Cruising Extra Hidden Charges and How to Avoid Them

There will be more cruise ships than usual sailing from UK ports this summer, and the competition to fill cabins will be keener than ever. But as fares topple and “special offers” increase, you can be sure of one thing: cruise lines will be looking for even more “extras” that they can add to your on-board account in an attempt to balance the books.

The latest trick is to say they will do your tipping for you by adding a daily sum to your bill. The fact that a tip is a gratuity, given personally in recognition of services received, seems to have been quietly forgotten.

So the first thing to do after embarking is to head for the Information Desk, inquire whether this iniquitous system is used, then ask for the charge to be removed from your account. They’ll argue, of course. But the charge is not a part of your contract with the cruise line, and if you tell them you prefer to choose for yourself who to tip, and by how much, they will have no alternative but to agree.

Here are some other little tricks that many (but not all) cruise lines employ to part you from your cash:

Water
Want a glass of water before you go to bed? That sealed bottle left temptingly on the dressing table is beckoning you – but it will cost you anything up to £1.50 to open it. My tip: Take a bottle of water in your hand luggage, then buy supermarket water for a few pence at your first port of call.

Wi-Fi
Charging for this is the greatest fiddle afloat. Cruise lines will bill you up to 75p a minute for wi-fi access, and usually fail to mention that connections can be very slow at sea; just collecting your e-mails can take a costly 20 minutes. My tip: Wait until you dock, then follow those crew members who scramble ashore laptops in hand. They seem to know every spot on the planet where there is free wi-fi.

Photographs
Cruise lines know full well that you will want a picture of yourself shaking hands with the captain, and will charge you a small fortune for the print. The same applies to “group pictures” at your dining table.  My tip: Lend a friend your camera and ask him or her to get snapping.

Art sales
Some ships make a feature of these. After all, they’ve got a captive audience. But will that overly expensive picture that you are admiring really look as nice at home? My tip: Don’t even think about it!

Formal afternoon tea
White-gloved waiters will serve you a traditional tea of sandwiches, scones and cake while a pianist plays, says the ship’s newspaper persuasively. Yes, they will – at anything from £7.50 upwards per head. My tip: Head for the buffet, where the same goodies come free.

Hairdressing
Well, of course the ladies want to look good on formal evenings, and the shipboard salons get very busy. And expensive. My tip: Pack a pair of heated rollers (ladies) or get a short back and sides before you go (gents). Incidentally, some ships offer men the ultimate luxury of being shaved by a barber, but beware – the last time I indulged it cost £15 plus tip, and I’ll bet the price has gone up substantially since then.

And finally …
This can’t really be classed as a rip-off, but if you go on part of a world cruise, and plan on leaving the ship in, say, Australia, your return flight to the UK will probably be within 24 hours. Try to change it, and you may end up buying your own air ticket home. If you intend to stopover, negotiate a deal with your cruise line before you pay. 

Remember: luggage you needed on board, such as evening clothes, but which you don’t need whilst visiting friends and relatives or simply touring around, can easily be left on board and collected when the ship returns to the UK. Cruise lines charge around £30 per suitcase for this service  – and that is one extra charge that really is worthwhile.

More about Robin

Robin Mead, a travel writer for 40 years, has written more than 30 travel guide books as well as contributing to newspapers and magazines all over the world. He has also been a hotel inspector, and for the past 12 years he has worked as a lecturer on board cruise ships in the winter. He says his great loves are the sun, the sea, posh hotels, Sussex (where he lives), the Channel Islands and … ghost stories! Robin writes for Silver Travel Advisor about world cruises.

Robin Mead runs his own travel website, www.robinmead.com, or can be followed on Twitter @robinmeadtravel. His book “An Expert Guide to Cruising” can be downloaded from Amazon for £1.93.

You might also be interested in:

•  World Cruises
•  How to make most of a world cruise
•  How to keep your money safe while travelling
•  It can be cheaper to go abroad!
•  Tips for safe and secure travel

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