Any holidays which claim to be all-inclusive very often are not truly so, with extra costs and the chance to shed extra holiday expenditure, something which every holiday company excels at. Cruise liners market themselves as including the food, entertainment, accommodation and on-broad service as being included, but is it?
On a recent Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) holiday my wife and I were quite surprised and be quite honest, outraged, that even though 9 or more restaurants were promoted as existing on our ship, that at least 4 of these restaurants on the boat actually charge an additional fee if you wish to eat in them. Beware that many cruise lines promote food as being included and they can promote the different restaurants they have, but the combination of free and the number of restaurants on-board often does not match. There will normally always be 2 or 3 restaurants you can dine in and where the food is included, but your choice may be limited unless you are willing to pay extra per person. Travelling as a family this can add quite a significant amount of money onto the final cruise bill.
The frustration for many British travellers when taking a cruise, is being forced to pay tips, even after having already paid for the holiday. The concept for British travellers is that the cruise line or holiday operator should pay the staff correctly and this will save the need for tourists from needing to supplement the staff wages. This runs contrary to the U.S system whereby employees pay the staff a minimum wage for many tourism related jobs and the emphasis is on the travellers to supplement staffs wages. Without debating the best option, do be aware the you will be expected to leave a certain tip according to how many days and how many people you are on the cruise for. Around GBP£5 per person per day is roughly appropriate. Some cruise lines such as NCL now take the tips during booking. If the service is bad or you simply do not agree with the concept of having to tip extra, you can normally go and cancel this fee at the front desk on the cruise or simply not leave any money in the envelope in your room. Do be aware that you can go to the reception area on-board during the cruise and change the agreed tip for the cruise on your final bill but normally you must talk to them at least 24 hours hours before the end of the cruise.
One would not expect free drinks on a cruise ship but when you have already had tips added onto your cruise bill at the start of the cruise (such as with NCL Cruises when I travelled with them and which many cruise lines now are in the habit of doing) and then also automatically having have a space on the bill very visible when you buy drinks, for you to also tip the bar staff and there feels pressure to do so. Why on earth can these cruise lines not just factor in one tip if they have to, for all staff and let us relax on holiday? This issue tends to be a real issue for many travellers and the sooner cruise lines sort this issue out and stop pressuring travellers, will be a good day for all. The frustration by many European travellers over tipping must have a powerful negative impact on repeat travel. If cruise lines made the trip an extra £10 more expensive no one would complain given that travellers tend to find cruise travel great value overall. But tipping needs to be included and already covered by the cruise line and already factored into the one fee the holiday is sold for.
The cruise lines make a significant amount of money from the cost of the shore excursions. Some cruise lines have even bought their own small islands i.e. in the Caribbean and they make significant income from the shore excursions. Many of these excursions are good and well organised. If you are on a budget though, you may want to consider carefully.
If you need internet access whilst on holiday then whilst on board the ship, you will find that Internet is generally very slow and expensive. Your best option is to find an Internet café when you are onshore. Whilst on the cruise I was on, the Internet Manager actually boldly informed me that the internet was indeed very slow and that it was because so many of the cruise line staff onboard were always using it.
Overall, cruises do offer good value and cruise lines including NCL offer good value. Do be aware though that cruises are certainly not all-inclusive and budget accordingly. If you are going on a cruise, make sure also to read about avoiding seasickness and health facilities onboard the average boat.