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How to Avoid Hidden Cruise Costs

Close Up Of A Man's Hands Putting Wads Of 100 US Dollar Bills In His Shirt Pocket, How To Avoid Hidden Costs On Cruises

Royalty Free

With planning, you can keep your cruise expenses under control.

Cruise ships aren't as all-inclusive as you might believe. So, how much does a cruise cost? It depends.

Yes, your accommodations, meals, entertainment and most daytime activities are included in a fare, but there are many pricey onboard temptations that can affect the bottom line.

Read on to learn more about hidden cruise costs — and five ways you can avoid them.

1. Beverages

On most ships, alcohol, soda and bottled water aren't free, and the barrage to indulge starts as soon as you board, with offers like the Drink of the Day. Although cruise lines ban you from bringing your own booze, most let you pack soda and bottled water. You might also save money with an unlimited drinks package. For free booze, grab a cocktail at the captain's parties, and, if you buy a bottle of wine, drink half and have it corked for the next night.

2. Gratuities

Tips for the crew who keep your accommodations spiffy and make sure you're well fed are now typically automatically added to your shipboard bill at a rate of $10 to $12 per passenger, per day, depending on the line. Bar bills might also include an automatic 15 percent gratuity. That's a substantial addition to your cruise costs. Although you probably won't want to scrimp here (the crew is trained to impress) you can adjust the amounts up or down at the purser's desk.

3. Shore Excursions

Booking shore excursions through a cruise line is easy. But these tours, which run from $29 to $150 (and higher for extravagant offerings), are priced to make money for the cruise lines. Planning can pay off. It's nearly always cheaper, for instance, to book through an independent local operator, and to use taxis or other local transportation for trips to the beach.

4. Alternative Dining and Treats

You'll find plenty of selections in the ship's dining rooms and casual buffets. But the lines also offer alternative, gourmet venues — which cost an additional $10 to $75. Eliminate this as a hidden cost by budgeting accordingly for a special night out or planning to forego it altogether. And watch those extra charges for name-brand ice cream, specialty coffee drinks like espresso, and other treats.

5. The Spa

Spas on most ships aren't cheap. Those who pay $22 for a pedicure at home will be shocked by a $70 shipboard tab, and a 50-minute massage will run at least $119. Look for spa specials on port days. Beware, too, of extra charges for some fitness classes — $10 to $15, say, for Pilates or Spin.

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