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Alcoholic Beverages & Named Soft Drinks
Alcoholic beverages are not included in your cruise price, and since soft drinks are served over the bar there is a charge for these as well. Almost always speciality coffees are also charged at additional cost.
All beverage purchases are signed to your shipboard account and the service charge (typically 15%) is automatically added. Prices are usually about the same as they are at bars at home, and a lot less than you'd find at most hotels and resorts.
Some cruise lines offer a soda package, which is great news for families with children and saves you going to the bar all the time!
Gambling in the Casino
There's nothing like the excitement of a winning hand at poker or the sound of cards being shuffled, chips being stacked and slot machines paying out. Try your luck in the Las Vegas-style casinos onboard your chosen cruise.
There are usually games for all levels of players and standards, with onboard lessons for novice players and tournaments for the more advanced.
During your cruise, any purchases you make onboard are simply charged to your Onboard Account. One of the exceptions, however, is usually in the casinos, where you will need to use cash, traveller's cheques, personal cheques, or a credit/debit card.
Gratuities and Tips
Your personal staff onboard are all working extremely hard for you while you're enjoying your cruise.
Usually at your discretion, the cruise lines will provide a recommended daily amount to allow for gratuities and, with your permission, may often automatically add the gratuities to your shipboard account. This amount covers your cabin steward and the waiters and assistants who have served you in the main dining room.
Just because you're being automatically billed doesn't mean you don't have control as you can adjust the amount up or down by paying a visit to the Purser's Desk (this does not apply to Norwegian Cruise Lines). You may also have the choice of pre-paying your gratuities, along with your final payment, at the time of booking.
Health, Spa & Beauty Treatments
Collaborations with well-known spa resorts and health centres has become one of the hottest new initiatives amongst cruise lines in the past few years. You'll find everything from The Canyon Ranch, to the exotic Asian Mandara Spa out of Asia, to French companies such as La Carita Paris.
Whatever their origins, you'll be amazed at the variety of hedonistic treatments in which you can indulge. There are even massage lessons and treatments for couples. If you've never treated yourself before or you're an experienced spa-goer there's opportunity to simply relax and be pampered.
Some cruise lines offer pre-packaged menus of spa treatments that can be booked in advance. If not, you can book on board, and last-minute slots, particularly on port days can sometimes be snagged with a discount. Spa treatments tend to be relatively expensive and can range from £45-£120 each depending on how long it takes to complete the treatment.
Traditionally there will be photographers onboard your cruise ship. You will meet them first at embarkation when they will take a picture before you go onboard. From then on you will see them regularly at all the ship events and dinners, taking photographs of guests and possibly a video of the cruise experience.
Many passengers take advantage of their opportunity to have a portrait taken on the formal nights of the cruise, (if applicable to your chosen cruise). Onboard you will never have to purchase a photo if you're not happy with the way you look, and you can even have the photo retaken. Cruises are also great for getting family and group photos taken when you have a captive audience and it's otherwise impossible to get everyone together at home.
The results of their work are displayed in the Photo Gallery (usually near the Shops) where you can see how you look before you buy. If you don't like what you see there is usually a box in which you can put photographs you wish to see destroyed. Expect to pay around £5 per photograph for any you wish to buy with discounts for 3 or more.
Private Dining & Speciality Restaurants
Alternative dining options are all the rage onboard contemporary ships these days and the cruise lines have a couple of different ways of charging you an extra cover charge for these.
For all restaurants, other than the main dining room, you should expect to find that reservations are required. There is a cover charge fee for a reservation in the private and speciality restaurants that usually costs between £10-£20 per person and the gratuity for the meal may also be additional. The rationale behind the service fee is that seating is often limited to less than 100 people at a time in the private restaurant, and the ambience, cuisine and service are of an even higher standard than you would expect to find in the main restaurant. Most people who experience the private dining and speciality restaurants agree it's well worth paying the extra charge for.
Norwegian Cruise Line has also added a selection of a la carte restaurants on their newest ships. A la carte means you pay as you go, just like any land-based restaurant you're used to. Menu prices are usually the same as you'd find in any tourist location; not outrageous, but probably more than you're used to.
Without question there's a trend that seems to be very popular with first time and past cruisers alike, the menus selections and dining experiences are very different than the one you can find in the main dining room. After all variety is the spice of life, especially when it comes to gourmet fare!
Shore excursions are a very important part of your experience in each port of call, especially if you've decided to partake in some of the activities and explorations that are available. Most people find that they only have enough time to take only one excursion in each port of call. Should you not wish to take an organised excursion you can also strike out on your own by walking or hiring a taxi from the pier-side queue, just make sure you have allowed enough time before the ship sets sail again for the next port, it won't typically wait!
Excursions vary from city tours on a bus to helicopter tours and can often be booked in advance. There will always be a complete list of shore excursions offered for your chosen cruise itinerary.
If you have not managed to book your shore excursions before you set sail, you will still have the opportunity to purchase them on board the ship, subject to availability. It's normally recommended to book in advance to avoid any disappointment.
What's more Planet Cruise may also be able to save you money on the most popular shore excursions. We buy from the same operators as the cruise lines but without the same mark ups! And our excursions can be cancelled up to 24 hours prior to the start of the excursion with a full refund.