Monday, January 16, 2017

How a Five Day Cruise to the Bahamas for 2 Cost $1018 including Flights, Hotels and Everything Else

 My husband and I just took an amazing trip to the Bahamas on a five day cruise for our 30th wedding anniversary. We've never been on a cruise before so it was very special. In total, the cruise cost us $1018.59. I will break these costs down, so you can see what we paid for what. I also figured that only a couple of slight differences could have cost us about $2300. I used the $2300 figure for comparison purposes.
 First of all, cruise prices pretend to be very cheap. This is actually a masquerade for what really happens. For once, because it was our 30th wedding anniversary, I was willing to cut loose a bit and spend some money for some fun in the sun. Last year, when we went on a vacation where we had to sit through a timeshare presentation, they gave us a "free 4 day cruise" with the package. They didn't have the free cruise available for the dates I wanted and they would not allow me to look myself (I had to use an agent of the company to "guide me"since it was the "free" cruise) so, in all actuality, when I compared to prices online I could have booked myself, I saved $62.00 on the trip because of the "free" part. So, it's a good thing I was ready to actually fork over some cash. The cruise itself cost $208.20 per person, but once they add on the taxes and port fees, it came to a total of $599.10 for the two of us. If I had booked myself, it would have come to $660.50.

They make you give them your credit card number up front and make you pay "gratuities" up front too. Our gratuities cost (which are a surprise at the end of the cruise) came to $113.42. This is because we ordered absolutely no pop or alcohol, which has an automatic 15% gratuity every time you order in addition to the high cost of the drinks. Any iced tea, lemonade or morning beverages, coffee etc is free with the package. I figured a flat $200.00 for the $2300 figure for someone who maybe had a few cans of pop and a couple drinks.

The food was utterly fantastic and I ate more than I have ever eaten in one week in my entire life! All you can eat buffets for any meal and many other offerings. You could also eat specialty meals for an extra fee, which we did not do. A person could easily spend a LOT of money if they were not careful. No cash is used on the boat and you just use your "sign and sail" card they give you and with no cash actually changing hands, and no tally in front of your eyes, it would be real easy to get carried away! I added another $47.39 on for food eaten in specialty shops to come to the possible $2300 figure.
Every day excursions were offered. We didn't take any. There was plenty to do with no excursions taken. I put down the cheapest excursion offered for the possible $2300 trip at $39.95 X 2 for two to go to the beach. But we still got to go to two other beaches for free. You could spend a ton on excursions and other things. You could rent a little house on the beach for the day for $499.99 if you wanted. There was so much entertainment for free, you could not do it all. So, we did all the free stuff. Concerts and comedians and karaoke, movies, fun stuff for kids. All free.

Because we were celebrating our anniversary, we were given one free photo from the cruise ship. This would have cost $11.95.

The gas to and from the airport was, for us, $7.42 because my husband drives a Honda Insight and it gets 70 MPG. I figured in $16.21 for a car that got 32 MPG for the $2300 trip.

We got a free day of airport parking because we had been doing a program with them. We had a card we had been carrying with us there every time for years and finally had enough stamps for a free day! The parking cost us $80.53 vs $92.53 regular price.

I saved a lot on the flights. I got them for free. We have a credit card that I get airlines miles for using and paying off every month. The tickets would have cost $770.38.

I used priceline for a hotel that we stayed at both before and after the trip for one night. The nights were each $67.24. If I had used the hotel website instead of priceline, they would have cost $93.00 a night. I made sure there was a free shuttle to and from the airport to the hotel and a shuttle to and from the hotel to the port, which was $10.00 per way, per person. As it turned out, the shuttle was full and we were going to have to wait to get there so my husband called an Uber driver who was there in 3 minutes. She cost us $16.50, saving us $3.50. We took the shuttle back and when I told the hotel desk person we needed to pay for the trip back, they said don't worry about it. I said "Okay!!" Apparently they only take money for two way trips, saving us another $20.00. This hotel also had a free breakfast in the hotel.
We were also given a $50.00 gift card for use at the spa, but when I saw the prices, I opted for the usual massage...the one where my husband gives me one and I give him one. So, we still each got a massage and saved a lot of money. !

We did need to eat in the airport and one meal at a restaurant after we left the ship. We walked to the restaurant, saving us a taxi. It was a 15 minute walk and we needed the exercise anyway. These meals cost about $56.00 total. I charged the same for these meals as for the $2300 trip but someone could have easily chosen a taxi and cost more.

I bought a T shirt and a magnet, which were $11.00 total. I put $30.00 into the $2300 figure.

Of course, anyone could have spent any amount on this cruise. I chose $2300 because it was a reasonable number that anyone could have spent and it wasn't using outrageous numbers. The difference between the two, nearly exact same trips is $1282! I don't think it took me any more time to take the $1018 trip than it would have to take the $2300 trip and I don't think I would have had any more fun!! No matter which trip I took, I was still going to have to do all the work of booking the flights and cruises etc. Someone may prefer not to worry about money on a trip like this, especially for a 30th wedding anniversary. For me, I would rather spend the extra tiny bit of effort, and know I saved a chuck load of change to the tune of $1282!! Most people might not remember those few extra sodas or drinks they had or that extra T-shirt or dinner but I'll remember that I saved $1282!!. That's enough for a full other cruise. I'll need to think about booking that. :)

In the meantime, here is a breakdown for the typical average cruise:

Happy Savings! ~

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Tuition Free Accredited College Degree?

This is something I just saw online today for the first time. I don't know anything about it except that it says that it is tuition free and accredited. There are a few programs available. It's worth checking out! It's called University of the People. Here is the website:

Here is an article by the New York Times showing that they have received accreditation. It is worth researching to see how employers are viewing the degree and if it is worth your time to go. This might be a great opportunity for some who could not otherwise go to college. 

Happy Savings!