Debunking Cruise rip off myths: are cruise holidays worth it?

Debunking Cruise rip off myths: are cruise holidays worth it?

I just read the huffington post article written by Ed Perkins, which claimed cruising was a “Rip Off”. I realised I had to tell the other side of the story. Cruising is NOT a rip-off, I think cruise holidays are worth it, here’s why.

Are cruise holidays worth it??

Cruising is good value

Single Supplement

The biggest rip-off in the cruise business targets travellers who want to cruise by themselves. Those who don’t have a spouse or companion and don’t want to share a cabin. The penalty is occasionally as high as 100 per cent. When you pay two-per-person rates — but is more often in the range of 50 to 75 per cent. Even that, however, is stiff enough to deter many solo travellers.- Ed Perkins

As a travel agent, I hear the single supplement gripe almost daily. It sucks. It’s frustrating when you have to tell someone the special deal they have seen advertised is based on TWO people sharing. Then if they wanted to travel alone essentially, they would be paying double. It is not a rip off ploy, but a basic travel industry standard. Single supplement is not just privy to Cruise Lines.

Hotels are booked exactly the same way. Very rarely do you find a single room rate that is actually equal to half the rate of their normal lead-in room type? A hotel does not want to rent a room out to one person for $100 a night when they can get $200 per night when two people occupy the same space. The idea that the room is better rented out to someone than no one, is another argument entirely.

It’s true many cruise lines are starting to add single cabins. It’s been a long time coming and a welcome relief for many people. Unfortunately, with space at a premium, single cabins are limited. This means they must be booked well in advance. With a bit of luck, the single cabin will become an industry-standard in the future. Watch this space!

No Cheap Liquor On Board

This is a rip-off by rule rather than a price rip-off. Most ships prohibit you from buying liquor onshore and taking it to your cabin. Some include wine in the prohibition, others allow one bottle, assessing a corkage charge if you want it in the dining room. But if you want a martini, a scotch and soda, or a mai tai, your only choice is to buy it at the ship’s bar — and pay shoreside restaurant/bar prices.-Ed Perkins

As a big drinker (Let’s be honest, I’m almost 30, not married nor do I have children, so of course, I drink!) I was rather miffed by the idea that I was not able to drink my own liquor onboard the cruise ship too. After all, I had paid for it, I was on holiday, why shouldn’t I be able to enjoy it?

Because the whole ship is a business. That discounted ticket has to recoup profits from somewhere, and this is just one of those places. Of course, I could have chosen to book a cabin on a cruise line that offered All-Inclusive. But I chose not to, preferring the bargain-priced cabin on a different cruise line.

At the same time, I wouldn’t expect to go out to a show on Broadway with my friends, and sneak in my own vodka from home? So why should it be ok to do the same thing onboard a ship? No, if I want to drink on board, I expect to pay the $29 for a bottle of wine, or $8 for a Vodka Soda. It’s no different to being on land and going to a bar there. The costs are not any more than what my local Melbourne bar charges, I don’t see that as a rip off at all.

Charges for Soft Drinks, Ice Cream, and Such

These days, at least on typical mass-market cruise lines, you pay shore prices for a wide variety of snacks. Perhaps the most galling is paying $1.25 to $1.50 for a soda from a dispenser. According to what I find online, the cost of serving a 20-ounce cup of soda from a fountain is around 20 to 25 cents, including soda, cup, ice, and straw. The same goes for expensive ice cream concoctions and other snacks. Cruising is supposed to include food service, and that should include ordinary snacks. Charging anything for them, and especially charging landside prices, is a rip-off.- Ed

If you are planning a holiday and want the all-inclusive atmosphere of not reaching for your wallet while on holiday, please book an all-inclusive holiday. Extra’s are not included in cruises, this keeps the cost down for everyone, and honestly, I’m happy about that. Your fare covers three meals a day, but anything outside of that must be paid for.

I would consider this a rip off if the costs were higher than they are on land. I bought a can of coke for $1.80 recently on my cruise, laying poolside, and delivered by a charming guy. If I had bought that same can of coke at a local 7-11, which doesn’t quite offer the same service, but is just as convenient, I would have paid around $2.20. I don’t believe the cruise line is trying to rip me off.

If you still don’t agree, perhaps also apply the same “rip off ” gripe to McDonald’s and other fast-food chains who charge around $1- $2 for their fountain soda (Postmix Cola for Aussies)?

Recommended Shore Shopping

This one is a riff on the more general souvenir category. Many ships allow locally based “port lecturers” to board and supposedly provide information and “insider” hints about what to do onshore. For the most part, these folks are really shills for onshore merchants who pay for mentions. The more honest cruise lines call them “shopping ambassadors” (a wonderfully creative euphemism) to distinguish them from genuine local authorities that the cruise line might also arrange.-Ed

This one I actually agree with… Always be wary of the staff of any tourism operator who tells you where to shop. You just never know what they have invested in the business too. It reminds me a little bit of those guesthouse owners in South East Asia who tell you their brother/cousin/uncle has a shop around the corner, and you will get a better deal from them. If there’s a chance for a kickback…well, you know the drill!

The Casino

Almost all big cruise ships have casinos. They’re much like the ones you find in Vegas or Atlantic City, only a lot smaller. As with land casinos, shipboard casinos are usually located so you have to walk through them several times a day to get to most activities.- Ed Perkins

I thought all casinos were rip-offs? 😉


Big cruise ships these days are likely to provide satellite-based Internet access in cyber cafes or maybe even in other shipboard Wi-Fi hot spots. Unfortunately, if you have a bad online addiction, you’ll pay an addict’s price. Most lines charge 75 cents a minute but also sell a range of packages, with rates running as low as 35 cents a minute if you buy the really big package (up to 500 minutes). In general, this is a lot more than you pay for airline Wi-Fi, for about the same level of service.-Ed

I agree with Wifi on cruises is expensive, I’d almost go as far to say it is a rip-off… however, my understanding is that the wifi onboard is not your usual connection.

You are basically hooking into the satellite internet? This is why you pay so much more than your home connection. In saying that, I’d expect advancements in wifi technology to close this gap soon, and prices to come right down. As a Facebook and blogging addict, I’m crossing my fingers!

Special Dining Venues

A cruise is supposed to include all meals, right? These days, the answer is no. Most big new cruise ships have one or more premium dining venues, at which you’ll pay an additional $20 and $50 per person to have dinner in a themed dining room: steakhouse, Italian, French, or whatever. A related trend is to add a surcharge for some “premium” entrees, often steak or lobster, in the conventional dining room. Some of those premium prices seem high — especially when you consider that they’re not the full prices but are instead surcharges on top of what you’ve supposedly already paid for — but online reports indicate that many travellers believe the premium dinners are worth the price, at least once they’re on the cruise.-Ed

At least with Australian based cruise lines, such as P&O, Carnival etc, special dining venues are worth every penny. Luke Mangan has teamed up with P&O cruises to help bring his Amazing Asian Fusion restaurants to sea. For the sake of paying an extra $45 for a special dinner, I don’t for a second consider that a rip off. If you were to eat at one of Luke’s Sydney restaurants, you’d be lucky to come out with any change from $150. And let’s be honest, after eating substandard ship fare for a week, you’d be happy to pay for something of a higher standard!

If the cruise line has a surcharge for lobster, and you expect it in the menu without a charge, perhaps next time book onto a more suitable cruise line? There are plenty of companies out there who offer lobster and steak without a surcharge. Crystal, Seabourn,  Azamara, Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Cunard come to mind, yes, the cost per cabin is higher, but so are the meal expectations.

Shore Excursions

Typically, at each port, your cruise line has lined up a laundry list of port excursions to sell you on. These excursions can run from conventional sightseeing and visitor attractions to snorkelling, water-skiing, parasailing, rock climbing, bird-watching, and whatever else might be available at each stop. Typically, the cruise line will start pitching you to pre-buy your excursions before you even get on the ship. What’s wrong with these excursions? You face up to three problems: Prices are usually higher than prices you can obtain yourself. As with any group activity, the pace is dictated by the slowest member, and it may waste a lot of your time. And lastly, most sightseeing excursions include extended stops at souvenir shops chosen primarily for the size of the kickback they provide to the tour operator and cruise line.-Ed

Look, shore excursions booked directly with the cruise line are NOT your cheapest option. There’s no secret in that. However, if you book a cruise’s shore excursion, and are late back to the ship for whatever reason (Your jeep got a flat tyre on the jungle expedition, or your dive boat stayed out too long) the cruise line will WAIT for you! If it can’t wait any longer, it will organise, at no cost to you, the means to catch up with the ship at the next port.

Do you want to save yourself $30 booking with a local guide?

You better hope you make it back to the dock in time, or that’s a very expensive lesson many, many people have learnt the hard way!

Are cruises a rip off?

I don’t believe cruises are a “rip off’, you have the ability to choose what you pay for and when, if you don’t want to do any excursions, you don’t have to. Only want to eat the included buffet and drink tap water? No problem. Not interested in shopping? Don’t buy anything! A rip off is only a rip off when you have no other choice but to pay up, and when the thing you are paying for is at an inflated price.

Cruises are fantastic for economic holidays. You really can get away with paying for just your cabin and a few extras (poolside drinks, a special dinner and maybe one proper shore excursion) You don’t have to spend a lot to enjoy yourself. After all, tanning on the main deck is free!

Round The World Rachel
Round The World Rachel

Rachel Cunningham is a Superyacht Chef and World Adventurer.
With over 110 countries visited in the past 15 years, Rachel wants to you to come along for the ride! Bring a bottle of rum, and a bikini, oh yeah, and your passport. You could end up losing all three items by the end of this journey!
Round the world Rachel takes you off the beaten track to beaches, bars and restaurants of the unknown!

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