The term "all-inclusive" is popular with cruise lines when advertising their wares, but it's very much a case of different strokes for different folks - or ships, in this case. All-inclusive at the budget end of cruising means that it can be an excellent-value holiday, as the fare includes meals, snacks, entertainment and activities, but (and it's a big but) there are a lot of things that are not included.
Many first-time cruisers are bitterly disappointed when they receive a big bill at the end of their trip for "extras", so it pays to know before you go what you'll be up for. Generally, you pay extra on budget cruise lines for the following: soft drinks (including bottled water), alcoholic drinks, ice-cream and coffee (outside of the main dining rooms), shore excursions, internet use, laundry (even though many ships have self-service launderettes, some charge for washing powder and use of the machines), meals in "speciality" restaurants, spa treatments (expensive on land but doubly so at sea), and on-board activities such as fitness classes.
If you opt for an "all-inclusive" cruise on one of the luxury lines such as Regent Seven Seas, Silversea and Seabourn, most of the amenities listed above are included, but shore excursions, internet use, laundry service and spa treatments are not. You can find better value on a four- or five-star ship that includes more than a three-star ship charging for every little extra.
Some cruise lines offer packages for soft drinks and alcoholic drinks, so you know what you'll be spending in advance.
River cruises represent excellent value for money, which is probably why they're booked out months in advance. Generally, shore excursions are included in the fare, as well as wine, beer and soft drinks with meals on board - and in some cases all drinks are included.
The key thing here is to do your homework before you book an "all-inclusive" cruise.
Package of the week
Experience the highlights of North and South America in one big hit with a Cruise Express fly/stay/cruise package this October.
It combines a 29-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale (Florida) to Buenos Aires on board Holland America Line's Zaandam with four nights in New York's Roosevelt Hotel and three nights in the Melia Buenos Aires. Prices start at $6999 a person. 1300 766 537, cruiseexpress.com.au.
News in brief
Holland America Line's Rotterdam and Volendam are off to Asia and will be sailing a variety of itineraries out of Singapore - from 14-day round trips to 51- and 53-day Collectors' Voyages to Europe and back. Extended port visits and overnight stays will appeal to Australian cruisers.
A recent American TV special claimed that Carnival chief executive Micky Arison's massive personal wealth, reportedly $US5.7 billion ($5.46 billion), is in part due to Carnival Cruise Line paying the bare minimum tax.
The Duchess of Cambridge will name Princess Cruises' newest ship, the 3600-passenger Royal Princess, in Southampton on June 13. After its maiden voyage, the ship will sail the Mediterranean during the European summer, followed by eastern Caribbean cruises beginning in autumn. Watch out for our report from the glamorous new vessel.
Shipshape: Viking Aegir
LAUNCHED 2012 PASSENGERS 190 REGULAR HAUNTS Rhine, Main and Danube rivers; western to eastern Europe. BEST FOR Couples, singles THE DETAILS A 15-day Amsterdam to Budapest cruise, crossing five countries and departing April 28, 2014, is priced from $5695 a person, twin share. 1800 829 138, vikingrivercruises.com.au.
1 Viking Aegir is one of the line's new "longships" — six were launched in 2012 and a further 10 in March. The ships were designed by naval architect Yran & Storbraaten, the team behind the minimalist Seabourn ocean ships.
2 Accommodation consists of 95 outside staterooms, two explorer suites, seven verandah suites, 39 verandah staterooms, 22 french balcony staterooms and 25 standard staterooms. All suites have two rooms with a verandah off the living room and a french balcony in the bedroom.
3 All meals and drinks in the restaurant and observation bar (both of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows) are included in your fare.
4 The sun deck has a shaded sitting area, a walking track, putting green and chess set. The herb garden is another interesting feature on-board the Viking longships.
5 Shore excursions (which use the handy Quietvox broadcast system), shipwide wi-fi and gratuities are included in your fare. There's also a library nook and small boutique on board.
Port watch: Barcelona
Need to know Barcelona is Spain's second largest city and the capital of Catalonia, a region of northern Spain that has its own traditions, cuisine and language. Renowned for its blend of ancient and modern architecture, its most famous architect is Antoni Gaudi. If you only have a day here, a visit to La Sagrada Familia is a must.
Do not miss A hop-on hop-off bus tour gives a good overview of the city. Foodies love Barcelona — it has hundreds of small restaurants and bars. Las Ramblas is a favourite spot — a 1.2-kilometre street between Port Vell (near the cruise terminal) and Placa Catalunya. The busy market is a good spot for a cheap lunch. There are shops, bars and restaurants galore. At night, the southern end turns into a red light district. The Barcelona FC Museum boasts a vast collection of trophies, photos and memorabilia. The Picasso Museum offers an amazing insight into the great artist.
I've just read the Silversea brochure for the cruise we're taking and want to know what is required for casual, informal and formal wear.
- J. O'Brien, NSW.
For men's evening wear, "casual" means no need to wear a jacket; "informal" means a jacket but no need for a tie; and "formal" means suit and a tie. Women can be more flexible with their wardrobe choice - pants can be very dressy, and dresses can be very casual.
Silversea sailings of up to nine days usually feature one formal night but on the seven-night European itineraries the formal night is optional, so your husband would only need to pack a jacket if you're going. T-shirts, shorts, swimmers and thongs are fine by the pool but not elsewhere on a Silversea ship.
Offer of the week
Coral Princess Cruises For its 30th birthday, CPC is offering 30 per cent off three-, four- and seven-night Great Barrier Reef cruises until December 31. Prices start at $1082 a person for three nights and include snorkelling tours, excursions and rainforest walks. 1800 079 545, coralprincess.com.au.
Cruise Guru Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America is the only ship offering inter-island cruises to all four Hawaiian islands year-round. Book now for free upgrades on a Honolulu round-trip departing on May 25, from $1538 a person. 13 13 03, cruiseguru.com.au.
Cruiseco Return flights, pre- and post-trip accommodation and shore excursions are included in the 31-night Singapore to Hong Kong package with Voyages to Antiquity's Aegean Odyssey cruise, departing on October 26. From $8795 a person. (02) 9492 8520, cruising.com.au.
Compagnie du Ponant Save up to $1170 on each of two seven-night European sailings on L'Austral. An Istanbul round-trip to Greek island ports departs on July 12, while Marseille to Lisbon departs on October 16. Each costs from $3308 a person. 1300 950 622, traveltheworld.com.au.