It only costs a little more to get the very best

by Patti Pietschmann Travel Diva

All-inclusive means caviar and Champagne plus more on Regent Seven Seas Mariner (Photo by Richard Pietschmann)

Figuring out how much a cruise will wind up costing you in the end can be daunting.   You need to consider what you’re paying for. Most mainstream cruise lines hit passengers with added fees for drinks, wine, bottled water, soda WiFi, shore excursions, alternative restaurants and tips.

There’s often sticker shot when settling your account the end of the cruise. And when you think about  it you might as well have popped for the better brand.

More bang for your buck

We are not saying that mainstream cruises aren’t fun. They certainly can be. In fact ships of Carnival, Princess, Holland America, NCL and RCL offer very lively and enjoyable experiences. But there are also hidden charges and some pretty apparent ones.
Talk about nickel and dime-ing.

Some even charge for ice cream and quality coffee. We’re not talking espresso etc. but good coffee that’s brewed not mass produced in an urn by some weird black liquid. No joke I won’t say what ships this was on but a few. We had to buy a coffee package to have punched each time we wanted some joe. All the top luxury lines include those charges in the fare.

Doing the numbers

The cost of drinks, the Internet, take shore excursions, tipping and other add-ons charged by those mega-lines can easily bring the bottom line as high as taking a luxury cruise.

What’s the difference?

On lower cost lines you pay top dollar for a glass of wine, cocktail, bottle of water (we’ve paid as much as $8 plus an added tip for H20) and tours. On top of that you have to sign tips and at the end of the cruise have money taken out of your account to tip the cabin and dining room staff.

On Crystal Cruises, Seabourn, Regent Seven Seas, and Silversea that’s all covered in your fare. But shore excursions cost extra except on Regent Seven Seas which offers many comp choices for tours. Regent also offers free dining in all of its eateries.

Leader of the elite lines, Regent Seven Seas includes just about everything in the cost of your ticket. Everything! Still when people look at the brochure rate and compare it a less expensive line they bristle at the price. But they don’t realize that the other company charges for just about everything other than normal meals and most onboard activities even some exercise classes which are free on luxury ships.

No checks means easier to enjoy drinks at the bar with new found friends

One of the things we love about all-inclusive luxury cruises is there are none of those awkward moments when you have drinks with folks you met on board and no one knows how to divvy up the bill. There is no tab, drinks are fee. Also when you stop in the bar for a before dinner pop and then want to leave for dinner or to do a ‘pub crawl’ you don’t have to wait to sign a chit. There is none.

This also applies to wines at dinner. How often have joined a group for the evening meal and had to negotiate the wine situation. You order some and then feel like you have to share it and are stuck with the tab. Not on all-inclusive ships, there is no tab or even a tip to dole out.

On Viking, which could be considered luxury category, you get beer and wine with lunch and dinner and other perks.

Fare comparison

We found an eight day cruise on all-suite, all balcony Silversea cruises for $3,800 that includes airfare to and from San Juan. Princess has a 7 day Caribbean offer for $2.099 roundtrip fare from Fort Lauderdale that includes a suite but not tips, WiFi, alternative dining or any drinks except for coffee, tea and juices at lunch and breakfast.

Now hear this! Exclusive Regent Seven Seas has an all-inclusive fare of $5,099 on a 15-night (that’s two weeks-plus) voyage from New York to Miami. No extras unless you have spa treatments or take an optional shore excursions that’s not included.

All the luxury cruise lines by-the-way offer ship to town transportation in ports when possible. Sometimes restrictions by the destination apply. But we found that it worked most of the time on Crystal, Seabourn, Silversea and Regent.

If you’re considering a holiday cruise I’d certainly recommend opting for luxury. It’s easy to be in the Christmas spirit with free-flowing Champagne, wines and booze. Not to mention caviar and bubbly anytime, anywhere on Seabourn. And the luxury of butler service (on Crystal and Regent Seven Seas in top suites, but in all Silversea suites. Not  available on Seabourn.

For the best fares and advice contact a knowledgable Pavlus agent.

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