I love to cruise! Unpack your things and let the captain do the driving, or piloting – or whatever it is that Ship Captains do. Yes, lining up to get on and off of the boat is a pain – scanning your badge, having your possessions x-rayed, and squeezing that alcohol rub (which has been shown to be almost worthless) into your palm with every embarkation/disembarkation is tedious. Likewise, waiting for a dinner table or trying to maneuver through the breakfast buffet can also be daunting.
For those first-timers who don’t quite know what to expect, here is a list of “to watch for” things that will make your trip more enjoyable. At least you’ll know that you aren’t alone. And, no, I don’t think these negatives are unique to Celebrity but I’d be interested in hearing other travel experiences, if you’d care to comment.
- Laundry; $74 USD for 1 bag of laundry. Sheesh! Wash it yourself and hang things discretely on the back of your chaise on your balcony (you aren’t allowed to have anything visible.)
- Drinks package; $54/person/day for Classic package which includes drinks up to $11 (but doesn’t include sparkling water) – How they can rationalize charging $54 a day for a drinks package and not include WATER is beyond me. Since most drinks that I like are about $13 – you are always adding a few dollars for “premium” drinks. Cappuccino’s ARE included, however – lucky for me!
- “Specialty” restaurants – There is a constant up-sell everywhere you go to book some of the alternative dining places. We don’t like having to pay another $30 – $60 per person for food when that is supposed to be included in the price of a cruise. Besides, in our experience, the food is pretty darn good in the main restaurant – hard to justify spending more.
- Wifi – Just get over it – your internet connection is nowhere near what you are used to. So be prepared that the extra money you are paying for a Wifi package is probably worthless. Perhaps an unplugged vacation?
- Excursions – I got it from a reliable source that the shore excursions from the boat are marked up AT LEAST 40%. That’s a lot. Without fail you can book your own – either in advance of your cruise or right from the port when you arrive. Sometimes it may be easier to take the ship’s excursions – but it is always more expensive.
- The ship boutique stores have a lot of gold, diamonds, designer goods, art and things for rich people – with rich prices to go with them. What’s more, on the last 2 days of the cruise – everything is suddenly on sale. It’s fun to browse but you are paying a premium price.
- Do your homework for each port on CRUISE CRITIC to see if you actually need a shuttle bus from the boat. Most of the ports were an easy 15-40 minute walk in from the pier. Also, many of the piers have cabs waiting just beyond the dock – always a more economical way to go. The cruise activities director will try to scare you about being left behind if you don’t return to the ship on time – don’t worry about that. There is lots of alternative transportation – trains, buses, cabs and private cars.
- Be aware that wine tastings usually cost $50 for a couple of ounces of 5 different wines that will be priced over $150/bottle. In fact, most of those extra little activities that you would like to try have a price tag attached. Another way that cruise ships “nickel and dime” you to death!
- Tipping. You will find a lot of advice about tipping on cruise ships. The reality is that these workers don’t make a lot of money and your mandatory tips go a long way to ease that burden. We like to prepay for the tips so that we don’t see them added to our bill each day. There is always one more person to tip and if you take the cruise ship’s shore excursions, they will tell you what to tip the driver and the guides as well. Take lots of US $1 bills with you – they come in very handy in most countries.
- Card mistakes – check your running tab every night on the TV in your state room; we were charged $12 for 2 glasses of wine for dinner that were supposed to be included in our drinks package. When questioned, the customer relations staff just said “it happens sometimes”. Also, your cruise card (a plastic credit card) is how you access your room and authorize all onboard charges. They are specially coded – some people have gold cards, others light blue or dark blue. They will say what “class” you are – remember the Titanic? We were Aqua Class. What this means is that you are entitled to certain perks – but no one gives you a rundown of those perks – we didn’t know we were entitled to a significant discount on our first bag of laundry, for example, so I had to negotiate it after the fact. Some perks include “one free ice cream” or “10% off wines priced over $30” so, beware that it is YOUR responsibility to find out what perks come with your cabin class.
- Finally, a word about their “Evening Chic” nights – three of them. The theatre reserves 3 rows of prime seating in the balcony for “Suite Class” guests on these evenings. They do not permit other guests to sit in these reserved rows until 5 minutes prior to show time. One evening they weren’t released until the lights went out. One lady fell in the dark trying to get to her seat – very unnecessary. I don’t know why Celebrity does this. There are not a lot of SUITE CLASS customers and none of them seem to go to the theatre, so we had 30 or more empty seats on these days waiting for the elite to show up!
There you have it – my rant about cruise ship rip-offs. Disclaimer: I have cruised previously with Norwegian (too big), Holland America (best live music) and Celebrity – three times (Galapagos, Baltic and Australia/New Zealand). They are all the same. I just wish I had read a similar blog prior to my cruises – forewarned is forearmed!