Counting the cost of cruise (Part 4 of 5)

Abundant options can bloat the bottom line

Considering cruising? In advance of our 2016 Alaska cruise, TheTravelPro did a fair bit of research into the all-in cost of that journey. This week, we are examining many of the expenses that go beyond the price of the ticket, taxes, fees and port charges.

The total cost of a cruise will be greater than the price of the fare. In some cases, it can be considerably greater, and most cruise lines today offer plenty of additional products and services that can add significantly to the all-in cost.

Staying connected

For those among us who have become addicted to staying connected, Internet access was available on board our ship, the Ruby Princess, but that connectivity came at a cost. Internet access aboard our ship ranged from $72.95 for 120 minutes to $202.95 for 680 minutes.

Airline passengers are likely familiar with in-flight internet services such as GoGo Inflight Internet. Such systems often use a combination of land-based and satellite signals to provide connectivity, which generally results in pretty decent connections and speeds, especially considering the setting.

Our ship used only satellite signals to provide internet access and the cruise line was quite clear about advising passengers that it is definitely not high-speed internet access. During a recent flight from Dubai International Airport (DXB) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) along the world’s longest passenger route, I experienced my slowest internet connectivity when over the open ocean, presumably because the Emirates Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777 I was riding was relying exclusively on satellites. Because our ship used satellites as its sole source for connection, it quite likely was a bit slower than the speed one would get when connecting aboard a plane flying over land.

As it turned out, Wi-Fi was largely unnecessary. Establishments at each port of call offered free Wi-Fi, which we were able to access during shore excursions. In Skagway, some helpful soul had posted a sign in their store window, advising that the "Best free Wi-Fi is available at the public library," and included directions on how to get there.

For those who are truly “old school” or have a situation that requires a conversation with someone on land, ship-to-shore phone packages are available. A 10-minute package sells for $49.50, which is considerably less than the $8 per minute charge on my previous cruise several years ago.


Many cruise lines will add “suggested” or “recommended” gratuities for their passengers’ convenience. For our cruise and cabin category, the line added $13.95 per person per day, or approximately an additional $200. 

Those gratuities were shared among the staff including wait staff, stateroom stewards, buffet stewards, and housekeeping staff. Bartenders, providers of spa services, dining room wine accounts, casino dealers and youth staff do not share in the automatic gratuities, though bartenders are covered by the 15 percent gratuity when guests have the beverage package.

Having worked in the hospitality industry, I brought additional cash for tips. A $5 bill given with our first drink each evening got us remembered in a very positive way and, I'm certain, resulted in even better service than we'd have otherwise received.

Daily gratuities are discretionary and can be adjusted, but any requests to modify the automatic gratuities must be made prior to disembarking the ship at the end of the cruise.

Holland America's Amsterdam

Photographs. Guests will have photographs taken by a professional upon boarding. Purchasing that photo package will cost $40. They will also be photographed many other times throughout the cruise, including when disembarking for shore excursions. Cost of those photos will vary depending on the package a guest chooses to buy.

Flowers. Can be delivered to your stateroom or sent as a gift. $39 to $59.

Culinary delights. From fresh vegetable platters to canap├ęs, cheese and cracker platters, chilled shrimp on ice, to a balcony breakfast for two, $6 to $45. The Exclusive Princess Cruises Cookbook is $28.

Celebrations. My wife and I will both be having birthdays during our cruise and, during one call to the cruise line, the representative asked if I would like to reserve a celebration package. There are several, including those for kids and teens, ranging from $29.99 to $299.99.

Romance. We will be attending the wedding of two friends during our cruise. The line offers several special occasion packages ranging from three roses and a box of chocolates to a renewal of vows to a “Grand Occasion” package for prices ranging from $43.99 to $539.99.

Peace and quiet. Our ship offered a space located on the Sports Deck called “The Sanctuary,” an adults-only area where passengers can escape for a bit of quiet time away from families with children, get a massage (at an additional cost), sit and read, or just relax. Admission was $10 per person per half-day.

In our final installment, we’ll add up the total cost and provide some final comments.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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