When it comes to cruise vacations, the term
should come with a big, fat asterisk. Cruise lines are taking a cue
from airlines, adding or increasing fees to keep base fares low
while still boosting revenue. "In this day of such easy and
pervasive price comparisons, it's important to have the lowest
price out there," says Ed Perkins, an editor with
. "If they can't charge more for their basic product, cruise lines
have got to make it some other way."
4 Travel Fees to Avoid
Many of the new fees target food -- specifically gourmet items,
such as lobster, steak, premium coffees and fancy desserts.
Carnival recently beefed up the entrance fee for its steakhouse
from $30 to $35 per visit. Royal Caribbean raised the price of
entry into its Chops Grille restaurant from $25 to $30.
Once imposed, fees tend to stay. "When the economy starts to
recover and fares go up, you won't see cruise lines dropping these
fees," says Carolyn Spencer Brown, of
. The good news for cruisers is that these charges are typically
optional. And so far, the fees are limited to big cruise lines,
such as Carnival and Celebrity.
But pesky fees make it tougher to budget for your cruise
vacation, especially if you're caught off guard by a new charge or
give in to an impulse purchase. And sometimes the fees aren't
transparent, says Brown, citing the example of a waiter handing out
flutes of champagne at dinner without letting diners know that they
cost $20 each.
Unlike airlines, which must follow fee disclosure rules, cruise
lines aren't regulated as to how they display extra charges. To
better estimate what your next cruise will cost, go to Independent
. It provides a worksheet with boxes for typical cruise fees,
including dining surcharges, cocktails and soft drinks.
This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance
magazine. For more help with your personal finances and
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