SAN ANTONIO — Cruise line ads promise sensational deals for international vacations. But in a world where dinner, lodging and activities can add up quickly- what can you expect on a cruise where you pay $300 per ticket?
KENS 5 Eyewitness News reporter Erica Zucco booked a trip to find out. Here's what she discovered.
Did it really add up to just $300 a person?
We booked a 5-day cruise to Cozumel and Progreso on Carnival Cruise Lines out of Galveston. An interior, first-floor room for two cost $298 each. That included our room, which included housekeeping and room service; all-you-can-eat food; entertainment and activities on board, and two stops where you could get off the ship and walk around the port. In addition to the ticket, you must pay taxes, fees and port expenses, which come out to about $72 a person.
You're also asked if you'd like to pay for suggested gratuities for the trip; we chose to do so, which cost an additional $70. We also paid for parking in Galveston, choosing an official lot, which cost $60 for the car for the 6 days we parked there. It's fair to say the ticket was under $300, and our full trip cost $470 each. Comparing it to how much we would have spent on a basic hotel room, meals and a few activities, my mom and I felt it was worth it.
What other optional add-ons were there—and should I pay for them?
Drinks/Dining: You can choose to pay for "all-you-can-drink" soft drinks or alcoholic drinks (or you can pay per drink on the boat). Coffee, tea and water are included. All-you-can-eat buffets, cafes and sit-down restaurants for dinner and brunch are included, but you could also choose to pay more for steakhouses on board. We did not, and found we still had plenty of options.
Excursions: When the boat ports in Cozumel and Progreso, there are a few blocks of shops you can walk around. However, if you want to tour the area, swim in the ocean or enjoy local activities, you may want to book an excursion. If you're happy hanging out on the boat most of the day or just relaxing outside at port, you'll be fine without one, but if you get a little antsier/want more variety, it's probably a good idea. We booked excursions that lasted a few hours apiece and were glad to "shake things up" a little bit.
On-board wi-fi: We were trying to disconnect, so we did not spring for the wi-fi, but if you need to stay connected on board, you may want to purchase a package. There are multiple options available.
Spa services: You can also purchase spa packages, including services such as massages and manicures.
What kinds of activities are included in the base level ticket price?
There are several swimming pools on board, including one with a focus on kid-friendly fun, one with DJs that's surrounded by bars, and one near a spa that's for adults only and offers a more relaxing feel. Each night there are music/theatre performances and comedy shows included in the base level ticket price. There are activities throughout the day, including towel-making seminars, dance lessons and karaoke. There is a fitness center as well.
Would you recommend it, and do you personally think it was worth it?
For my mom and I, it was worth it. We spent about $500 per person total for a 5-day girl's trip vacation once you added in gas from San Antonio to Galveston and Buc-ee's snacks on the way 🙂. It didn't require much planning, and we could focus on relaxing once we got there.
What other tips can I use to save on my vacation?
I talked with Mike Doyle, a San Antonio-based travel agent who specializes in cruises. He says it can pay off to purchase during "wave season," what he calls the "Black Friday for Cruises." It goes through January, February and March.
He also says that he and other travel agents may have some offers that won't cost you anything extra, and that it's worth consulting one to see if you can get insight for free.
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