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Cost Of Cruising

Apr 29, 2008
Things to consider

Cruises are convenient and fun, and they offer nonstop excitement that no other vacation can match. No worries about where to go to dinner or where to have fun, and -- best of all -- no packing and unpacking to visit the next destination. So how can you afford a cruise and what can you expect to spend during your cruise? Here is some insight on what to expect.

Cruising - what's included

A cruise isn't an all-inclusive vacation, but it can be a great deal because of what is included in the cruise fare - generally, all meals, snacks, entertainment, games, activities and most sports and fitness activities. Of course, there are many extras you can spend money on, and these can certainly add up at sea, just as they do when you stay at a shoreside resort. Things that aren't included in the basic cruise fare are airfare, shore excursions, alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, souvenirs and casino games.

Types of cruises

The cruise you choose will also affect your total cost. A longer cruise costs more than a shorter one, of course, but the cruise line matters, too. Cruise lines are divided into three categories: contemporary, premium, and luxury. Contemporary cruises are typically less expensive, but the staterooms, food and service are not as lavish as on premium and luxury cruises. Luxury cruises are the most expensive, but they typically offer smaller ships, gourmet cuisine and individual attention. In the middle are premium lines, like Princess Cruises, which generally offer a diverse fleet of medium-sized and larger cruise ships, along with accommodations and services and fall between contemporary and luxury offerings.

Your stateroom

If you are on a tight budget you can save money on your cruise by choosing an inexpensive cabin such as an inside stateroom. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy the scenery and have your own place to escape to, then choose a balcony stateroom or suite. Stateroom rates can vary widely. For example, on Princess Cruises' Alaska sailings, there is a $500 per person difference between the least expensive inside stateroom and the least expensive balcony stateroom. No matter what stateroom you choose, you have access to the same dining rooms, pools, public areas, amenities and shore excursions as any other passenger on the ship, so the choice of stateroom is purely a matter of budget and comfort.

Getting to the ship

How you get to the port of embarkation will have a significant impact on the overall cost of your cruise vacation. For long distance travel, you may want to compare the cost of airline tickets, bus tickets or train tickets. Air travel is usually the most preferred method of travel, but it is the most expensive. Sometimes it pays to drive your own vehicle to the port city. Your cruise line can give you information for long-term parking.

Onboard extras

Cruise lines have always charged additional fees for shore excursions, alcoholic beverages and spa treatments, and now they are offering many new onboard extras -- everything from artwork to alternative restaurants and wine tastings. Almost all cruises operate on a sign-and-go basis, which means you can select any fee-based activity and use your stateroom key as a charge card. This system is very convenient, but it also makes it very easy to run up a large tab by the end of the cruise. Take a look at your bill periodically -- every two days or so -- just to make sure you know what you're spending. The purser's office can always provide you with this information; on many new ships, you will also have account access through your stateroom television screen.

Cruising isn't a cheap vacation, but it certainly offers a tremendous value for each dollar spent.

Bon voyage!
About the Author
Anita Dunham-Potter is a Pittsburgh-based travel journalist specializing in cruise travel. Anita is a weekly travel columnist for http://MSNBC.com and Tripso, and she is a contributor to Fodor's "Complete Guide to Caribbean Cruises 2007".
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