Editor’s Note: This is part three of a new Insider series on cruising. Here’s the first part on whether you should cruise and part two, on where to buy a cruise. As always, please send me any suggestions on topics or content I may have overlooked.
So much can go wrong on a cruise, I hardly know where to begin.
Maybe here: Informed consumers don’t get ripped off. They know what they’re buying, where to book it, and they’re aware of all the pitfalls that await.
The more you know about cruising, the less you have to worry about having a negative experience.
Help, I’ve booked the wrong cruise!
I’ve already spent a lot of time in this series discussing the value of a travel agent. Many of my cruise-related cases involve buyer’s remorse, which is to say, a traveler was booked on the wrong ship, in the wrong cabin, or on the wrong sailing. Wrong sailing? Oh, yes. It usually involves a family with young kids being stuck on a theme cruise where folks let it all hang out. (Curiously, I never hear from swingin’ singles who are upset that there were children on the cruise, but I digress.)
Do your homework, kids, and this won’t happen to you. And what if it does? Well, if you discover the problem beforehand, call your agent or cruise line and ask to move your sailing date. I have yet to come across someone who asked to be moved for that reason, and was declined. Missing the cruise is another matter — one I’ll deal with in detail later. If you find that you’re on the wrong cruise after you board, it’s really probably too late. A young couple that’s looking forward to a restful week at sea that accidentally booked a Disney cruise — not much that can be done about that. You’re partying with Mickey!
Is my cruise fare a scam?
Here’s a cruise fare on a Caribbean sailing for the Carnival Imagination.
Total 2 Travelers: $738.00 *
Gov’t Fees/Taxes: $147.50
Let me mention a few things. The $738 is not important to you, but it is to your travel agent. That’s the number on which your agent’s commission is based. I don’t think any cruise line should quote the $738 quite as prominently because no one ever pays it. (But at least the “total” isn’t displayed in microscopic print or revealed after you make a purchasing decision, as it used to be on airline websites before regulators intervened.)
The government taxes and fees, on the other hand, are relevant. Those fees are refundable if you cancel your cruise, even if the fare is nonrefundable. Also, it’s a rat’s nest of port fees, taxes and other government charges. Of course, the real charge you should pay attention to is the “total” — that’s what the cruise will cost. Probably.
Beware of other “opt-in” charges later in the booking. Those can include optional insurance, automatic tipping and shore excursions. If you think you’ll have it easier with an agent, don’t be so sure. I’ve heard of unscrupulous agents telling their clients that insurance is required on a cruise (it isn’t) and employing other hard-sell tactics (“Oh, it’ll be a wasted cruise if you don’t go snorkeling on the reef!”) to make more money from a booking.