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I Just Took a Cruise for the First Time in Years. These Were the Upgrades I Was and Wasn’t Willing to Pay For

5 min read
I Just Took a Cruise for the First Time in Years. These Were the Upgrades I Was and Wasn’t Willing to Pay For

I’m not what you’d call a cruise person. I don’t love the idea of being trapped at sea with thousands of strangers, and I prefer being able to escape to the woods or a quiet beach while on vacation — not navigate large crowds on a packed vessel.

But when I was invited to join a cruise for a good friend’s birthday, I immediately said yes. This friend has traveled across state lines numerous times to see me and celebrate important milestones of mine, and I wanted to be able to do the same for him.

Now, this recent cruise wasn’t the first one I’d been on. My husband and I cruised several times back before we had kids. However, since it had been more than 10 years since I’d taken a cruise, I wasn’t sure of what to expect.

What I did know, however, is that I didn’t want to come away from that cruise with a giant credit card bill. As such, I tried to be judicious in the upgrades I paid for.

I made these cruise upgrades

There were several extras I paid for to make my cruise more enjoyable.

1. A balcony room

As you may have gathered, I’m someone who doesn’t like crowds, and sitting on a packed cruise deck isn’t so relaxing to me. As such, I paid a few hundred dollars extra for my three-night cruise to have a balcony room. And it was worth every penny.

This particular cruise featured one full day at sea. That was the day my balcony got a lot of use. I can say with certainty that I spent much of that afternoon relaxing and looking out at the water while reading my book.

2. The dining plan

When you go on a cruise, food is generally free in the main dining room, but there can be an upcharge to dine at specialty restaurants. I spent around $150 total for the ability to dine at a specialty restaurant each night of my cruise. And it was worth it not only for the food, but for the ability to make a reservation and not have to struggle to find a table.

Also, because the specialty restaurants can only accommodate a certain number of guests, I found that they weren’t as loud as the main dining room. That made dinner with my friends more enjoyable.

3. Internet service

My husband wanted to join me on this cruise to celebrate my friend’s birthday, and my parents were generous enough to watch our children in our absence. But I absolutely needed a way to stay in touch with my family back home, so shelling out about $20 per day for the internet package was a no-brainer.

The cruise upgrades I didn’t pay for

There were certain extras I did not shell out money for during my cruise.

1. The drinks package

The cruise line I went on offered three different drink packages — a soda package, a refreshment package that included juices and premium coffees on top of sodas, and a deluxe package that included alcohol. I toyed with the idea of the latter package very briefly because I wanted to be able to enjoy myself on vacation without having to stress about every dollar I spent on a drink. But when I saw the price, I knew the deluxe package was a no for me.

The cost of that package was roughly $60 a day. And frankly, my alcohol consumption isn’t high enough to justify that price tag. The maximum number of drinks I had on any given day of my trip was two. At between $10 and $15 each, it was better to just pay on a per-drink basis.

2. A cabana at our beach destination

Our cruise included a day on a private island. My friends and I could’ve rented our own cabana, but we opted not to and instead just walked around enough until we were able to find a group of beach chairs when we needed them. Also, there were different parts of the island we wanted to explore, so we probably wouldn’t have gotten much use out of the cabana anyway.

If you’re going to pay for cruise upgrades, do this

If you’re taking a cruise, there may be certain upgrades that are worth it to your personal finances and certain ones that aren’t. And to be clear, the cost will vary based on the length of your cruise and the cruise line you’re using.

But one thing I suggest doing either way is deciding on those upgrades ahead of your journey and booking them in advance. Doing so will often mean paying a little bit less than what you’ll pay by upgrading once you’re on the ship.

If you’re about to take your first cruise, you may also want to talk to a more seasoned cruiser before making your choices. In my case, I wouldn’t have thought to pay for the dining plan had my friends not asked for all of us to do it. But I’m so glad I did — it made the trip so much better. So don’t hesitate to pick your friends’ brains to see which upgrades they suggest.

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