I am fresh off the ship of the first cruise I have ever taken. We sailed from Vancouver to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and then to our final port, Seward. From there we took a train into the interior of Alaska, stopping at Denali for a night and then Fairbanks for a night. To say that our journey was amazing is truly not giving Alaska’s landscape credit. We stumbled upon a field of bald eagles, each statuesque in their own right. On a hiking trail I looked up in time to see a moose casually cross my path just feet away. While polishing off a meal of salmon and chilled berry soup one evening, three whales teased us in the distance with their spouts. There were so many moments where I just stood in awe at what was in front of me. I would take a photo with my camera and then look down at the image, disappointed; the photos just did not compare. Majestic, inspiring, shocking brilliance—my daily vocabulary had to expand in scope just to describe what I was looking at.
Alaska was worth the money we spent, hands down—for the cruise, the airfare, the excursions, the train tickets, and the food. But there could have been a lot of other costs added on that in my eyes were not worth it. Since this was my first cruise I had no idea that we were essentially living in a peddler’s dream. Every step of the journey there were people more than happy to help us spend our money. This could be on trinkets and the next hottest gemstones, all the way to the bath robes that hung in our rooms (which could be monogrammed for another $2.00 per letter). Part of this was because work in Alaska is mainly seasonal in nature. Our tour guides on and off the ship were a mixture of locals and students/retirees from all over the United States who needed to earn this year’s living between May and September. Of course the other reason is because why not? People on vacation consume and spend in ways quite different from what they would normally do at home. Selling to them while in an enclosed container on sea is a pretty brilliant idea.
Not only were they happy to help you spend your money on the cruise, but they automatically charged your credit card $60 per person per day ($840 upfront) upon entering the ship because they assume you will be spending that much (if you didn’t have a credit card or wish to give one, here is the ship’s note: “With the cash option, you MUST bring enough cash to cover the $60/person/day account deposit. Failure to do so may forfeit your right to board”). In the event that we didn’t spend the total of $840 of anticipatory charges (we certainly did not), we would be refunded the money. Pretty crazy, huh?
Here’s 20 ways the cruise ship was happy to help us spend our $840. Some of these charges are before we entered the ship, and most were while we were on the ship. Also, these are just off the top of my head. If I dug a little deeper, I’m sure I could have uncovered 50. Finally, while these are specific to our cruise, I am sure many of these apply to other cruises as well.
- Purchase Cruise Branded Luggage Tags: These were peddled before entering the ship at a mere $6.95 each (fyi, our luggage made it to all ports, cities, and the final airport destination without these fancy tags).
- Preorder a Cruiseline Formalwear Rental: There were two formal nights, and apparently you could rent the garments, shoes, and accessories needed and they would be waiting for you in your stateroom on your particular formal night. I looked, and for the ladies there is black, gold, and sparkles!
- Use the Internet: I warned everyone ahead of time of my limited internet access because of the high cost to use the service while onboard the ship. Internet usage is between $0.40 to $0.75 per minute (depending on if you purchase a discount plan with a lot of minutes or do pay as you go), with a one-time activation fee of $3.95.
- Purchase an Indulgence: I’m not sure how anyone could have gone for want with all of the food and luxuries built into our ship and tallied into the price of our tickets, but apparently you can also purchase indulgences for even greater luxuries sent directly to your ship room. These included couples packages, flowers, chocolate dipped strawberries, special wine offerings, gaming lessons and casino chips, cigar gifts, spa treatments and keepsakes.
- Take a Cooking Class with a Chef: We were offered a cooking class onboard for $29.95.
- Purchase Photography and DVD Packages: Periodically a photographer would take our photos and make them available in a room for purchase. Also, they took photographs of the entire voyage and made DVDs for keepsakes beginning at $24.95.
- Bid at the Art Auction: There were several art auctions onboard throughout the week. I did not attend, so am not sure what price ranges were reached.
- Learn how to Mix Onboard Signature Drinks: Classes were offered to learn how to mix the signature drinks onboard. The cost was $12.50 to mix and drink.
- Take your Bathrobe Home: For $49.00, you could own the terry cloth bath robe in your room. Monogramming can be done for $2.00 per letter.
- Play Bingo: The Bingo jackpot went from $25,000 all the way to $100,000 at the end of the week. The price was $15 for one card, $25 for three cards, and $35 for six cards.
- Put a Deposit Down on Your Next Cruise: After about two days we were given daily reminders of how this cruise was rapidly coming to a close and we should put a deposit down for our next cruise. You needed to put only $100 down, and then would owe nothing until the final payment. If you didn’t know where you wanted to go or when, it wasn’t a problem! The deposit was good for any cruise over the next four years. The deposit also ensured a shipboard credit on the future cruise of $100, and your preferred travel agent would receive full credit for the booking.
- Drink Beverages Other than Water, Juice, Coffee, and Tea: Soda and alcoholic beverages are extra. A can of soda is around $2.50, and alcoholic drinks were between $6.00-$12.00. You could purchase drink cards for discounts. A $50 non-alcoholic drink card cost $25. A $250 alcoholic drink card cost $225.
- Shop at the Onboard Mall: There were a slew of high-class shops on the ship including several jewelry stores. At times, I felt like I was at the Galleria! Also, there were several poolside sales throughout the week including Alaska books, watch sets, and apparel.
- Eat at the Premium Restaurant: The food on our cruise was truly exceptional. I was very impressed. This is why I could not understand paying an extra $10 for lunch or $25 for dinner to get even more premium food at one particular restaurant onboard.
- Drink Water/Soda Available in the Room: Just like at a hotel there was bottled water and sodas in our room available for purchase. Water (it was a large bottle) was $2.95 and soft drinks were $1.95.
- Do Wine Tasting: There were several wine tasting events during the week at a cost of about $12.00 per person.
- Go to the Spa: There was a gorgeous spa onboard with lots of services available. I wanted to get a manicure and pedicure done…and then found out the cost would be $95 before tip. Woah!
- Gamble: There are plenty of slot machines and a card table or two to eat up some money. My mother actually won $250 this trip!
- Book Excursions: Paul and I did a few excursions that really added to our overall experience. He went salmon fishing, I went snorkeling, and we all took a tour bus to a salmon hatchery and glacier. We also took a bike trip through a gorgeous coastal temperate rain forest. Excursions were available on our ship from between $20-$1,000+. You can purchase them ahead of time, or during the cruise itself.
- Forget to Hand in a Complimentary DVD: Apparently the DVD will cost you $30 if you do not hand it by the deadline.
In my next article, I am going to discuss how we managed to live it up on the ship while spending far less than “the average” of $60 per person, per day.