Category Archives: Travel

Advice on travel and recommendations on various travel topics.

Hidden Cruise Fees

So you are going to book a cruise and you want to know what kinds of hidden fees to expect?  When booking online, there are often very low advertised prices, and it can be hard to predict how much it will actually cost without practically going through the entire booking process.

Here is a breakdown on some additional charges you may incur while booking your cruise and during travel.

Taxes and Port Charges

Expect to pay a good amount of taxes when booking a cruise in the US.  Travel type activities always find ways to become more heavily taxed.  Port fees are also added onto the bill as well, to cover charges for the docking of the boat at certain ports.  Also note, when purchasing items on the ship while at port, you may end up paying an additional tax or port fee on those items.  Waiting until the ship sets sail from a port is the best way to avoid the additional charges.  Taxes and port charges up front vary greatly when booking the cruise, but you should probably figure a few hundred dollars per person more at the time of booking than the list price.

Travel Insurance

The online booking companies really push travel insurance, to help cover expenses under certain conditions that would hinder or prevent the travel from occurring.  It is up to the buyer whether they would like to purchase this or not and they would need to read the coverage information and determine their own risks involved in traveling.  Assume a few hundred dollars though when booking your cruise to add on travel insurance.

Processing Fees

Booking through an online agent, such as  Assume a processing fee.  Recently, charge $24.99 for the booking.

On-board Service Charges

Many cruise lines require a daily service charge per cruiser per day for tipping the various service members on the ship.  It can be $10 to $15 per day per person.  On longer cruises, this can really add up.  At one time, this was an optional charge in lieu of tipping during each transaction, but don’t count on it being optional anymore.

Highly Inflated Prices

Items on-board are expensive.  From drinks to food.  All inclusive only goes so far, and depending on what cruise line you are on, can vary quite a bit.  A lower cost cruise line like Costa charges for certain things like room service and actually charges for the food when ordered through room service where other cruise lines do not.  Every cruise line varies, so it’s difficult to predict.  If you like to enjoy freely indulging on board, plan on $20 per person per day.  Often, there is an unlimited drink package available for about $25 per person per day.

Foreign Fees

Using your credit card on board or at ports?  If a cruise ship is registered internationally instead of being US based, plan on the on board transactions showing up as foreign transactions on your credit card.  Costa, for example is an Italian cruise line.  If you embark on a Costa cruise in Miama, FL and return to Miami, FL at the end, all transactions on board will still register as foreign transactions on your credit card.  If you pay a fee for this, it can really add up.  Look for a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees to avoid this.

That’s about it.  Hopefully it gives you a better picture of what to expect.  Happy Cruising!

Should I go on a Costa Cruise?

Sunken ships. Fires. What’s next? Is it just total chaos when cruising on a Costa cruise line? Will I feel safe? What should I know. Do they efficiently preserve life at see?

-Concerned prospective cruiser

I can not tell you for sure whether your life will be preserved while at sea or not. Cruise ship tradgedies are far and few between but take thousands of people, put them together on a big boat in the middle of the ocean and there’s no telling what could happen. Or, dont’ drive the boat close enough to the middle of the ocean and then see what happens, as was recently seen with the Concordia.

I can tell you a little bit more of what you probably can expect on a Costa cruise. These notes are from a recent trip on the Costa Atlantica sailing the Caribbean from the Port of Miami. Overall, the trip was good, but some things learned as an American sailing on an Italian cruise line are the following:

-The reviews you read about the food not being the greatest are true! It’s edible, and also looks real nice, but for the palette of an American who likes greasy pizza with toppings and pizza sauce at the same time, your taste buds will be challenged. The service is great, and there are usually many options available, but by the end of the week your pea soup starts tasting like the potatoes you had earlier in the week. You won’t go hungry and you’re service will be great, but you will not have some of the variety you have on other cruise lines.

-Don’t rely on English! English speakers were a minorty on the recent cruise on the Costa Atlantica, although many knew English as a second language. Expect many different activities to be in a language other than English, and usually expect a translation, but don’t count on it.

-Low booking fee, but expensive on board fees! The cost to book this cruise was less then many other cruises available, but it seems that it was made up for in on board expenses. Costa currently has a daily service charge of 11 dollars per person, which is not optional as it is on other cruise lines. If you live in a rather urban area, the prices on board for drinks may not surprise you. For the rest of us you’ll be counting how many 6 packs you can get at home for the price of one drink on board.

Things to make sure to do?

-Get a room with a balcony!

-Take a mattress on the balcony and sleep. Although you’re sure to displease your cabin steward, it will be well worth it. Ours still made us towel animals even after putting the bed back together multiple times!

-Your port beverage purchases come back to you in the afternoon on the last day. Make sure you have your own corkscrew and you find a cruise that is at sea for the last day.

-Attend the shows at night, they are decent and worthwhile for something different to do.

Is Costa recommended? Sure. How much? A little. Will you enjoy the time? Yes. Should you choose Costa for your next cruise? Only if this is your first time cruising or you’ve only ever sailed with Costa.

Should I Get Married on Key Biscayne?

Are you looking to get married in Florida, but not sure on where? If you’ve looked into various wedding services, you see a lot of pretty beaches, but maybe you don’t want to plan a service through a company and can’t go visit Florida to pick out your own beach.

A very beautiful location to perform your beach wedding in Florida is on Key Biscayne, a small island off of Miami. When you cross the bridge from Miami onto the island, you first end up in Crandon Park, a Miami/Dade County park.

From the road, the park isn’t anything special, but the beach is real nice. The park allows you to reserve an area commonly used for weddings, named “Paradise Cove”.

There are many Palms around and it is right near the beach. You can’t see the water very well from the cove because it has a built up sand dune that keeps it a little more private, but just beyond that you will find beautiful views of the ocean.

Cruises are Great for Honeymoons

A honeymoon is an important time for newlyweds.  A time to relax after a potentially stressful journey leading up to the wedding.  A time to peacefully connect one on one.  A time to start of their marriage with some fun, adventure and a chance for a little spice!

There are a number of options for the honeymoon, and no option is the best fit for everyone. Factors such as finances, mutual desires and time constraints will all play into the decision for the honeymoon.  The most important factor is whether or not you will enjoy the time together.

A cruise would make a great option for many couples on their honeymoon for many reasons.  One of those is the flexibility to just relax or to take part in adventures or activities.  Often, cruises stop at many different ports of call and have numerous excursions available at each from high action such as zip lines and ATV adventures, to learning about local culture in a laid back tour.  Don’t want to get off the ship or even leave your room?  Skip the excursions and even the port and order in room service.

Cruises can be very affordable.  Since food, lodging and many activities are all included in the price, once your board, you can keep almost all additional expenses down.  If you would like specialty foods or drinks on board though, note that it can become quite expensive.

A cruise can provide a great deal of isolation as well.  Communication off of the ship is usually very expensive, forcing couples to not make as many unnecessary contacts with family, friends or work they’ve left behind for a reason.  This helps to maintain intimacy with each other during the honeymoon.

Overall cruises give the greatest flexibility for activity or down time.  This flexibility allows the couple to avoid feeling like they have to do as much as possible to get their full value out of the vacation.  Another good option, if a couple will most likely not partake in many activities, or dislikes the idea of being at sea, is an all inclusive resort.  These often provide the same amenities without the sea travel or ports.

No matter the choice, the importance is that the honeymoon fits the couple and caters to what they would like to get out of their honeymoon.  Some don’t want to leave a private room while others love to add in some adventure.  Make it fit yourself!