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I remember seeing the final cruise charge statement awaiting our attention the night before debarking from our last cruise. As usual, I snatched the statement out of the mail slot and played the “Guess How Much We Spent” game with my husband Don. Clearly, we aren’t ones for keeping an eye on our expenses during the trip. I knew his guess of $800 seemed low to me, but I was still a bit shocked when I saw that the grand total was about twice that: $1660.
Over the course of 11 days, all of those little purchases, drinks at the bar, and pulls at the slot machine can add up and become a bit of a blur. Also, it’s sort of easy to lose track when everything is paid for with an innocent-looking little piece of plastic that doesn’t even bear the name Visa or MasterCard. I mean, it’s just a room key, right?
In all seriousness, we had a wonderful time and collected memories and had experiences that we will never forget. For first-time cruises or just the curious, read on to learn what we spent on our last cruise as well as get our opinions on what was totally worth it, what was just a necessity, and what we regretted.
Trip: Partial Panama Canal
Duration: 11 days, January 3 – 14, 2015
Ship: Coral Princess
Grand total for on board charges: $1660 (certain adjustments and other fees out of our control not addressed)
Totally Worth It!
We spent the most on excursions and they were worth every penny. The final total would have been higher had our stop in Costa Rica not been cancelled due to weather (more on that later). I was so disappointed not to be able to visit the sloth sanctuary and river canoe excursion. However, what we did do was magnificent and unforgettable! Our excursions included our Mi Dushi catamaran snorkel trip in Aruba which included a fantastic lunch, our catamaran ride snorkeling trip with a visit to Stingray City and Rum Point in Grand Cayman (including amazing lunch on the beach), and our day-long bus tour in Cartagena where we got to see the Old City and hold Ponchito the sloth. This total also included our ship to airport transfers – not terribly exciting, but worth it.
Don’s view: Of all of the excursions we’ve ever gone on, none of them have ever been overpriced. Especially coupled with the fact that when you take a Princess-arranged excursion, they know where you are and the ship won’t leave without you. That’s totally worth paying a bit extra.
On-board shopping: $129.95
Earrings, gifts for colleagues, sundries (Advil, razors, bandages, ginger tablets), playing cards, a baseball cap, a silly floppy hat, a couple of photo albums, my must-have Princess ship key chain… all worth it!
Don’s view: I pretty much only bought stuff I had to. I forgot razor blades and spent $2.50 for two razors which I thought was shockingly cheap for a cruise ship since I was expecting to pay about $10 bucks for those. I thought that the prices for sundries and other potential necessities (like socks and underwear) were pretty good. The didn’t gouge you like they could have.
Specialty restaurant: $54.60
Sabatini’s is one of my favorite cruise traditions. The food is amazing and the staff is always superior. Worth every bit of the $25 cover charge per person.
Don’s view: Definitely. More than worth it!
Specialty coffee cards: $66.70
$66.70 got us two prepaid coffee cards that were good for 30 lattes, mochas, espresso, flavored iced coffee drinks, and other coffee goodies. The price per drink was far cheaper than what we pay in Seattle. Access to the coffee was generous as well with stands at the International Cafe, in the Horizon Court Buffet, and then the ability to order coffee drinks in the dining room (there may have been other locations we weren’t aware of). Also, if you don’t use the entire card you can bring it with you to use on your next Princess cruise.
Don’s view: It ended up being really cheap and very good. Definitely worth it and I’d do it again. Although, the baristas weren’t as efficient and quick as we are used to in Seattle, but still worth the money.
I know there are differing opinions about gratuities that are auto-added to your tab on a cruise. Personally, I don’t mind them a bit and find them to be quite reasonable. Even if that $11.50 per person, per day ONLY covered the room steward, waiter, assistant waiter, and buffet waitstaff it’s quite reasonable compared to what would be tipped here in the US at comparable establishments. My husband also added extra gratuities on to some of our bar tabs as well. I have to add that the service we get on Princess is always extremely friendly. Every crew member I encountered, no matter what their role, met me with a smile and a friendly greeting.
Don’s view: Oh, these are totally fair. $11.50 for a day of service is very reasonable and I like that no one has their hand out for tips at every turn. I tipped extra when someone went above and beyond like the bartender at Patisserie who showed us how to play bar games.
Necessary (Sort Of)
This is what we paid for one self-service load of laundry including wash, dry and dryer sheets (soap is extra). I am more of a hand wash and hang dry person, but my hubby needed some clean clothing.
Don’s view: Doing laundry on board helps cut down on the weight of your luggage since you don’t have to take as many clothes and saving as much as $100 per person in overweight bag fees at the airport. However, I definitely am glad we brought our own laundry soap because detergent alone is $2.50 for one load. Definitely will pack my own dryer sheets next time as well.
Internet package: $102.95
I don’t think we used the whole thing. This gave us 100 minutes of sluggish access plus we got 20 minutes free. I only need it for checking email from our cat sitter (which doesn’t take 120 minutes, thankfully) but my husband used the access.
Don’s view: It’s a gouge rate, but for us it is a necessity as we want to keep in contact. It also depends on your itinerary as it is possible to get free Wi-Fi in many ports. I guess I wouldn’t have to do it again.
Note: The reason access is slow is because internet is provided by satellite. Princess has actually increased the number of Wi-Fi hotspots on the ship to ensure coverage is pretty comprehensive. Also, if you need to keep in touch, the Internet charge is far cheaper than incurring at sea roaming costs on your cell or doing a ship to shore call.
Not So Much
Well, I guess I should ask my husband about this because only $20 of this was actually mine… Anyway, I have played slots on almost every cruise and almost every time I later regret it. It’s fun, I never win, but I also play knowing I probably will not win. I just think of the other things I could have been doing or other ways I could have spent this money.
Don’s view: The machines were tight, tight, tight. The table minimums looked decent and they had a pretty fair variety of games. I guess my biggest regret is spending $200 and not winning anything. Then again, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to how much I was spending.
Aside: I reminded Don that he could have taken that $200 and put it toward the Citizen Blue Angels edition watch he was coveting on board at Facets. He slapped his hand over his eyes.
This is the first time in our cruising history we played Bingo. I’ve wanted to play in the past, but didn’t. This was for both of us for one round of Bingo (about four games). I played three cards per game, Don played six per game, plus we bought two daubers. It was fun and the caller was spectacularly entertaining, but we probably could have spent half as much and had just as good of a time. Or, just watched and enjoyed without spending anything.
Don’s view: This was a ‘meh’ activity for me. It was fun, but I’m not sure I’d do it again.
I know we spent far less than most cruisers do on soda, bottled water and alcohol, but this is still one of those areas where I look back after each cruise and wonder what we were thinking. I am not a big drinker at all and I don’t generally drink soda. Also, most drinks are pretty darn caloric and I don’t really need to suck down those expensive calories in addition to the calorie-laden rich food. However, each trip they lure me in with a festive embarkation drink, a glass of robust red wine with dinner, a saucy Bloody Mary while listening to music in the evening, a frosty Pina Colada on deck… OK, maybe it is worth it. 🙂
Don’s view: I guess that amount for the two of us for 11 days is pretty decent. I would say this is pretty necessary, I don’t regret it, and I’ll probably do it again. Next time I would skip the cocktails and just do beer and wine. You know what the alcohol content is in those. I think there was hardly any booze in the mixed drinks.