Is the $199 cruise a reality or is it a scam that will cost you four times as much? The answer is "YES" to both questions! If you know the ins and outs of the $199 deal, you can be cruisin to savings and have a fabulous time, as we did earlier this month! However, if you aren't cautious and act like a first time cruiser, then you're sunk.
You can always tell the first time cruisers because they ask certain questions. Here are the top questions that real life passengers have asked the cruise director and his comments in red:
- What elevation are we? Uh, it's called sea level....
- Has this ship ever sunk before? If a ship sinks, do ya think they're really going to use it again?
- Does the crew sleep onboard? We have helicopters that transfer the cruise to and from the ship while we're at sea--whaddayathink?
- Is the toilet water saltwater or fresh? And why does it matter?
- Does the ship generate its own power? Well, either that or we have the world's longest extension cord (purchased at Costco) that runs from Los Angeles to Mexico!
- Do we have to go on shore for shore excursions? Let's see....they're called SHORE excursions, which means they're on the SHORE.
We weren't first time cruisers, so it's easy to compare this $199 venture with a previous trip we had on the same ship. Our recent trip cost $199 per person PLUS, we got a $100 ship board credit (per room). So it cost $298 for Bob and I to get onboard. For that basic price, we got our room (without a view), all the food we could eat, access to free shows and classes, use of the gym, use of the formal dining room, and access to all ports of call.
On our previous cruise, we paid $800 per person, no shipboard credit, for a total of $1600--which was a GROUP rate. (When you travel with a group, the costs are often more--not less--because you are also paying for the group meeting room and for the event planners to get their cabins free.) Sometimes, for big name cruises (like John Tesh), you are paying for the privilege of getting near the famous person with their "special" group rates.
Both of our trips were Mexican cruises, and the more expensive cruise had slightly better ports of call and a slightly larger room with a small porthole. Otherwise, we had all the same amenitiesl With the group cruise, we had required meetings and were a bit restricted in what we could do because of this. On our non-group cruise, we weren't in the room anyway, so we were content with our $298 version, it wasn't worth $1300 more! We also had unrestricted use of our time to do as we pleased and it was more relaxing.
The bottom line for us was that we did all the shore excursions we wanted (our top choices), bought souveniers, had a few spa treatments and had a fabulously fun time for a final, out-the-door total of $400 per person or $800 for both of us. Our previous cruise, as first timers doing the best we could, cost us $1500 per person or a total of $3000. Look for part two of this blog for the practical tips to Titanic savings and ways to keep those out-the-door costs down!
Happy Cruisin' !
"America's Family Financial Expert" (R)