Just returned from a 7-day cruise on the Crown Princess. As I was soaking up the rays of the warm Caribbean days, I couldn’t but help observe the business of cruising and how it works.
First of all, I should say this wasn’t a surprise. I already was well aware of the model. For anyone who hasn’t cruised, here’s the basic rundown. I offer it not to tell you what to do, but rather to prevent you from receiving a potentially nasty surprise.
The cruise companies start by offering you really low fares for a room, all the food you could possibly ever eat, and a constant stream of entertainment options. There are few that would argue this isn’t a great deal once you’ve experienced just these three aspects of your vacation and considered what you paid for it.
Once you are on board and captive, they start selling you on upgrades and other premium services. Here’s where the cruise ships make up for the good deal you got on a room, food, and entertainment. Interestingly what I’d guess to be the top 5 are all sometimes associated with addictions.
- Internet ($.75/min) and cellphone access
For the next ones, the sell is that “you really deserve this.”
- Premium dining rooms
- Upgraded staterooms
- Spa services
- Jewelery and trinkets
And then there are the little extras that manage to add up to a big chunk of cash. These are often sold using fear as a motivator. In other words, you can go on your own, but then we can’t help you if you get into a jam.
- Cruise-provided transfers to and from the airport (twice as expensive as what a taxi cost)
- Trip insurance
- Air and hotel packages
- Shore excursions
Finally, there are the tips that are automatically added to your bill for your convenience. When you see how hard the crew actually works, you hope that they aren’t depending only on these tips to make a decent wage. They have some tough jobs.
I’ve found cruising to be a safe, affordable, and relaxing way to spend a vacation. I’ve also found cruise lines to be amazingly good at turning what looked to be a $2,500 vacation into $5,000 without even breaking a sweat. I’m not complaining, just offering a bit of advice. If you want to keep expenses low, you’ll need to steel yourself against the non-stop selling. If jacked-up prices aren’t a concern to you, then order beer by the bucket; you’ll get 5 for the price of 4.