Personal Finance

Kat’s Money Corner: Smoothing sailing when booking a cruise

The Associated Press

If you’re interested in taking a cruise for your next vacation, you may want to decide quickly. October is Cruise Lines International Association’s National Plan a Cruise Month! So why the rush? Well, in addition to the cruise associations’ offering some free cruises, individual cruise lines will be offering some of their best deals of the year. I’ll help guide you through what it actually takes to budget for an all-inclusive cruise vacation.

All aboard

Kansas City, though celebrated for many wonderful things, is not known for its beaches. You’ll need to budget for the flights that will get you to whatever busy coastal city the cruise departs from (often referred to as “embarkation cities”) and back home. Since many ports are also tourist destinations themselves, try expanding your search to inland cities nearby, and then renting a vehicle or calling an Uber. Of course, you’ll want to weigh these costs, but if you can snag a good flight deal, you’ll save yourself hundreds. Also, many cruise companies have partnerships with airlines, so do some research before you book.

Extras and upgrades

When you’re ready to book your cruise, be sure to find out whether port fees and taxes are included. Sometimes these additional costs are excluded from the ticket price and are due before you’re allowed to board the ship. Once you have that figured out, you’ll also want to know the price of upgrades. For instance, on some cruise lines certain restaurants aren’t included in the package. Or, you may have to pay extra for drinks other than water.

Another cost you’ll want to account for is gratuity. Tipping is never mandatory, but it’s often expected. Check your cruise line’s website to see whether it has a policy regarding tips so you’ll know whether you ought to stop at the ATM before your board.

Day trips

The cruise aficionados in my life often remark that the most memorable parts of their cruises take place off the ship. Day trips and excursions aren’t usually included in the price of the cruise, so if you’re interested in climbing glaciers or swimming with stingrays, you’ll want to budget for those extra trips. Many cruise lines offer full- or half-day outings across a wide variety of prices. If you’re undecided, ask onboard employees what excursions they’d recommend.

In addition, you may be better off, financially, to plan your own off-ship day trip. If the ship will be at port anyway, do your homework ahead of time and plan your own tour. You’ll want to create your itinerary ahead of time and double-check launch times with the crew. Being left on shore will not help your budget at all!

All told, the cost of a cruise is what you make of it — and if you plan ahead and set a budget, your high seas vacation won’t leave your budget all wet.

Kat’s Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, click or visit