Cruise Addicts
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At some point, most of us have made the ultimate mistake of accidentally leaving the wallet at home. There is nothing quite like the sinking feeling that you get as you reach into your back-pocket (or purse) and realize that all those groceries in your cart will have to be returned to their shelves by the miserable-looking teen-aged bag-boy.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but you will have that same “sinking feeling” if you don’t properly budget for a cruise. Although cruise packages are a great deal, people tend to forget about all the things that go along with vacationing like cocktails, souvenirs, tours, etc. This is why I’m going to help you evaluate your vacation-spending habits and figure out just how fat your wallet should be when you board the ship.

While your cruise vacation is semi-all-inclusive (about 70% is covered in your cruise fare), off-the-ship activities, souvenirs, spa treatments, cocktails, and gambling are expenses you’ll want to plan for. You can go on a cruise and spend absolutely nothing extra on yourself; however, I strongly encourage you to have few bucks handy to tip the crew at the end.

So let’s begin the break-down:

An adult who drinks moderately, will want to go on a shore excursion, gambles a little bit, and wants to take advantage of some of the other premium services onboard should budget about $100-$150 per day. Heavy drinkers, spa fanatics, obsessive internet users, and compulsive shoppers should budget a bit (or quite a bit) more.

Non-drinkers who like to spend the day relaxing on deck or on a beach within walking distance of the ship while it is in port and don’t have a lot of need for commemorative refrigerator magnets could get away with about $50 per day.

How did I figure this out? Let’s take a look at a typical day at sea/no port of call:

  • Begin by assuming $12 per person, per day for cover customary gratuities for the ship’s crew. These will automatically be added to your account.
  • Have a beer while sun-bathing on deck ($6.00). Before you know it, that one beer has turned into three and you’re out $18.
  • Check your email and make your Facebook friends jealous for a few minutes, and 20 minutes later, you’ve spent $7 more (@ $.35 cents/minute).
  • A spa treatment seems like the logical next step on a lazy day! You decide to get your nails done–$35.
  • On the way back to your room to change for dinner, you buy a souvenir from the gift shop for the neighbor who’s watering your plants– $10.
  • Gambling seems like a good night-cap, so you play some slots before turning in for the night–$20.

This fun-filled day leaves an $102 dent in your cash-supply…and it could have been a lot more. We could have chosen an alternative dining option, not included in the cruise fare for up to $50 per person more.

To be safe, it’s a good idea to leave “wiggle-room” for an extra souvenir or a pedicure to go with that manicure, so it’s fair to say $100-$150 per person per day is a good estimate if your vacation routine is anything like the one depicted.

The point is that the ‘other’ travel funds we have available is really going to depend on what we do.

Content with a very low-key vacation? Cruise travelers can get by just paying the suggested gratuities at the end of the cruise. Still, it’s the small indulgences that often make travel memorable, so planning ahead to have those funds available is very much worthy of consideration. Perhaps that $50 upcharge for the fancy specialty restaurant is something we need to budget for…especially when that $50 fee could be triple that if done at a land-based restaurant.

Actually, it is easy to accrue a large shipboard account bill. As easy as forgetting that the inclusive nature of a cruise does not include everything we desire on a vacation—and that is actually a good thing! This focuses the cost-burden of the extra services only on those who use them, keeping packages reasonably priced for everyone.

There are cruise lines that are more inclusive than others. Some include wine and beer with meals, internet access and many of the items listed above that some cruise travelers pay extra for. More-inclusive has it’s price though. More inclusive deals are mostly the dominion of small luxury and ultra-luxury cruise lines that can cost up to ten times more than a major cruise line.

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