Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Week on the Carnival Magic: Part Two --- Cost Saving Ideas

This is the second of my postings about my recent Carnival cruise aboard the Carnival Magic. Last posting I talked about the dining on the ship. Today, I want to make some comments on what I learned about the average Carnival cruiser. Most of the people I met were people who were traveling on a tight budget. That's one, if not the main, reason they chose a Carnival cruise . . . I'm speaking of price points.
I closed my last posting by pointing out that in my judgment the Carnival product is undervalued. That simply means that it is selling for less than the actual value of the product. It is that undervaluing of the product that makes Carnival so attractive to budget cruisers. The average cruise price on a Carnival cruise is at least $200 below the value of what is being served up. So if a Carnival cruise meets your expectations (That is, it is the kind of cruise experience you want) then you get a bargain.  

As I thought about the price of a Carnival cruise and the fact that it is underpriced for the value it provides, "There must be some additional ways to shave some more of the cost of this cruise. So, today I want to give you budget cruisers some ideas on how to save even more on your Carnival cruise. By the way, much of what follows will apply to any cruise line. Since your Carnival cruise has been purchased at less than  its market value the cruise line must make up the difference in order to achieve a per diem that allows them to put the ship to sea and make a profit. These are the very same things that can more than double the "real" cost of your cruise experience.

Truth is by minimizing your use of these "extra cost" items you can bring the cost of your cruise in line with your limited budget.  Remember, your cabin, food and entertainment are largely included in the price of your cruise ticket. However, drinks, specialty restaurants, Wifi, telephone, laundry, shore excursions, the SPA and shops are not. So here are some ways to keep your cruise budget balanced.

The first thing I noticed about my Carnival cruise was that If you're a big soda or bottled water drinker you don't have to spend the $5 per day per bottle of water for your room or for that Diet Coke you just can't do without. Carnival (as well as Holland America and Celebrity) will allow you to bring a twelve pack of water or soda per person onboard without charge (Size control is 12" x 12" x 12") .

Depending on how much you drink, a pre-paid soda/water package (special pricing for kids) is another option. The other option is to simply switch to the free stuff — such as iced tea, lemonade, coffee and juice from dispensers in the buffet area.

Another place to avoid is the bar. Alcohol on a cruise ship is expensive and everywhere. Frequent too

many bars and your cruise cost will soar. On distilled alcohol you have no choice. If you're going to drink it you will have to purchase it onboard.  So, if you can't say "No," then plan ahead for a set number of drinks each day/night. You are generally not allowed to bring your own liquor onboard (if you try it may be confiscated). Also, don't forget that gratuities are added to all alcoholic drinks purchased.

If you order a bottle of wine, ask that it be corked and stored so you can stretch servings over two
nights. Carnival (Celebrity Cruises and Holland America do as well) will let you bring one bottle per adult passenger on board for use in your cabin without a charge. If you decide to use it in the dinning room or other venue be prepared for a corkage charge. We have found that based on the price of a bottle of wine onboard the ship bringing your own wine is well worth the corkage fee.

Another area where you can really save some money is Shore excursions.  Cruise lines contract with local operators to organize tours that get you easily to key sights and activities at each port of call. These, when chosen wisely, can be the highlight of your cruise. The only real advantage to the cruise line sponsored shore excursions is that if your late getting back to the ship on one of them the ship will still be there waiting for you. They are often not the cheapest or the best way to see a destination. You can often hire a private car and driver for less and see thing more quickly and close up. The big thing about "doing your own thing" is making sure you get back to the ship well before the set sailing time because they will not wait on you.

Another popular feature and one that adds to your cruise costs is "Alternative" or
"Specialty" dining. The alternative restaurants on cruise ships are a bonus for foodies. It's your choice whether it's worth it to you to pay $10 per person for a delightful Italian meal in the Cucina Del Capitano, or enjoy a great meal at the Prime Steakhouse  ($35 per person) and a lot more for a gourmet Chef's Table experience ($75 per person upcharge). To cut cost stick to the free options. The main dining rooms are still great (though not as good as in the past) and the Lido deck is a great option as well. Scope out a quiet corner in the Market Place on the Lido deck for a date-night.
We live in a "smart phone" age and everyone feels naked when they don't have phone access or internet service. Use of shipboard phones and internet is expensive. In both cases you will pay by the minute and the internet will often be very slow.  Avoidance is your best bet. Per-minute fees for calls from your cabin phone are exorbitant. If your plan is to use your cell phone, check with your provider on international roaming charges. Horror stories abound of cruisers unwittingly racking up huge charges because they didn't turn off cellular connections. We turn our phones off.

By in large you should avoid the Onboard gift shops and ignore the ads that are delivered to your cabin promising all sorts of deals. Be aware, though, some of the pricing, such as for take-home bottles of booze, is actually quite good. Everyone on a cruise ending at a Texas port and not just Texas residents will be hit with a alcohol tax when you return to a Texas port. If you're looking for trinkets such as magnets and t-shirts, you may do better at onshore shops.

The Casino an eat your money faster than any other place on the ship so beware. There's a reason for th old saying, "The house always wins." It is because the house always wins!  This is a profit area for the cruise lines. Enter at your own risk. If you simply must gamble set a daily limit for yourself and live within it.

The spa is my favorite place on the ship but have just about priced me out of using them. Prices here are high and additional gratuities are expected (15% or more). Your ship's spa will be a lovely oasis for relaxing, with facilities including sauna and steam (sometimes even complimentary) and a full menu of soothing treatments – at prices often higher than at home. Be prepare for what may be a heavy post-treatment pitch for expensive take-home product.

Another area where you can spend a lot of money is on photographs. Everywhere you go on the ship you'll find photographers. This is especially true when boarding and disembarking the ship. You'll also stumble over their makeshift sets on formal nights. You'll certainly want some special photos but don't fall into the trap of buying every picture they take. Decide ahead of time what you want and limit ourself to those photos.

Carnival cruise lines began in an effort to make cruising affordable to the average family. When it comes to cruise fare they have largely succeeded. However, they can be the source of financial pain if self-discipline is not practiced. Just understand you will pay for just about everything.

Let me courage you

1 comment:

  1. You are so right on David. The one thing about the photographers is you can get as many photos as you want taken. You do not have to buy them every night but wait and as the week goes by go in and pick out your favorites. And then throw the rest away. They have little trash cans in the photo shop and this keeps one from going back and thinking just maybe I should have kept it. The last time, Buster and I took quite a few and the photographers began to know us. But we threw away a massive bunch and kept the best ones. Since it was the 45th anniversary, we wanted a nice photo for the occasion.
    Also, when we wanted a special drink, we got a smoothie. Half the price of one with alcohol but we felt like we were celebrating. And since we don't drink, it was a lot of fun. Keep telling everyone about cruising. It is one of life's affordable luxuries.