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The Extras can Kill You(r Budget)

The idea of sailing off into the sunset may seem wrought with drama or romance—depending on your mood—and that really sums up what a cruise ship vacation can be. For most of us who toil on land for most of the year, the idea of literally getting away from it all (for about 7 days, give or take) can be terribly exciting. But if you are a first-time cruiser, there are some things you need to know so that you don’t have a rude awakening when the time comes to settle up your cruise card.

All doesn’t really mean all

Most cruise ship vacation packages are described as all-inclusive, but it does not actually mean all. All-inclusive typically refers to your board and lodging, some activities, and general entertainment while you are on board. It does not include taxes or port fees, which you need to pay before you even get on the ship. This can set you back about $100, give or take, so be ready to shell that out.

Fee-based amenities

You definitely won’t starve on board or sleep in the lifeboat, but your package does not include bar drinks, some specialty restaurants or coffee shops, massages, spas, salon treatments, shore excursions, fitness classes, Internet use, laundry, or photos. For each of these amenities, you can expect to pay higher-than-usual rates. Plan to spend about 60% more on top of your package cost, so if you paid $500 for the cruise, you will probably pay an additional $300.

Tightening the belt

If you don’t have the budget for these extras, curb the impulse to let yourself go and plan accordingly. Bring enough clothes so you won’t need to have anything washed and wait until after the cruise to work off some of the meals you pigged out on. Bring your own digital camera to capture special moments rather than rely on the ship’s photographer, and arrange for Internet service via your mobile service provider if you absolutely need to go online. You can bring your own water and other beverages, but note that most ships have a strict policy against bringing alcohol onboard.

You can definitely have a wonderful time onboard a cruise ship even if you limit yourself to the package inclusions and share your cabin with two other people. The smell of the wind and feel of the sea spray on your face is free; so are sightings of the wildlife and interactions with fellow like-minded cruisers. Provided that you know what you are getting into and are prepared for it, there is nothing like the feeling of freedom that a cruise ship vacation can give you, even if it is just for a few days.Our writers have been seeing incidents about cruise ship injuries. We felt like it would be helpful to provide some resources about who to contact if you have been injured on a cruise ship: