Monday, June 12, 2006

Costs: The bottom line

Hi. We had a question about costs, so we thought we'd fill you in.

First, cruises CAN be all-inclusive....but it means staying out of shops, the spa and off of shore excursions. Here are some guidelines.

What's included: Your cabin cost (more about that in a minute) covers your cabin. It also covers dining in the main dining room and other no-charge venues (on Freedom, that includes Sorrento's Pizza and Lattitudes coffee shop, where coffee and snacks are free but specialty drinks like latte and cappucino carry a cost similar to what you pay on land.) All onboard shows are included, as is use of the fitness center, rock-climbing wall, ice rink, Flowrider and mini-golf. A selection of non-alcoholic beverages is offered for free at each meal; that's mostly iced tea, lemonade and coffee.

Cabin cost: Inside cabins start at $859 per person, double. Outside cabins start at $1,049 per person, double; outside cabins with balconies start at $1,299 per person, double. A variety of suites is offered. Bear in mind that the earlier you book, the more likely that you're going to get a good price for the cabin you want. And if the price goes down, you CAN request a refund...though you'll need to keep an eye on pricing to know if that happened.

Bottom line: So the bottom line for your trip with accommodation, food and onboard entertainment is the price you pay for your cabin, plus tips. Tips are optional, but these people work hard and cheaping out is uncool. The recommended tip is $10 per traveler per day.

For a fee: Some onboard amenities do have a fee. These include the golf simulator ($25), all spa treatments and some fitness classes ($10 for yoga, pilates or a group boxing class. Children's programs are included but the video arcade charges $1.25 per credit (and these can really rack up.)

Some food outlets have a charge: Portofino ($20), Chops Grille ($20) and Johnny Rockets ($3.95 cover charge plus the cost of drinks.) Cocktails run about $6 each, wine from $4.50 to $7.50 per glass; wine by the bottle prices are less usurious than in landside restaurants. Sodas cost extra; if you drink them often, your best bet is to buy a week-long pass for $48.30 for an adult, $32.80 per child.

Shore excursions: Yup, they're expensive. You can generally arrange many if not most of the excursion experiences on your own. This means getting a good guidebook -- Lonely Planet or Moon -- figuring out what experiences are available, doing some research ahead of time online. I've even e-mailed in advance so that the operator has set aside kayaks for my group. Also, some experiences are offered for a lesser price at booths right on the dock.

But -- and this is worth considering -- if your port time is limited, you may not be able to do what you'd like without having arrangements pre-set. Also, if your tour bus breaks down or there's any delay, the ship won't wait for you unless you're on an excursion organized by its staff. In Cozumel, for instance, you'd be taking a big risk to try to make the trek to Tulum on your own; too much distance and too many variables when you have only a few hours in port. (If you're on an itinerary that allows more time, you might manage it.)

So why not just hang out in the town? Most port towns in the Caribbean look pretty much the same. That's not to diss the ports -- many are interesting if you get out of the mainstream areas or rent a car to go exploring. But just walking around can lead you from one Colombian Emeralds shop to the next...they're all much the same, and on the items I've checked, the prices are the same one island to the next.

What I spent: My goals were two-fold: Try every last experience I could, and lose weight. This meant a single glass of wine, no cocktails, but lots of active shore excursions.

I saved my shopping for Haiti, where the people really need the money. Everywhere, I haggled. My tab:

Wine: $7
Dinners in Portofino and Chops: $20
Maya Sweatlodge excursion, Cozumel: $98
Snorkeling excursion, Grand Cayman: $28
Canopy Tour, Montego Bay: $89
Yoga class, $10
Pilates class, $10
Fitness consultation, $33
One-on-one boxing class, $83
Spa treatment, $89 plus $10 tip
Accupuncture, $150 (first session)
Internet access, 300 minutes: $100
Water on shore: $10
Onboard souvenir: $50
Inexpensive jewelry in Jamaica: $20
Silver jewelry in Cozumel: $45
Hammered tin artwork, Haiti: $50
Salad bowl set, Haiti: $60
Doll, Haiti: $10
Taxi, Cozumel: $7
Taxi, Montego Bay: $10
Onboard tips: $70
Other tips: $20

Total expenses above cabin cost: $1,079


Ron said...

I was wondering if the main restaurant has the same menu each night? Also, on "lobster Night" is Lobster available in the "Optional/Additional Cost" restaurants as well?

Michael said...

No worries, the menu will change with every meal. You won't get the same menu two nights in a row... You may see an item get carried over, but not always.

When it comes to shore excursions, check with your travel agent as well. Many agents do offer alternates to the cruise line's offerings that are many times cheaper than the cruise lines, less crowded, and if the company is reputable guarantee that you won't miss the ship.

Jane said...

Hi. The main restaurant has a different menu each night, but they are similar to menus on other RCCL ships. Lobster is offered as part of the seafood skewer in Portofino, but if you've got the lobster craze, go to the main dining room on Friday night.

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Anonymous said...

Well, regarding what how you paid for a Portofino dinner, I wont to tell you was very cheap. I have visited Portofino, in Italy and a one dinner was 100/130 $ a person!!!

I know is a unique place but.....
Let me show you here