Monday, February 25, 2008

Cheap Cruises, Do You Get What You Pay for?

Every now and then I check those sites that tell you how many people are searching for certain terms using search engines, and since I have this blog on cruises, I naturally check out things related to sea-going vacations. It shouldn't come as any surprise that "cheap cruises" is searched fairly often (much more often than "luxury cruises" when I checked this month).

Everybody wants to get a good deal, and I've written a couple posts on how to save money on cruises, but is this a case where you get what you pay for?

If you find some too-good-to-be-true, last-minute deal on a website, are you going to end up in a dingy, drinking your mai tais out of a paper cup?

You might be surprised to learn that the answer is.... no. As long as you book with a reputable company (Travelocity or the like) that isn't going to disappear overnight, you should be fine.

When you book a cruise, you have access to all the same amenities as the people who are paying thousands more for a suite. I sailed with NCL (Norwegian Cruise Line) on my Hawaiian cruise, and because I could travel whenever, I booked an inside cabin a couple weeks out at a nice discount. And what I found is that no matter how much you pay for your room, you get the same buffet, the same entertainment, the same access to amenities.

So, what's the catch? Well, it's a bit like Las Vegas. You know how they ply you with all those 99 cent drinks so you'll get drunk and spend tons of money in the casino? Well the cruise industry makes a lot, if not most, of its money on the extras that aren't included in your ticket. Examples include drinks (you'll even pay for sodas on cruises), alternative dining restaurants (there are plenty of dining options that are included in the price, but you may want to check out the more exotic fare), shore excursions (I spent several hundred just on shore excursions during my week in Hawaii), and shops (yes, you can shop until you drop right on board).

You don't have to pay for any of these things, but you'll probably want to enjoy yourself some, so just keep this in mind when you're budgeting for your cruise vacation. Yes, cheap cruises can still be an awesome vacation, but plan on spending a little to a lot extra, depending on what you go in for when you're on board.

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