Seniors: Beware ‘All Inclusive’ Cruises

Sep 29th, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Travel

To a first-time senior citizen cruiser, their vacation may seem all-inclusive, but it is not.  AOL Travel’s advice is to make a budget before you hand over your credit card and you can beat the spend.  AOL offers further advice to save you some money.  Except on the most upscale lines, cruises are not all-inclusive, and they never were. First-timers may be confused because many elements of the cruise are included in the fare – which makes it difficult to keep track of those that aren’t (see the advice at the end of this blog).  Save some money.  Do not spend freely.  Know what is included and what is NOT included on your cruise.

Here’s how:

  • Have a latte after dinner in the dining room or all the coffee or tea you want in your stateroom (free) rather than at a specialty coffee shop (generally not free). 
  • Enjoy one of the Jacuzzis on the pool deck (free) instead of the thermal suite in the spa (not free). • Order all the room service you want (free).
  • Skip the Internet café on the ship and use one in port at a quarter of the cost or less.
  • Have your wine on the captain’s night (free) and watch your tab the rest of the time, as you would on land. Soft drinks are expensive, so if you want to indulge freely, buy a soda package. 

  • Find a cruise line you like and stick with it – loyalty programs give repeat passengers parties with open bars, wine in their staterooms, reduced Internet costs, free laundry, upgraded staterooms, spa credits and more.
  • Get a few friends together and create a group, which entitles you to one free stateroom, wine or fruit in the cabins and other privileges.
  • If you play the slot machines in the casino, don’t use your credit card. Set yourself a cash limit and stick to it.
  • Enjoy the complimentary soft serve ice cream, instead of the specialty shop frozen dessert.

Additional general information helps you discern what is free, and what will cost you extra:

  • Today, cruise ships offer specialty restaurants from sushi bars and teppanyaki rooms to steak houses, Italian bistros and New York delis, all in addition to the main dining rooms and buffets. The majority of the dining choices are free. Those that aren’t free usually carry fees of $5 to $30 per person.
  • Spas and salons are not included in the cruise fare; they are concessions run by companies like Canyon Ranch, and their services are à la carte.
  • Shore excursions are operated by local companies, and they are not free either. In many cases, though, the cruise lines offer free shuttle service from the port into the nearby city. 
  • Fitness facilities are free, from exercise bikes to resistance equipment and free weights. Some classes are free. Rock climbing walls, bungee trampolines, wave pools, steam rooms and saunas are nearly always free. So are ice-skating, in-line skating, tennis, basketball and volleyball. Classes in Pilates, yoga, spinning, etc., carry a fee, usually $10-$12.
  • Entertainment is nearly all free, and the cruise lines offer real Broadway-style productions and acts from Blue Man Group to classical ensembles. Karaoke, dance classes, stand-up comedy, rock and roll acts, folk artists, magic shows and cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs are all free; hands-on gourmet cooking classes with limited enrollments typically carry a fee.
  • Kids’ and teens’ programs are spectacular on many ships, and they are free for young cruisers. If you want babysitting in your stateroom, though, there will be a fee. On most cruise ships, the usual tips for staff run $8-$10 per passenger per day.

The more upscale cruise lines are more inclusive, so check the offers and calculate the value of included shore excursions, tips, fees, beverages and special dining. Always do the math to compare cheap cruises that have fewer inclusions with pricier ones that provide more perks.

Cruisemates has a very helpful site for first-time cruisers. First-time Cruisers always have a lot of questions. They recommend that you read as many articles in CruiseMates as you can before you sail. The most important ones for first-timers are listed above in the URL, but also check cruise consumer section.

While more people are booking online these days, I still recommend calling a travel agent. I completed the national agent exam after spending nine-months of training and know the valuable information that agents have that are not all included via the computer.

At any price point, a cruise can be one of the best vacation deals around – but to enjoy a real bargain, you have to be smart about beating the spend.  Beware the fine print.  Here’s what you need to know before you book your next trip. Read this carefully.  jeb

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