My husband and I are going on Explorer of the Seas this August. We are going bc of a family obligation - a surprise for my mom's 80th b-day.
Frankly, we don't make high salaries and normally travel on a shoestring. We would never go on one of these cruises otherwise and spending $1200/person for five nights is expensively ludicrous to us. Still, we're going bc we want to maintain good family relations.
That said, we understood that we will have virtually limitless food and drink (not inc alcohol) at no extra charge. Then we've read some cruise chat discussions and it sounds like we'll have to wait in long lines and not necessarily be able to eat whenever we want -- and even pay for water outside of meal times!
Can anyone give us the scoop and perhaps allay our fears of having to spend more money on food and water while we're trapped on the ship?
We really want to have a good time, and I believe, ultimately, we will. Actually, we're looking forward to resting up for a 20-mile trail running race scheduled for the day after we return home from the trip.
I guess we're just trying to have a better idea of what to reasonably expect in the realm of food and water.
The only extras you need to consider are tips, and they must be earned by the staff. Things like tap water, OJ, Iced tea and lemonade are always free. So is the fat free yogurt by the pool. Bottled water and soda are not free.
You can eat pretty much whenever you want if you are OK with the buffet or room service. You will have a set seating time in the dining room for dinners, but other than that you're free to eat as much as you want whenever you want. Room service is free, but it is courteous to tip a few bucks.
Some people pack sodas in their luggage and then they stick them in their minibar to save a few bucks. It's not permitted, but very few rules are enforced on RCI. I'm not advising you to break the rules, mind you.
Where people end up spending a lot of money is in alcohol. If you avoid the $9 drink of the day specials you can be well-fed, never thirsty and never pay an extra dime all day.
You can have a great time without spending a lot of money, but your can't go without spending any more money. Bringing a wide mouth water bottle with you that you can fill with ice and water, lemonaid, or tea at the buffet will save a lot of money on sodas and booze... You can refill this any time during the day.
Do be sure to budget $10.00 per person per day for tip money for the waiters & cabin stewards. They will be working very hard for you and, like waiters in our restaurants, depend mostly on tips for their pay (like it or not, that's the way the cruise ship industry operates). For 2 of you on a 5 day cruise, this is $100. You will also need to tip porters getting on and off the ship, $1-2 per bag.
Other extras you can budget for: photos, $8-$20 each. Shore Excursions, casino, etc... There are 1000 things to spend your money on while on the ship. The trick is budget & self control.
Another potentially costly area is taking shore excursions. The ones offered through the ship can be very good, but are the most expensive option, typically. By researching the ports in advance, you can almost always find something to do near the cruise terminal that will be reasonably priced. What are your ports of call, so we can give you some ideas?
We went on a 7 night cruise on the Navigator of the Seas last year and hardly spend any money at all. We did tip because the service was outstanding and we felt they deserved it. All shows are free, you can always get free food and if you stay away from pop and the booze then you can literally cruise for next to nothing. As far as ports, we did not do any excursions and had a great time. You can get off of the ship and just sightsee on your own. Don't worry, you will have the trip of a lifetime.
Make sure you get a ticket for the ice show. It's free and you'll be in awe. We don't spend a lot of money on most of our cruises. You can walk around a town or go to a beach with out spending any money. Just take advantage of the cruise and have yourself a great time.
"Then we've read some cruise chat discussions and it sounds like we'll have to wait in long lines and not necessarily be able to eat whenever we want -- and even pay for water outside of meal times!
Can anyone give us the scoop and perhaps allay our fears of having to spend more money on food and water while we're trapped on the ship?"
You've got yourself going in the right direction--you are seeking out advice from people who have done this all many times. I don't know who in the world told you what you said in your original post, but they are mostly wrong. This is bad because you have no good idea of what a wonderful vacation and family celebration you have coming up.
Please continue to seek out information on your upcoming adventure!
If I could, I would be "trapped" on a ship 52 weeks out of the year.
Think possitive! You are about to have the vacation of a lifetime. My hubby and I were on a cruise in sept and were afraid we had not brought enough money. We saw shows, ate great meals, went to art auctions, climbed rock walls, ice skated, played min golf, roller bladed and were in a ping pong tournament not to mention countless other activities and spent all of $50.00 on the ship. That money also purchased a gold bracelet and a tube of lipstick. We also tipped the staff due to excellent service. Do not worry about spending money because realistically you do not need it to have a good time. If you open yourself up to the possibility of fun you will have a great time. Have fun!
Looks like you only have one port. That alone will save you money. Just enjoy the beach and window shopping. You could do that port and not spend any money there and still have a great time. If you do want to take an excursion find them yourself. The ship charges way too much for the same excursions you can book on your own for less. Look on line. Just return to the ship for your meals and not eat on the island. Yes, RCCL has drink stations set up throughout the ship for water, lemonade, coffee and tea. Every afternoon frozen yogurt will be available in the pool area. We brought on a case of soda and nothing was said. People bring on water too. Not sure why when water is available on the ship and it's good water too. We did sneek one bottle of rum in our luggage with no problem. The drinks are pricey and they add up fast. Maybe if the cruielines lowered their prices people would be less likely to "sneek" it on board. I like foo foo drinks and still manage to rack up a bar bill. We returned from a Hawaiian cruise in April. I packed a smoothie maker in my luggage and we enjoyed smoothies. There will be so much fresh fruit and juices available for this. One thing you will need to be aware of is the photographs that you can take on the ship. Since this is a celebration with family you have great opportunity for family photos. Take advantage of this. There is no cost to take all the photos you want. The cost is when you want to purchase them. Wait till the last day to purchase. Otherwise you will be buying everyday. This way you can pick your favorites. They are not cheap. $20.00 for an 8X10. You will probbably want a group, one of you and spouse and a group picture. That could be $60.00. Formal night is when most will be taken. On the other hand if you have your own camera you can take all the pictures you want. The BIG trap is the Art Auction, BINGO and the Casino. People drop a lot of money in those three places. Most importently make sure you have the money for the tips. What ever RCCL recommends is the minimum that should be paid. Of course if service is less than par then adjust accordingly. But keep in mind that the crew is there to serve and please you. 95% of the time they do. I have yet to tip anyone less than suggested. Some will go out of their way for you and that is worth a little extra. Some rather than giving extra money will give a little something that they have made for their room steward or wait staff. If you are crafty keep this in mind. This raises their spirits. Keep in mind this crew is on the ship for 6-9 months out of the year with no days off. They work 12 hrs a day. I would not do it would you? Other than tips you could literally go on this cruise and not spend a dime. Highly doubtful but possible. There is also shopping on the ship. Nothing great but they have souvenier shops and shops for alchohol and snacks. Snacks! Who has room for snacks with all the food that will be available. Also on RCCL we were able to buy our booze on the ship and receive it on the last day and it was duty free. If you pay the duty you can take it to your room right away. The cost is no more than in a store. This works good for those who do not want to "sneek" booze on the ship. Don't try this on an NCL ship though. Doesn't work. The alchohol Nazi's will catch you! You are going to have the time of your life! By the time you get off the ship you may already be planning your next one. I know we were.
We just came off Radiance 14 day Panama Cruise and had a blast!!
Our room attendant gave us 2 buckets of ice every day so we could have cold water that way. We filled our bottles with it when going ashore.
We don't drink alcohol, but our travel agent was cruising with us and they like their evening drink on the balcony, so they did buy a small fresh bottle on shore at every port. Even going through the detector, they weren't stopped from bringing it on. Maybe because it was small.
There is so many FREE things to do. Not enough time in the day to take it all in really!
When we were hungry, we ate, depending on the time of day as to where it was served. If we weren't hungry, we usually ended up ordering late night room service. A 2 dollar tip was worth it. Early breakfast room service had a dual purpose....they called when they were bringing it, so that was our alarm to get up on the days we needed to be on schedule for port excursions.
And its so easy to rally up a person to take a photo of us in our nice evening attire. And we would in turn, take a picture for them.
I know some may frown at this next advice....we only ate in the dinig room 7 days out of 14, so only tipped for those 7 days. But, we did give our room attendant 30 dollars above suggested tip because she really did give above and beyond service for us. We bought her a "beach monkey" from the ship store too. Just remember to let front-desk know you are personally doing the envelope tipping instead of automatic tipping from your account. That way you have control of your spending.
We ended up coming home with money, so guess what we did...booked another cruise for this September AND next April!!!
You may suprise yourself....I guarantee... you'll have so much fun, you'll book yourself another cruise!
Pacific Princess Sept/01 - Family in Pacific Northwest
RCI Radiance Of The Seas April/06 - 25th Annversary in Panama Canal
HA Volendam Sept/06 - Dad's Surprise in Alaska
Crown Princess April/07 - Fun In The Sun in Eastern Caribbean
RCI Brilliance Of The Seas March/08 - Here We Go Again
RCI Vision Of The Seas Dec/08 - Joining Sis On Her Redneck Honeymoon in Mexico