Originally Posted by You
What are the additional costs like when on board a cruise? Amongst other additional costs, how much more expensive are alcoholic beverages than they would be in a restaurant on the mainland? Is there any additional costs that are significantly overpriced?
P.S. This is the first cruise for my wife and I, so we're trying to get an idea of what we're in for.
Okay, here goes.
The biggest fixed onboard expense is gratuities for your waitstaff in the main dining room and your cabin attendants. The current customary amounts, across all cruise lines, are as follows.
>> Head Waiter ("Assisant Maitre d'Hotel" on Celebrity): $0.75 per person per day.
>> Waiter: $3.50 per person per day
>> Assistant Waiter: $2.00 per person per day
>> Cabin Steward: $3.50 per person per day
>> Butler (Suites Only): $4.00 per person per day
It's appropriate to increase these amounts, within reason, if the recipients provide special services beyond their normal duties or if their service is truly extraordinary.
Unlike other cruise lines, Celebrity assigns an assistant cabin steward to each block of cabins, whom I tip the same amount as an assistant waiter even though Celebrity does not suggest tipping this person. The assistant cabin stewards really do work pretty hard.
Celebrity also "suggests" a gratuity of $0.50 per person per day for the Assistant Chief Housekeeper, but I don't see any justification whatsoever for this "suggestion." Such a tip is NOT customary in the industry, and few passengers ever encounter this person during the cruise.
The prices of bar beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are similar to most "upscale" bars in North America. Note that bar beverages generally include sodas and juices. (Juices are included at breakfast.)
You can buy a "soda sticker" to apply to your "SeaPass" card that entitles the holder to complimentary fountain sodas for the duration of the cruise. IIRC, it costs $5.00 per remaining night of the cruise so those who will drink more than two sodas per day will come out ahead with the sticker.
The price of premium coffees, teas, espressos, cappuccinos, etc., at the "Cova Cafe di Milano" coffee bar is quite steep, but the buffet restaurant offers complementary coffee, tea, milk, and skim milk at all times ("24x7").
The charge for beverages will include a standard gratuity of 15%, as is customary in the industry. Celebrity now prints a line for an additional gratuity on the charge slip, which strikes me as pretty obnoxious. You can just "X" it out before signing the slip.
The shops onboard generally sell merchandise of decent quality for about the price of similar quality ashore. I have found the selection of merchandise to be uneven from ship to ship in spite of the fact that the same company operates the shops aboard all of Celebrity's vessels.
The prices of personal services such as hairdressing, manicures and pedicures, spa treatments, and acupuncture treatments are pretty similar to what you would pay at a comparable "upscale" facility or resort ashore. The respective facilities automatically add the customary gratuity to the stated rate, in keeping with the custom of the cruise industry.
The ship's medical center will charge all services to your "SeaPass" account. If you have insurance that covers the cost of medical services, you have to get the paperwork and submit it yourself for reimbursement. The prices for medical services seem to be fair.
Most shore excursions represent reasonable value. They typically are slightly more expensive than similar tours purchased ashore, but the cruise line has vetted the operators for safety and security and has verified that the descriptions are accurate. The ship's shore excursion staff also monitor the status of the ship's excursions, and the ship will either delay sailing until they return or make alternate arrangements to get passengers back aboard if the shore excursions encounter delays. Also, in the ship's shore excursions have first priority for use of the available tenders in all tender ports. If you go ashore on your own, (1) you might have to await a tender with available seats to go ashore and (2) you bear the responsibility to get to the next port of call to rejoin the ship and the cost of alternate transporation, lodging, and meals ashore until you do so if you don't return aboard before the ship sails.
I strongly recommend taking shore excursions (1) in any port of call that you don't know very well, especially if you don't speak the local language, and (2) in any port of call where you want to visit an attraction that is not right in the port city. The guides on most shore excursions make a point of explaining enough about local customs so one can avoid difficult or embarrassing situations. They will direct you to areas that are safe if you elect to stay "in town" rather than returning to the ship at the end of the excursion.
The casino will gladly accept your donations. So will the Bingo games.
BTW, on Celebrity, you can buy chips on your SeaPass card at the window in the casino without paying a surcharge or interest. If you find that your cash is running low, buy some chips and then cash them in. (In practice, the window usually issues cash and tells you to buy the chips at the table of your choice.)
Some cruise lines also charge for optional enrichment classes, advanced fitness programs, or other special programs. On Celebrity, you'll find such charges for the wine tasting and wine pairing seminars and perhaps for some of the computer classes.
Internet access is pretty steep aboard ship due to the cost of satellite communications. Celebrity charges a base rate of $0.67 per minute, though you can buy packages of minutes, usable in multiple sessions, at lower rates. The lower rate continues through the end of the session in which the package expires. If you must respond to e-mail while you are aboard ship, compose your replies off line to minimize your expense.
And finally, Celebrity's photo studios have become a royal rip-off, selling what's basically a 5x7 print of a digital photograph for $14.95. If you want pictures, use your own camera instead.
With a bit of common sense, you can have a great time with minimal expense.
Have a fantastic cruise!