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WHAT WILL ALL THIS COST?

You will rarely pay full price for a cruise. Cruise lines will publish full and early booking prices in their brochures. And even then they will have periodic "specials." See your travel agent or watch the Internet. Here's some information about the cost of your cruise...

Cabin category - Obviously there is a big difference from the least expensive to the most but sometimes the in between isn't all that different. You absolutely must look at a brochure or website with the layout of the ship, size and description of the cabins. First there is the position - inside or outside. The inside cabins do not have a window although many have a curtain pretending to hide a window. They are the least expensive. The outside cabins will have a porthole, a picture window or a private verandah. Next is the deck level. The prices go from top down with the most expensive higher up. However, you will often find some inside cabins stuck in some areas on higher decks. Check for obstructed view cabins. A lifeboat could block your view. The cabins in the same category are about the same size and layout; it's just their location that changes the price. Most ships have Verandah cabins that have a private balcony. These are well worth the money if you can afford them. There are also Mini-Suites (usually with a Verandah) and Suites. Both are larger than the regular cabins. Suites come with special perks that could include free laundry, dinner with the captain, specialized attention by cabin stewards, butlers, concierges, etc.

Season - Most itineraries have an "off" season or a time of year when there are fewer people interested in that cruise. Traveling at this time can save you money and you might have a less crowded ship. For example, the very beginning and the very end of the Alaska season - May and September are the bargain months. Hurricane season affects the Caribbean. But remember, if you plan a cruise during this time you will have more likelihood of not getting to the ports you intended. Ships will detour around these storms and schedules will be upset. Late November and early December are out of Hurricane season and lots of bargains can be found. The Christmas holidays are usually higher in cost.

Duration - The shorter cruises are not necessarily the best bargains. The other factors play a bigger part. For example, a 10-day Caribbean could be less expensive than a 7 day Alaska. Also, take the cost and divide by the number of days to see your average daily cost. You might see that the 10-day cruise is a better deal per day than a shorter one. Although if it's your first cruise you might want to consider either a shorter cruise or one that makes a lot of port calls until you find out if you like sailing.

Itinerary - These are your basic and most popular choices:

  1. Caribbean (Western, Southern, Eastern, Panama Canal) - all year.
  2. Alaska - May through September
  3. Europe - April - October
  4. New England/Canada - September/October (although some cruises in other months)
  5. Hawaii - this used to be only spring and fall but is now expanding
  6. Transatlantic - spring and fall (repositioning cruises) plus some ships have other transatlantic runs.
  7. You also have some other places like South America, Asia, South Pacific, Mississippi, Great Lakes, River cruises in US and Europe

A repositioning cruise is when a ship moves from one itinerary to another. For example, when a ship leaves the Caribbean for Europe it has a repositioning cruise across the Atlantic. Sometimes you can get great deals on these and they are usually a little longer in length.

Airfare - Air is most often a separate expense. You can purchase an air supplement through the cruise line or book it yourself. They publish one price and make deals with airlines or charter companies to transport their people. Sometimes you will be on a charter flight but most often they are regularly scheduled airlines. There are many times you can get a better deal on your own or you can use frequent flyer miles. If you arrange your own air, you will have to get to the port yourself or buy a transfer. Also, the ship will not wait if you are delayed nor will they be responsible for getting you to the next port. Don't think of that as a deterrent. We often use our free tickets and come in the day before. Then we are relaxed when we get to the ship rather than harried from traveling. Even if you booked the travel through them they have no control over weather and airline equipment delays. Coming in the night before is always best if you can do it. Even missing the first port would put a damper on your experience.

Number of people in your cabin - All rates are based on double occupancy. Third and forth passenger's fares are considerably lower. But be sure you will be comfortable with that many in the size cabin you are booking. Single Supplement: If you are traveling alone, this charge can be from 125-150% of the double-occupancy rate. Some cruise lines will find you a cabin-mate and only charge the double-occupancy rate.

Types of discounts: Early booking, alumni, last-minute travelers, senior citizens, certain credit card promotions, special groups and even added discounts from certain travel agents. Guaranteed Rate: You choose a category that is the minimum you will be comfortable in and be guaranteed a cabin at least this level or, hopefully, better. Upgrades: Sometimes a category will be sold out and the earlier-booked passengers will be given a more expensive cabin to make the lower-priced cabins available. Usually the cheapest and the most expensive categories are the ones that sell out first. Travel Agent Discounts: The cruise line charges the same price no matter if you book from them, through a large agency or through a small agency. However, the larger cruise agency might get a bigger commission than the little neighborhood agency who only books 1 cruise a year. So the larger agency can often quote you a better price because they are, in essence, giving you part of their commission through a lower fare. Some agencies also have contracted for a group of cabins. By doing this they get a lower selling price, full commission and often a free cabin or two. They can pass these savings along to you.

Extras Expenses - Be sure to allow for the following costs that may or may not be included in your cruise brochure price.

Before cruise: (Your travel agent will tell you what these costs are)

During cruise:

Here's what is included: Your cabin, all meals, including main meals in any dining room, buffets, snacks, hors d'oeuvres, coffee, tea, juices or milk; sometimes room service, all entertainment and some activities on board ship. However, some ships like RCI have a miniature golf course, rock climbing, etc. on some ships and that is an extra charge. Many ships now offer an "alternative" restaurant - different from the regular dining room. They usually have a per person charge.

Paying for those extras: A cruise is a "cashless society"; everything on board except gambling is charged to your account. Some ships allow you to charge your casino chips on your house account but you might pay a cash advance fee for this. At the beginning of your cruise (or often when you register online before the cruise) you give them your credit card number (or make a cash deposit). That's all. From then on, all you need do is show your ship card (like a credit card) and sign for your purchase. On the last night you will receive a statement of all transactions. If there is a discrepancy, discuss it with the Purser before you leave the ship. If not, you will find the total charge as one item on your next credit card bill, in US dollars.

TIPPING - This is the most talked about item with any cruise discussion group. Most of the cruise lines now add the tips directly onto your shipboard account. It's a flat amount per day, per person. You can go to the purser and change the amount upward or downward or remove it completely. You can also give a little extracash to the person who has demonstrated superior service to you. The staff does rely on tips for their primary source of income. Most lines also add a 15% gratuity on all bar bills and room service. Then you have your very upscale lines like Silversea where the tips are "included" in your cruise price.

Read the website (or brochure) for your cruise line to see what their tipping policies are. They will usually tell you how much will be added to your account per day, per person. Average is about $22.

The only tipping done before and during the cruise, in cash, is the following:

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