How to save cost on a Bermuda cruise
Gone are the days when a 6-day round trip cruise from New York to Bermuda would cost only $60 per person which included living aboard ship. Surprised? In 1938, the cruise ship Acadia of Eastern Steamship Lines offered such rates and the flyers boldly mentioned "The smart thrifty way to Bermuda - All expense cruise". It's all different now.
Although even the basic cruise package prices have gone up by more than 20 times, your overall cruise cost will also depend significantly on the onboard additional and hidden expenses that can hit your pocket by surprise.
These days, due to heavy competition, the Bermuda cruise lines do not make much money out of the cruise package cost. They make the real money from all the extra facilities and services that you avail onboard the ship. Starting from specialty restaurants to Spa, casino, laundry, beverages ... nothing comes free :(
Only the cabin room, your regular dining and basic entertainment are included in your cruise package price. From our several experiences of cruising to Bermuda using different cruise lines, we know how luring the onboard extras could be and how the side-expenses can really shoot through the ceiling unless you are careful.
Sounds weird? It's true. The cruises have ample extra offerings to pamper you. Do you know that many staffs onboard work virtually without any pay. They earn their livelihood mainly from commissions they get out of the extra purchases the passengers make on board.
These days, the trend in many of the cruise lines is to offer really low package prices to get cruise bookings and then hit the passengers with the cash fees or high extra charges for every little thing that one indulges in. Well, I can't predict your budget and how much you will be willing to spend extra on board for fun, food and special activities. So I have decided to share with you the main services and facilities that are usually tagged with high additional prices. If you carefully plan on these before boarding, you can keep your expenses under control :)
If you have gone through all my reviews of the cruises operating to Bermuda, you would have noticed the range of specialty restaurants the ships offer onboard. But actually all your meals at the dining rooms are included in your cruise trip cost. So why would you like to spend heavy extras on the specialty restaurants?
Is the dining room food generally not good? I don't think so. A specialty restaurant can cost anywhere between $15 - $35 per person. I guess it's the desire to have some variations and also to follow what others on board may be doing, guide such spending habit on cruises. If you can control yourself here, you save a lot of money.
Internet is not free on cruises to Bermuda. In fact this is very expensive. Usually Internet usage charge is 75 cents per minute, or $55 for 100 minutes or $100 for 250 minutes. Some cruise ships have other plans including laptop rentals. Unless you must access internet or email every day for business reasons, you will be better off using wi-fi in Bermuda. The whole of dockyard as well as Hamilton city is wi fi enabled. While they are not free, they will be much cheaper compared to the cruise rates. Check out Internet Access &†Cafes in Bermuda to know about wi-fi locations and rates.
Casinos and Gambling on Cruise
This can be one of the biggest money suckers on board. The cruise lines have been investing heavily on making the casinos bigger and better. The casino on Caribbean Princess is supposed to be one of the largest on any cruise ship.
All they want is that you drink a little to get into the groove and start trying your luck. I have seen the slot machines taking coins from quarters to $25. So my advice is, if you decide to roll the dice, then first decide on a budget and come out the Casino as soon as you have exhausted the amount.
It is understandable that you will at times indulge during a cruise vacation. But visiting the Spa massage center too frequently can turn out to be very costly. A Spa massage on board can range from $80 to $180 per hour depending on the type you choose.
So what should you do? One option is to check for any Spa specials that the cruise is offering. Generally you get such offers when the ship is docked in a port. Also be aware that the Spa staff usually work on commissions. So expect a sales pitch at the end of the massage when the staff are likely to push for the spa products. This is usual. You don't need to feel obligated to buy them. Often you will get much better deals on these through internet shopping.
Bermuda Cruise Photos
Professional photographers from the cruise-line will be everywhere and they will keep taking your pictures in the dining room, on the pool deck, in the showroom or even while you are disembarking the ship. They do it on their own and you don't pay for the clicks, so you can't stop them from clicking the snaps.
But often you will be presented the choice of buying your own great pictures. How long can you resist? A typical set of pictures will cost about $25 to $30. Well if you get your own camera, you don't need to buy these and save the cost.
Art Auctions on Bermuda Cruises
Onboard art auctions can be real exciting, and they do offer free drinks like champagne, and thatís the problem. If you are not careful, you could end up owning up a picture or an artwork from an unknown artist costing hundreds of dollars that would eventually make no sense. Many times we have seen that these are really not worth the price. If you had not particularly planned to purchase art from the cruise, it's better not even go to this area. Rather try your local art galleries which may give you much better options at far cheaper prices.
Drinks On board The Cruise
Tap water, juice, coffee, iced and hot tea are generally the only free drinks that you get on board a Bermuda cruise ship. Generally, a beer costs $4.50, a bottle of wine can be $25 to over $100. Most cocktails are $7-$12. Sodas are $2. Not to mention that a 15 - 18% gratuity is automatically added to your bar tab. A bottled water will also cost $2.
If you like to drink alcohol, you must be prepared to spend quite some amount on this. Because the cruise line will not let you bring in your own liquor except for limited quantity of wine. And if you bring in wine, you can have it in the dining rooms only and they will charge a corkage fee of $10 or so per bottle.
You can check out if there is a soda package offered by the ship. Such deals usually cost $20 to $30, and provide unlimited soda during the entire cruise. So it's really great for families travelling with kids.
Another way of saving cost is to bring your own bottle and fill it up from the self service fountains instead of every time spending $2 for a bottle of water.
Gratuity or Tipping
The cruise lines operating to Bermuda expect you to tip the waiters and the cabin stewards. They usually add a gratuity automatically to your bill towards this. Sometimes a cruise-line may not add the gratuity and instead let you tip while the service is delivered. In any case a gratuity amount between $10 to $12 per passenger per night gets added to your cost.
You can however tip more at your own discretion. The standard gratuity is generally divided as follows: $3.50 per day for the room steward, $3.50 per day for the waiter, $2.00 per day for the bus boy and $1.50 per day for maitre'd. That totals to $10.50 per person, per day.
So a 7-day cruise for two persons will mean an additional $140 to $170 to your expense. By the way, the bar bills automatically come with 15 - 18% gratuity included.
So is there any way to avoid this cost? I guess no and there is no point fighting it either. As I mentioned, many of the cruise staff just earn their livelihood out of the gratuity we pay. So this cost will be there and you will need to factor this into your budget. However, if the cruise line automatically adds the gratuity to your bills, there is no obligation whatsoever to tip any further.
Laundry and dry cleaning charges on a cruise can be very high. For example, a T-shirt can cost $4 to wash. Laundromats are generally not provided in the cabins. Check to see if there is a self-service launderette. That will be much cheaper, typically $3 to $5 per load.
There is another option. Most cruise lines set aside a day when they wash a bag of laundry for a fixed charge, usually $15 to $20 per bag. The cruise line provides the bag which you can fill up.
Buy all the small items you need for regular use before boarding the ship. Because once on board, the price just doubles, be it underwater camera, umbrella, caps, pain relievers, sunscreen or any other personal-use items.
Bermuda Shore Excursions
The cruises offer shore excursions after reaching Bermuda. Starting from the beautiful beaches, snorkeling, Helmet diving to sightseeing and guided tours, all are offered as part of this. But they come at a heavy price. Such shore excursions cost anywhere between $50 to $250 per person depending on what you choose. And you will surely like to take more than just one such excursions after coming all the way to Bermuda.
Since you get limited time in the island, there is a natural inclination to take these shore excursions offered by the cruise line rather than exploring Bermuda on your own. If you plan in advance, you can save major cost here.
So what should you do? We organize our own tours and excursions every time we come to Bermuda. With the right information, you can also do it easily. It would be far cheaper and satisfying. Here is how to do it: Bermuda Tours and Excursions
And you can buy Bermuda transportation day passes and easily be on your own. We always do that and have more flexibility. This way, you can spend more time on things that you like more - no one to drag you out once the scheduled excursion time is over.
Repeat Travel and Group Discounts
This is commonsense. If you are travelling in a fairly large group and book well in advance, all cruise lines generally offer discounts. In general, one out of every 15 passengers (which means the 16th passenger) can travel free. Or alternatively the discount may be distributed evenly across all passengers.
Also, you can get huge discounts from the cruise line if you are a repeat traveler on the same cruise. So always choose a cruise line that you availed earlier to get discounts because they reward travelers loyalty.
Airport transfers organized by the cruise lines generally cost far higher than local taxi fare. If you are flying into the port city to take a cruise vacation, consider taking a taxi to reach the cruise port, or to reach the airport on return.
So, those were the main cost saving tips for a Bermuda cruise vacation. If you can take the measures I have discussed above, at least to a reasonable extent, you will eventually save big money.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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