Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Cruises are good value vacations. You get all lodging, food, entertainment and childrenís programs for one price. Passengers pay extra for specialty restaurants, alcoholic drinks, sodas, spa treatments, shore tours, Internet access and other items. To stay within your budget once onboard, follow these money-saving tips.
Select shore tours carefully. Snorkeling a reef, gliding on a zipline through a rain forest or sailing to a less-visited beach make for great shore tours. Typically, you should sign-up for these ship sponsored outings. Why? Because the cruise line has likely booked the best boats and outfitters in port and the shipís tour includes transportation to the adventure and back. Thatís especially convenient if the boat tour departure point and the rain forest are located on the other side of island from the shipís pier.
However, for other nearby shore tours, especially if you want to swim and sun at a beach, save money by getting there and back on your own. On a recent cruise to St. Thomas, the ship charged $40 per person for an excursion to beautiful but busy Magens Bay. The fee included the $4 per person admission. No beach chairs were provided. Purchased with the ship, the beach day costs $160 for a group of four. A taxi costs $7 per person each way, or $56 round-trip for four. Add $16 for admission for four people to the beach and the total cost for the beach day is $72. By going on your own, you save $88.
Bring bottled water. Even though most lines do not permit you to bring alcohol onboard, you can pack bottles of water. Bought from the ship, an eight-ounce bottle of water costs about $2.30. While the tap water onboard is fine to drink, itís wise to take bottled water with you on shore tours, especially in the warm Caribbean. Save money on this essential item by purchasing water at a convenience store in your port of your embarkation. Recently in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a pack of 40 bottles of water cost $4 on special as opposed to $92 on the ship. Your savings: $88.
Use the Internet wisely. Shipboard Internet packages are costly. Consider what you need. One plan gave passengers 120 minutes for $59, or about 59 cents per minute. The Internet at sea is notoriously slow and sometimes unreliable. Screens freeze and disconnections are common. Although you might still need an onboard plan, especially for sea days, limit your expenses by using free Wi-Fi sites on shore. More and more port complexes have at least one restaurant or shop that lures passengers inside by offering free Wi-Fi.
Also, be sure to check your cell phoneís international data roaming plan. A fellow passenger on a recent trip purchased a $150 international plan for an iPhone so he thought he was covered. Three days into a seven day Caribbean cruise, he was notified by email that he incurred more than $585 in cellular charges. Under his plan, roaming while at sea was not covered, something not made clear by his carrier.