Hidden Costs of Cruising: 2008 Update -part 4

| September 8, 2008

A cruise includes your stateroom, meals, itinerary and entertainment, but today there are many new onboard options -- for a price.

Onboard the Cruise Ship (Continued) Other Little Pleasures: Most new contemporary ships now offer a specialty coffee cafe where you can get a latte or mocha for a few dollars. While they also give away tasty pastries for no additional charge, they might charge a few dollars for a generous serving of gelato or a delicious candy apple. Princess Cruises charges $2.50 for six scoops of gelato, enough for two people. They charge $5 for an enormous and gooey caramel apple with nuts, chocolate chips, coconut and drizzled frosting.

Room Service: Room service is free, which is wonderful. You can pre-order your breakfast with piping hot coffee to be delivered at a set time the next morning. It has become more expected to give the attendant a small tip, usually a dollar bill, or Princess has you sign a slip where there is a space for a gratuity. Princess also charges a small fee for some room service items, such as $1.00 for a hot pizza.

Alternative Dining Venues: While all meals are offered at no additional cost on every cruise, almost every modern cruise ship offers special alternative dining restaurants with gourmet food and highly attentive service. On average, a specialty restaurant will charge about $20 per person, but the cost of these restaurants ranges from free on Oceania Cruises to up to $500 per person on Silversea. The $500 charge on Silversea has every course paired with a rare vintage wine, sherry, cognac or port.

Most people try these restaurants at least once on each cruise and they are more than worth it. On Princess a $30 surcharge will get you a fresh 1.5 pound live Maine lobster steamed to perfection. You can't beat it. The restaurants also charge a 15% service charge.

Spa Services: Most contemporary cruise ships also now offer onboard extras that are purely optional, but available for splurges if you care to pay for them. Professional spa services such as massage are available at prices that are generally higher than mall-spas, but less than name-brand land spas like Canyon Ranch or La Costa.

Spas usually cohabitate the fitness center. In the fitness center several aerobics classes are usually offered for no extra charge during the cruise. There may be certain yoga or pilates classes that carry a small fee of about $10.

Many ships now have what are called "thermal suites" for a small fee of $10 to $25/day, or you can save by paying a per-cruise price. These fees provide you with unlimited access to several steam rooms, each infused with a different aromatherapy, heated ceramic beds and wet or dry saunas. Some ships include a Thelassotherapy pool, which contains heated water and several high-speed water or air jets to help relax your aching muscles.

Adults Only Serenity Areas: A relatively new surcharge option on larger cruise ships is a deck area set aside just for adults featuring hot tubs and plush deck chairs. Waiters will bring you cool fruit and spritz your baking body with Evian water. These deck chairs may be queen-sized Balinese beds, which have thick cushions and plenty of cushy pillows. For an additional charge you can rent a private cabana within the area.

The cabanas will have a Balinese bed and offer complete privacy by closing the canvass tent flaps. These same cabanas, rented by the day, can also be found outside the serenity area by the regular pool. What's the advantage? Mainly, it secures you a prime location in the sun without having to fight the crowds or worry about strangers perusing your semi-nude body.

Shore Excursions: The tours you choose to take in port will usually be the most expensive parts of your final bill. Most of them cost between $50 to $250 per person. Are they worth it? When you think about how much you may have paid to get to your destination then it doesn't make sense to skimp at the last minute.

There are ways to economize, which we have covered in numerous articles. You can rent a car -- sharing the cost with another couple. You can catch a local bus or arrange with local tour providers before you leave on your cruise. The advantage of ship-offered excursions is that you know you will make it back to the ship on time.

Summing Up Hidden Costs No charge on any cruise is mandatory. You can drink iced tea with every meal and walk around in every port. How much you choose to spend is entirely up to you. Still, this is your once-in-a-lifetime vacation and you may never see Russia or Alaska again, so it doesn't make sense to skimp too much at the last minute. In the end the amount you choose to spend during your cruise is up to you. Everyone's style is different. Enjoy!

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