It always pays (literally) to be diligent when making travel plans. Spending an extra hour or two looking for deals on the internet can wind up saving you a bunch of money. This is especially true for cruises, which are increasingly offering deceptively inexpensive packages that actually contain tons of hidden costs. When shopping around for your next cruise, you’ll be faced with a few options: an all-inclusive package deal, and then a number of alternative packages that appear much cheaper.
Be careful. While the figure underneath the all-inclusive option is formidable and tempting to scroll right past, it oftentimes ends up being the best deal. If you choose one of the budget packages, you could very well find yourself paying out of pocket for basic cruise amenities like coffee, alcohol, pools, entertainment, and even WiFi.
“I promote all-inclusive pricing whenever possible,” Mike Weingart, president of Air Land and Sea Consultants told Skift. “It is better for the client and for me. I had a client who took advantage of an alcohol package that wound up costing thousands of dollars when they did back-to-back cruises. I got zero.” He added:
“I don’t think these cruise lines are happy unless the cost to get off the cruise is more than the cost to get on board. And all of these charges are sans commission.”
Tanner Callais, founder of Cruzely, likened the situation to one you might encounter in Las Vegas.
“Prices and extra costs continue to rise,” he said. “While cruising can still be affordable, it’s also easy to spend a lot of money if you want to have it all and do everything.”
And then there is the hidden cost of gratuity.
“Most cruise lines have added automatic gratuities in response to having more international passengers who might have different customs in their countries,” explained Chris Gray Faust, editor of Cruise Critic. “Making the gratuity automated makes sure that crew members are rewarded for service consistently, no matter where the ship is located or what nationalities are on board.”
Many trip advisers do not see an issue with the idea of automatic gratuity, as long as the cruise line is upfront about it and travelers are not taken by surprise. With that said, is it really gratuity if it’s compulsory? That seems to contradict the very premise of tipping. Add to this the prospect of poor service, and it’s easy to see why a lot of travelers scoff at the concept. Unsurprisingly, cruises make it extremely difficult for passengers to remove themselves from the automatic gratuity system.
“It’s a real hassle to opt out of it,” travel agent Lisa Silvestri said. “To have it removed, you have to wait in line, taking time away from your holiday to change things around. Another problem is that the tip amounts are always increasing, even if the service level isn’t increasing.”
If you’re thinking about taking a cruise, get yourself a good, reputable travel adviser, and make sure you get direct answers to all your questions. Do your due diligence, and not only will you have a more pleasant vacation, you’ll also have a cheaper one.