Extra expenses while cruising...

After seven days aboard ship, we've begin to get a handle on what we're spending while cruising, over and above the cost of the cruise itself.
 
So far, based on cash remaining in our wallets for this cruise (which we've kept locked in our cabin safe) and the bill on the TV, we've spent $759 from the moment we arrived at the pier in San Diego. 
 
This total includes cash tips at the pier, tips throughout the cruise. Tips were included in the price of the cruise but we've experienced extraordinary service warranting some additional tipping.  In addition, we've charged the $399 WiFi bill and bar tabs.  Tom's cocktails (Courvoisier and 7 UP) are $7 each and my diet tonic with a lime is $2.  We each have two to three of these each day at most.
 
Coffee (too strong), milk (which we don't drink), hot tea, iced tea (too strong) and "tap" water (purified, they say) are free.  All bottled beverages vary in price, ranging from $2 to $5.
 
To save on the cost of beverages beside our cocktails, we brought along about 30 quart sized powdered packets of our favorite beverage, Crystal Lite Iced Tea.  Ice and water is provided in our cabin and available in the restaurants. 

With our trusty Contigo chill-holding, handled mugs in tow, we're able to make our own iced tea to enjoy throughout the day, hauling them with us everywhere we go.  We've calculated that we've saved no less than $300 for the entire cruise by having our own beverages on hand.
 
Yesterday, simply by buying and sending the six grandchildren one postcard each, as we'll often do when entering new countries, we spent $16. 
 
Each night, we've given our waiter in the Grand Restaurant an "extra" $10 in cash although a 15% tip was added to the original cost of the cruise which totaled $ 5,545.48 (for both of us in a balcony cabin of 186 square feet).  
 
Dubrokov been amazing accommodating my strict gluten free, grain free, starch free and sugar free diet, bringing me extra piles of steamed vegetables and larger portions of salad. Luckily, the menu references gluten and sugar free options.
 
Everything we've heard about venturing out on any of our cruise ship's offered excursions has made the idea of spending $100 to $300 for the two of us has been unappealing. 
 
Yesterday, an excursion was offered for a "self guided" tour of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala for $48 per person.  The passengers were to gather in designated area only ten minutes from the pier to be handed a map in order travel about on their own.  Duh?  $96 (for two) for a map and a finger pointed in a direction?  No, thanks.
 
Oh yes, there were other excursions such as the $188 (for two) bus ride along the Western Highlands of Guatemala, to the home of the living Maya and the ancient city of Iximche, now in ruins.  This four hour outing included lunch in a local restaurant.
 
Tuesday night we heard of a couple on the ship suffering with food poisoning after such an outing.  This is not to say the local restaurants are selling "tainted" food but our tender tummies may not do well eating and drinking local fare, especially with no time to become adapted. 
 
Another offering for yesterday was a trip to visit a block of historical buildings on cobblestone streets.  The cost was $199.50 per couple.
 
If this were our "vacation" we may have budgeted for some of the excursions and be enthusiastic to take advantage of every such opportunity.  Knowing that in no time at all, we'll be living in one interesting and historical locale after another, we've decided to wait to venture out on our own or with locals we meet along the way.
 
As I have mentioned in the past, our interests lie in "living" in the various countries from one month to four months (planned so far) allowing us to feel more like a resident than a tourist. 
 
We aren't as much interested in familiar tourist attractions with long waiting lines and barking sales people, although we will visit the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, Giza, the French Riviera,  the Mayan ruins in Belize and many more.
 
Although the ship has many stores offering high end merchandise including clothing, jewelry, art, duty free liquor and various sundries, we are so well equipped, we don't have a need or desire to purchase anything. 
 
Tom downloads the daily Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper and has many books, as do I, on the Kindle apps on our phones and computers. When not busy, we may spend an hour or two reading each afternoon.
 
As for the Internet, while at sea we use the ship's pricey plan at $.24 a minute on the $399 plan, allowing each of us to stay in touch with family and friends for about one hour per day. 
 
While in port, we can use the XCOM Global Wi-Fi device, which finally started working yesterday after the company's tech support discovered they'd set up the device incorrectly for us.  We are being credited for the days we were unable to connect at $14.95 a day.
 
In only four days, this Sunday, we'll be seated at the bow of the ship at 4 or 5 am to get a first hand view of the ship's entrance into the Panama Canal, its locks and dams where the Pacific Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean.  This was our motive on selecting this particular 15 day cruise.
 
We've attended three of five aboard ship seminars thus far on its rich history, its politics, it's culture and its people along with the interesting story of the building of the canal. 
 
We were told by the presenter that this ship barely fits (by 24" on each side) into the locks and dam system.  This, will be an interesting site to see through the 8 to 10 hour trip through the canal.  Tom is excited that in May we'll also cruise through the Suez Canal, another interesting bit of history we'll also enjoy.
 
It all boils down to the tone of our new lives together:  we'll only experience that which appeals to us, not what a cruise ship director or travel agent may encourage us to do and not, "what everyone else may do."  Yes, sometimes we will follow the mainstream, the crowd, doing the expected. 
 
More often, we'll wander about in our own time, visiting with locals on our own schedule, living life, loving life and enjoying this interesting end enriching time of our lives. 
 
All in all, cruising is expensive.  We'd budgeted $1400 for extra expenses on this cruise and no doubt we will end up in this range.  That averages about $7000 for the 15 days for a daily average of $466, almost twice as much as we'll spend on the other seven cruises we've booked so far.
 
This cruise was special as our first out of the chute as the first leg of our worldwide journey and especially meaningful to Tom, as a history buff with extensive knowledge of the Panama Canal all of which I now find fascinating.
 
I had no idea how much he actually had already learned about the canal on his own over the years.
 
See...we learn new things about one another spending 24 hours a day together.  Not too bad, eh?
 
Footnote:  Norovirus is still raging aboard ship.  Now the waiters fill our plates in the breakfast/lunch buffet line as opposed to our scooping up our own choices.  Also, a staff person stands at the entrance to every area, at each elevator and in doorways holding huge pump bottles of hand sanitizers requiring every passer-by to partake.  In addition, we've been washing our hands before leaving and upon entering our cabin several times per day.  We brought along 500 sanitizing wipes (having stuff pays off!) which we use to clean our phones, our mugs and any other items we may touch.  So good so far.

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