements don't lie, they do tease. They advertise the lowest prices, noted by the phrase "as low as." Usually the cabins listed for those "as low as" prices are interior lower decks. These aren't the spacious cabins with balcony views that you envision, and the upgrade costs are significant enough to make one rethink the budget. They also don't include taxes which are added to the total cost of the room.
If you read the fine print on the flyers and advertisements as well as ask your travel agent, you can avoid any seemingly hidden fees and enjoy the great adventures that these companies offer. However, if you enter into a package cruise blindly, you might be unpleasantly surprised by the ending cost of your fun.
I can't stress enough how important it is to get the Insurance for these cruises. Ours was only $59 and I got sick the morning on our first day out. I ended up off the boat in a tiny hospital in Guatamala and had to be flown home to the US. If I had not had the ins., I would have been billed about $28,000 for the little jet to get us out plus all of the hospital bills, etc. I still have to pay about $3300 for the jet, and almost $3000 in medical, but I think the insurance will reinburse me for most of that. I don't think Medicare pays for medical outside of the US. Just beware!
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