It’s well known cruises are a luxury holiday, which is why they’ve been the domain of retirees who can afford the money and time each trip takes, and newlyweds looking for a slice of luxury to kick off married life.
And with good reason. When you think about cruise ships of the past – who can forget the opulence of Titanic – and even those today which feature robot butlers and silver service to rival top restaurants the world over, they offer a different experience to the standard all inc package holiday to Spain.
However, all is not what it seems with hidden expenses on cruises often inflating the cost of your holiday. The price you see when browsing ships and destinations very much is for your room, taxes, and one to two restaurants aboard. Everything else, from tips, to drinks, to excursions, will put a dent in your wallet.
Rather than rival all inclusive package holidays, cruises are more a DIY style luxury vacation where you choose your trip and add on the extras you want. To me, this totally shattered the illusion of what I thought a cruise encompassed, and highlighted how the price you see is just a fraction of the price you’ll need to budget for.
7 hidden expenses on cruises we faced with Celebrity Cruises
These are the hidden fees aboard Celebrity Equinox we realised we needed to budget for for our week’s stay.
1. Calculate the expense of drinks packages
When you book your cruise, more than likely you’ll need to also book a drinks or beverage package. From bottled water to gourmet cocktails, some cruise ships will add this on top of the cost of your room. So while that cruise might seem like it’s £995 per person for the week, alcoholic drinks packages on Celebrity started at £38 per night per guest, with bottled water packages costing around £10 a day per person. Celebrity’s Premium alcoholic packages were just under £50 per passenger per night. You can pay per drink, but prices are inflated – and bringing drinks aboard is banned – so they work out the cheapest of the two options.
2. Calculate the expense of tips
Tipping in the UK is a contentious subject. Most of us Brits believe a tip should reward good service and never be expected or thrust upon you for a server merely doing their job. On a cruise, however tips are mandatory, even if you go up to get a drink at the bar yourself and even if you book your drinks package. On Celebrity Equinox, every drink and meal meant an 18% charge would be added to each order, not including maid, porter, and concierge tips. That’s a heck of a lot of tip money being demanded from a lot of different people.
3. Calculate the expense of excursions
We didn’t really plan to take part on any pre-arranged excursions, preferring to tour the sights alone, rather than with a group of (loud) chattering Americans. Excursions started at around £60 per person for a basic guided city tour at each destination, and went all the way up to £300 for more exclusive tours. Considering we managed to walk around and spend a grand total of €10 for a city tour in Sicily, and €38 on cocktails in Mykonos, excursions can be done a lot cheaper than advertised.
4. Calculate the expense of restaurants
When you book your cruise, you’ll have use of a canteen-style restaurant which will probably cover everything from an early-morning brekkie to a midnight snack. However if you want a different experience, expect to pay an entrance fee to speciality restaurants, as well as the cost of food and wine. Some cafes also aren’t included in drinks packages. Aboard Celebrity Equinox we had the use of the Oceanview canteen, as well as a semi-formal Silhouette restaurant.
5. Realise that even if your cruise is all-inclusive, you’ll still need to pay for some services
We’ve covered food, drinks and beverage packages above and the cost of excursions too. However there will always be some restaurants that are off-limits to standard guests. Some bars will charge more for cocktails meaning even if you buy a premium beverage package, they aren’t included – whiskies for example often require additional spending. Spa services will be extra, too.
6. Wifi costs more than gold
We were connected 24/7 on our cruise. And for the privilege of keeping you updated on social media and posting all those amazing photos of us having a whale of a time was $299 each. EACH. Due to an issue we had in Istanbul, where we were told our cruise had been cancelled for ‘health reasons’, we were offered free wifi for the duration as a goodwill gesture. It works out about 60p per minute, and packages can be purchased. The wifi was actually brilliant, with only one night where it was out of action. Considering you’re in the middle of the sea, we were super impressed.
7. You’ll pay for a window
Inner cabins are the cheapest rooms available. This means they’ll be the size of a standard cabin, but your view will be whatever shade of magnolia the walls have been painted. Window cabins, which we had, feature a small little window and no outside area. You can expect to pay upwards of £200 for these rooms. Then, there are those with their own little balcony and veranda which see a huge jump in price. We were more than happy with our window room, but I’d suffer with nausea not being able to see outdoors, so bear that in mind.
Really, these charges aren’t too dissimilar from those incurred when you pay for a half board hotel abroad. Aside from the fact your room might not have much of a view, many half board hotels will require you to pay for drinks and additional services.
Cruises are a great way to see the sights. And while its not the cheapest option, by knowing in advance the charges you’re likely to face will ensure you get your trip for the best price.