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Cruises and Hidden Fees

By: Lucy Debenham BA (hons) - Updated: 7 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Cruises And Hidden Fees

Are you looking for the ultimate holiday? For many, cruises represent the most glamorous and luxurious travel activity. Even a casual comparison of some of the deals available online may convince you that there's no reason to wait any longer. Unfortunately, there may be some hidden fees lurking behind the banner ads. This article explores how to book a cruise holiday without getting soaked.

Most types of travel providers reward those who book early. In the case of cruise lines, you may be able to book up to a year in advance. If you're looking to celebrate a special occasion, early booking is the best way to avoid disappointment. But as you review the terms and conditions of your chosen cruise offer, be especially alert to hidden fees for various on-board activities. Budget travellers on past cruises have been horrified to find that from £300 to £500 per person had accumulated on their bill without being the least bit extravagant.

Service Charges

For example, your on-board dining choices may have financial consequences. On most cruise lines, average meals in the main restaurant are covered. But what if you want to visit a specialty restaurant? Is "free-style" dining really free? Some travellers have learned from experience that choosing any venue other than the main restaurant racked up an extra cover charge with each special meal. Another common practice among cruise lines is to add a service charge for drinks or even glasses of wine - soft drinks and water may also incur hidden charges. To avoid a shock later on, look for package drink deals that you can add when booking.

When you settle into your cabin, you may notice a telephone beside the bed. Do whatever is necessary short of throwing it overboard to keep from using it. Remember that you are on a ship at sea and only satellite phones will work in that location. Unless what you have to say is worth £10 a minute, save your words until you're ashore where you can use pay telephones or your roaming mobile phone.

On-board entertainment is usually included in the price of the cruise, as are most games and some activities. However, certain fitness classes currently in demand, like yoga or Pilates, may result in an extra charge on your bill. Just about anything you do at the spa, like a massage, will also cost extra. And there is a great amount of price variation from one cruise line to the next. Finding out the costs once you're on board may prove difficult, so try to confirm extra charges well before your sailing date. Even knowing the costs before you go may not be enough. Some cruise passengers have received additional bills after the cruise to cover changing currency exchange rates. Surcharges for rising energy and fuel costs have also become common.

Tips and Trips

If the cruise line offers to arrange your shore excursions, you should make a quick grab for your wallet. City tours can run close to £60, which may be fine for one day but difficult to fund every day you're in port. A better option is consulting a guidebook or arranging your excursions locally.

Gratuities will most likely be an issue unless you book a high-end luxury cruise. Most cruise lines enforce tipping by automatically adding it to your bill, sometimes as much as £4 to £8 per day. Service personnel aboard cruise ships often rely on gratuities to supplement their wages, but many people prefer voluntary tipping.

This is only a partial list of the hidden fees that you might possibly run across in the course of your cruise. You really have no real chance of avoiding these hidden charges, so your next best bet is to make a point of revealing them all before they are incurred. Cruise line personnel may regard you as somewhat of an oddity if you insist on knowing the charges beforehand. But if you start early and politely persist, you should be able to avoid any surprises that could spoil your holiday.

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