A cruise might not seem to jibe with The Plunge’s whole sophisticated 21st Century-Rat-Pack manly masculine man-vibe. We picture kids running around, old folks complaining, and single people staggering out of the “club” room to go vomit over the side of the ship.
But even we can’t deny that cruises are actually are an excellent way to see multiple foreign countries and cool locations in one package. Hitting four islands in the Caribbean or three centuries-old European port cities on a cruise costs less that it would if you tried to put together the whole thing yourself.
That said, the cruise industry also wrote the playbook on hidden costs, so you need to read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line.
Why do cruise lines add on all these extra charges? Economies of scale, my man. You’ve seen some of these boats, right? They’re basically floating skyscrapers, capable of holding 5,000 people a trip.
That’s a lot of tickets to sell, so they need to cut prices to get you on board. Once the ship puts out to sea, they need to make that money back.
It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.
Trying to parse out all of the various extra charges and hidden fees from one cruise line and package deal to another can be more daunting than figuring out the corporate tax code, so we’ve broken down some of the basics need-to-knows about hidden costs.
Look out for these when booking a cruise, but don’t get discouraged. Even when factoring in the “hidden costs,” cruises are still a practical and fiscally responsible way of taking your honeymoon; we’re just trying to save you some post-booking sticker shock. Here are some cruise rules to keep in mind:
Keep A Lookout For Pirates
All those offers for “free cruises” you see on pop-up ads? Scams. These are not even part of the cruise industry, but third-party fleecers working diligently to dupe you. Some are legit-ISH…if by “free” you are willing to accept the three-day generic itinerary cruise for which you have to pay a hefty “booking fee” – which in itself might cost more than the exact same cruise on off-peak times. Stay away from those offers at all times, but particularly when planning your honeymoon.
Additional Fees Run Deep
Eating, drinking, entertainment, activities–even bottles of water–are all extra. (And no, you can’t sneak booze or bottled water on board. The cruise companies are wise to that–it’s not just bombs and guns they’re looking for when they x-ray your baggage.) There are packages you can buy that cover most of these add-ons, but…
“All-Inclusive” Doesn’t Apply at Sea
“All-inclusive” drinks might actually mean that they only give you basic beer and wine (premium liquor being an upcharge); or that they cut you off after a certain number of drinks; or limit your drinking to mealtimes; or add a tip-sized service charge that is not in fact the tip. “All-inclusive” meal packages might limit your dining options to certain places (fine dining is another upcharge) or the number of meals allotted per person. Know what you’re actually getting for what you’re paying.
Go Overboard On Tipping
You might get confused about who to tip or when, but it’s quite simple: whatever it is, yes you have to tip.
High Seas Means High WiFi Fees
Ideally, you’ll be in such a love haze, so taken with your bride, that you’ll have no time or desire to check your email. But if you’re one of those shmoes (like us) who just can’t live without an Internet connection, know this: WiFi on cruises is often slow, unreliable, and expensive: like, upwards of $0.75-a-minute expensive.
Be Your Own Navigator
Cruise ship employees frequently get kickbacks to recommend certain stores at port or book excursions through specific companies on your behalf. If you want to help them out, be our guest, but you’ll probably save money by either pre-planning what you’re going to do once you are off the boat, or just indulging in some old-fashioned aimless wandering.
If you need to cancel your ticket for any reason, you are out that money. If you need to cancel within 90 days of departure and didn’t pay for trip insurance, you lose everything you paid. Get trip insurance.
That Shore Leave Is Expensive
If you want to actually disembark at one of the exotic ports of call, you may have to pay some extra fees—sometimes a couple hundred bucks extra.
Taxes May Sink You
This one is, of course, true about pretty much anything you see advertised, be it online, in print, or on the side of a commuter bus. But in the case of cruises, the effect is sometimes drastic. These mandatory fees together can tack on several hundred dollars more to your total price. Between port fees and taxes, plan on paying double what you see advertised.
Don’t dismiss the honeymoon cruise option, but don’t go in blind either. It’s not that cruise lines are evil: it’s just that they cost a boatload (sorry about that) to run. But if a cruise will float your boat (sorry about that one, too) then set sail by all means. Just keep an eye out for the hidden costs.