10 stupid assumptions about cruise vacations

It’s almost funny sometimes, the things people get stuck in their heads about any number of topics that turn out to be stupid assumptions. We often just assume things that are convenient. Like that driving rules are the same everywhere, until we go someplace where they drive on the “wrong” side of street. Then, all of the sudden, after our little world has been thrown off a bit, we adjust. Assuming can be dangerous on land but we can always drive back home if we totally fail. At sea, you’re pretty much stuck there with your bad assume-induced decision so let’s see if we can avoid some of the more common assumptions about cruise vacations.

The scary part, I want to tell you right up front, is that these 10 stupid assumptions about cruise vacations that actually do happen.

  1. I bought travel insurance because I am sailing during hurricane season” Well that’s nice, did you buy shoes because it was sunny one day too? Most travel insurance does not cover acts of God (like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis and second-comings) so that false sense of confidence you have is not going to help much if you decided not to go on a cruise because a hurricane looms. Being afraid of hurricanes is a good. Being afraid to cruise during hurricane season is not. Cruise lines will modify itineraries and take you someplace else before the rare occasion happens and they cancel a cruise. Cruise lines don’t make money when ships sit empty. They want to make money. Making money ranks just below keeping you and the ship safe. Even if they did cancel the cruise they would most likely refund your money and/or book you on a different sailing.
  2. “I know final payment is due but surely they will give me more time” Wrong. Cruise lines are more strict all the time on getting paid. Rightfully so too. They ask little of us. They want us to have a good time and go all out for that. There are a bunch of different ships going different places on sailings of varying length, one of which will be perfect for us. They want to be paid on time. If paying for your cruise that you booked a year ago, on time, is not possible, maybe we should not be going on this vacation in the first place. Maybe we need to be a bit more realistic and pay the rent first.
  3. “I have a big group of people I have brought along with me, I will probably get a discount Your group of 12 people may not fit around the family dining room table but they are not a “big group” on a cruise ship. A big group would be 100 or more of your closest friends. Get that many and yes, there should be a discount of some sort.
  4. I bought travel insurance just in case my daughter breaks up with her boyfriend– I actually learned this one the hard way. One of my daughters had invited along a boyfriend which we agreed to pay for. Right after booking I thought “I’m not really sure if this relationship will last until the cruise. I’ll get travel insurance, just in case” To my surprise, travel insurance does not cover “being dumped by your girlfriend” which happened a couple weeks before the cruise. Here’s the scary part: I had been a travel agent and state-licensed insurance agent for five years when that happened and knew better. I just did not think about it, like a lot of people do, and assumed I was covered.
  5. “I bought a modified cabin, where’s my nurse?” This one does not come up much. Most people who are handicapped at a level that requires constant care research like its their job and know exactly what is ahead of them. Recently, a handicapped person booked a cruise in a modified (handicap-accessible) cabin. They booked a suite that came with butler service. They either assumed or misunderstood that the higher level of service would take care of their needs. In reality, the “higher level of service” they required translated into the job description of a day nurse. Constant care is not what a butler does. Shining your shoes, yes. Helping you go to the bathroom, no. See CruiseCritic.com for all the gory details, they pretty much own this story.
  6. Seasick pills will be free, I’ll get it on the ship” I have had people tell me they just assumed it would be free because the cruise line does not want you to get sick and wants you out there gambling and spending money. Reality? You will get sick, go to the ship’s medical center and pay $200 for a shot that will help only marginally more than any number of preventative measures you could have taken care of before getting on the ship for less than $10 ashore.
  7. “I booked Carnival’s Early Saver Fare but changed my mind and want my money back – This does not come up all that often but when it does, it’s sad. What part of “Non-refundable deposit” don’t you understand? Carnival’s Early Saver fare is great for people who have their minds made up and are going on that cruise no matter what. It’s also great for those who have their minds made up, say 75% of the way, and cruise on Carnival a lot. This is not the fare for people who will likely want to make changes to their booking be it change to a different date, change guests, or just about anything else.
  8. Wow, I can’t believe how much my bill was at the end of the cruise” There is a lot to be said about the all-inclusive nature of a cruise vacation. On a purely financial basis, you know about how much your entire vacation will cost right up front. But alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, shore excursions and other on-board purchases NOT included in the price can add up. That’s nothing to be scared of, just something to consider adding to that number floating around in your head as to how much this vacation is going to cost you.
  9. “I got a great deal on my cruise. NOW I will look a the details” – Travel agents know there is a group of people out there that are concerned primarily with price at the time of booking. Make that “obsessed with the price of the cruise at the time of booking” Nothing else matters but getting the best deal which, to them, means the lowest price. So very wrong. Its all about value, not price. But price alone is easy and fast to compare, click and buy. We all live in that world at one time or another. That works well for buying an air ticket or reserving a rental car. But to consider only price when booking the cruise part of the deal means you ignore other variables that can make a huge difference in the overall total cost in the long run.
  10. “I’m sure they will tell me what visas I need” or “I just won’t get off the ship”, I don’t need a visa” Either one of those will get you denied boarding on your European cruise and no refund will be given to you other than the port charges for the ports you won’t be going to. If a visa is required by any country on your itinerary and you don’t have it, the cruise line will not board you, not refund your money and you will have to get back home on your own. Not a big deal if you were driving to the port but if you flew to Barcelona from Denver that can mean a huge last-minute airfare bill to pay and no, travel insurance would not cover that either. It is totally your responsibility to know what documentation you need to enter a country. Not the cruise line, not your travel agent and surely not your click-to-book cruise broker.
There are things we assume that don’t get us in trouble and things that do. Assuming we will get good service on a cruise vacation, whatever “good service” means to us, is fair. Assuming the cruise line will make grand gestures to please you, like automatically lowering your fare if the price goes down after you buy, is not fair.

Flickr photo by quinet

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