When embarking on planning your ocean cruise vacation you need to be very sure of what exactly is included in your purchase price. Many times when people shop online they don’t realize that pricing is typically listed in U.S dollars and doesn’t include port charges or taxes. This can change the cost of your cruise substantially. For many reasons, but this one in particular, it is a good idea to work with an agent.
All cruise lines include your accommodations, all your meals, entertainment during the day and evening and many organized or self-directed activities. When you look at all the things that are offered each day, the value far exceeds any other type of vacation. Where else can you enjoy Broadway style shows, zip lines or movies with snacks on the deck under the stars, all included in your cruise fare? And a reminder that cruise holidays are fantastic for families that want to spend time together involved in activities or alternatively they also provide the Kids Clubs free of charge so that parents can also enjoy some quiet time while the kids are highly entertained. There is never any lack of things to do on a ship.
Many people become confused when it comes to beverages on a ship. The majority of ocean liners offer regular coffee, tea, lemonade, iced tea, ice water and standard juice on a complimentary basis. If you enjoy pop, bottled water or specialty coffees and teas, they are at an additional cost. Also, any alcoholic beverage is at an extra cost. Just about all of the cruise lines now offer beverage packages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and at different price points depending on if you want everything included or for instance just beer and wine. If the cost of a daily beverage package doesn’t interest you be sure to ask your agent to watch for promotions that include drink packages. Many cruise lines offer them for booking during a specific period and can be a substantial savings.
Gratuities are also something you need to factor into your budget when planning your vacation. Cruise lines have a suggested daily amount that will be added to your guest account onboard and it is split amongst your cabin steward and various wait staff. It is important to know that these gratuities are always at the discretion of the guest. They can be modified or you can request the amount not be added to your account and pay your staff in person with cash. This is your decision. Keep in mind that any gratuities added to your account onboard will be added in U.S dollars so pre-paying them in Canadian dollars, prior to your departure, is highly recommended. One final point to know about gratuities is regarding open dining times. Should you choose to not have a standard reserved dining time (often called Anytime Dining or My Time Dining) you will need to pre-pay your gratuities. The reason being is that different wait staff will serve you and they want to ensure that each staff member is taken care of equally. These folks work extremely hard to make your vacation memorable and they deserve to be compensated.
Speaking of dining – there is no lack of food available at all times of the day. Eating at the buffets and traditional dining rooms are complimentary. You do however have the option to enjoy a Specialty Dining restaurant at a nominal surcharge. These restaurants are usually a specific style or type of food and can be a wonderful option for a special occasion or just for a change while onboard. Again, they are completely optional.
Shore excursions are not included on ocean liner cruise ships. So if you want to take a tour or participate in an activity that is offered in the port, you will need to factor this cost into your overall budget. The cruise lines offer a plethora of options for every kind of traveler depending on interests, activity level or special destination highlights. You can also book through private tour operators or plan your own exploration. You have many options just be sure you always take note of the departure time from the port. You don’t want to miss the ship!
Finally, the last item of consideration is your airport transfers. Depending on which port you are leaving from, you have a few options. If the port is a considerable distance from the airport such as Galveston then taking advantage of the cruise line bus transportation can sometimes work to your advantage. While ports like San Juan or Fort Lauderdale it makes more sense to just hop in a cab since they are very close by. You can also look at arranging a private transfer by van or if you come in early, renting a car that you can drop off in the port city. There are many options that you can discuss with an agent.
These points are the most common questions I am asked by clients so I hope this is helpful for you when planning your next ocean cruise vacation. Keep in mind many of the above items are included in river cruises - but that is another conversation altogether. As a specialist I can take care of all of these logistics for you and make your next vacation a fantastic one. Contact me with your questions.
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.