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Cutting through the crap: How to understand cruise ads?
Published on 01/30/2009

What are all the extra charges, and why can I never get an inside cabin? Here's an introduction to cruise lingo and advertising.

Confused by the communication in cruise ads? Let Mackie Shephard guide you through the bullshit:

Almost everyone who hasn't been yet dreams of going on a cruise. Each week the newspapers are full of great prices for going everywhere from the Caribbean to Antarctica. The ads show color pictures of a new ship anchored in a bay while its passengers snorkel in azure waters or stroll along the beach. It's the vision of a lifetime. However, when it comes time to finally make the plunge and actually plan a cruise the prospective cruise passenger may be in for some surprises.

This is because unlike any other vacation taking a sea cruise is an à la carte proposition. Fees creep before the final fare is shown to you and, when you get aboard, the tab keeps getting higher.

Cabins: When you look at the cost many cruise ads have a "lead-in" price based on an inside cabin. These are very limited and fill up fast. In addition the vast majority of would-be cruise passengers would want a view or at least have the sunlight stream in through the windows. Otherwise you're just in a box.

Extra Charges: In almost any transaction these days there is fine print. Cruise lines are no exception. Some require port charges and taxes that, by law, do not have to be included in the advertised price.

The Captive Audience: Once you're aboard, a cruise ship can grab you by the ankles and shake the money out of you. For example, even in "all-inclusive" cruises a soda can cost $1.75, a beer $3.75 and a bottle of wine $40. This is not to mention shore excursions. And let's face it, when you come to a beautiful port, how many people want to just stay aboard the ship? Then don't forget the 15% gratuity that is automatically added.

Cruise lines are stuck with fixed costs like fuel, the cost of the ship, the employees and maintenance. Once these are covered the cruise line makes a profit. Therefore adding on a couple of extra days won't hurt the bottom line too much but will make it seem like a bargain to the passengers.

When economic times are slow cruise lines are perhaps the most flexible of all the tourism carriers. They can offer extremely low prices depending on how well they forecast the season. If advance tickets are slow then they will switch gears, lowering pricing based on how quickly they fill up a certain portion of the ship. Once certain cost are covered then the prices will go up. This is called "capacity-controlled" pricing.

The best way to book cruises is through a seasoned travel agent who has made cruising a habit. These people live and breathe cruises and can help you navigate through the maze of color brochures.

About the author
Mackie Sheppard is a travel enthusiast and regular contributor of articles and posts at Travel Mills is an online social bookmarking site for people to share and discover travel deals, news, travel reviews, tips and much more