Cruise fares are not where the Cruise Lines make their money. It’s on those extras: gambling, beverages, spa treatments and shore excursions.
Being a conscious spender, I try to limit their profit margin on us as much as possible . One strategy is to book private tours or make our own arrangements at the port calls. This caused some stress on our recent Alaska vacation thanks to bad weather.
Alaska Cruise Planning
The cruise season in Alaska is May through September. The result of this short season is a limited number of vendors and the ships book a lot of them.
Private tours and excursions need to be booked months in advance to be assured of getting our first choice. Even booking five month in advance wasn’t early enough for the selected whale watching vendor in Juneau! Because of the demand, deposits or full payment are required by most to ensure maximum revenue.
Best Laid Port Plans Go Awry
It rained every day of our vacation except except the final day in Canada. In addition to the rain the seas were so rough, the ship missed Ketchikan entirely! The stop at Juneau occurred, but the water was too rough for the prepaid whale watching expedition. The missed stop scuttled plans for a flightseeing trip to the Misty Fiords which was also paid for in full.
The total amount of money involved was $850 for both stops. Although we were assured refunds would happen, I was feeling a little nervous about the reality. Ironically, the one booking which didn’t require prepayment occurred!
When we got home, one of the first things I did was check for credit for the cancelled tours. They weren’t there.
I sent off emails to both vendors and had responses within two days assuring that refunds were being processed. A week later the credits were online.
This experience left me rethinking my belief that it’s always better to book our own tours. The amount saved wasn’t worth the risk of not getting a refund. Passengers who booked their excursions through the ship received immediate credits to their on-board charge account. The new threshold is tours with prepayment of $100 per person or less.
What are your tips or experiences with touring on vacation? Do you prepay?