Dollars and Cents Part 3 – Cruising like a Geezer

For financially responsible retirees that want a travel adventure one of the best tools in the Geezer tool box is the vacation cruise. Keep in mind finances are a big deal. You can spend a fortune cruising if you want to. There are cruises that cost in excess of $1000 a day. The problem for Charlene and I is were on a budget. We love to cruise but there is no way we will spend more than a base amount of about $62.50 a day per person on a cruise.

I guess to start with I should explain how I arrived at my $62.50 a day per person or $125 a day base financial cap.

Cruising is unique as a mode of travel. It supplies the cruiser in one package with, food, lodging, and entertainment As you travel each one of these assets have value that can be fit into a budget.

Our personal budget is based on our retirement income and the cost of certain items when we stay home. At this point I’m going to get a little hypothetical. Lets say based on our pensions and retirement income we budget $1200 for food for the two of us and that includes eating at home and eating out. We also budget $300 a month for entertainment, movies etc. That means that every month whether we travel or not we are spending $1500 on food and entertainment whether we are traveling or not. So if we are cruising a $50 ( $1500  /30 days) a day budget is already available from our everyday costs. If you want to be a little more accountant like you can also consider home budget items like gas, auto expenses, electricity etc that you will save while you are away from home.

Now lets look at lodging. Charlene and I figure lodging will cost us around $25 a day when we travel, so if we plan on traveling 100 days a year we will set aside $2,500 of our yearly budget for lodging. Our $25 a day budget works well because even though when we actually pay for rooms the cost is around $70 a night that figure is reduced when you average in free rooms you get from loyalty programs, the nights we stay with friends and family and the nights we stay at our time shares. Because the Cruise Ship is supplying lodging I can add our $25 a day lodging budget to the price I will pay for the cruise. That brings my budget to cruise up to $75 a day.

Because cruising is a treat we are willing pay $25 over our daily budget in order to cruise which brings us to $100 a day we can comfortably budget for a cruise. The other $25 a day that I mentioned in my $125 financial cap is going to be tips for the crew. Almost all cruise ships are trying to make these costs mandatory so you should figure these costs in your budget.

In the example I just gave you will be looking at Cruises that are listed at $50 ( $62.50 budget less unlisted $12.50 per person tips)  or less pre person. A quick search on my favorite cruise vendor vacationtogo.com showed around 80 cruises available in my price range. These cruises were in the U.S. the Caribbean, Europe, and Mexico. One of the cruises was only $18 a day!

The $18 dollar a day cruise I listed above brings up a good point. Repositioning Cruises are cruises that go from one location to another  location so these cruises don’t only feed, lodge and entertainment but also transportation.

Lets talk transportation. If Charlene and I want to go to Australia the flight is too long to fly coach. So we will want to fly business or first class. Because over the years we have built up our air miles and loyalty points we won’t have to pay the $6000 – $10,000 that most premium class tickets would cost per person. Instead we will use miles or points to pay for the flights, but these miles or points still have value. We can get two – one way ticket in business class from Florida to Sydney for about 200,000 air miles and the actual travel asset value of those miles will be around $3000 to $4000. That means that if we cruise one way to Australia we can figure that the transportation costs we are saving is around $4000 dollars.

As I describe in the Miles and Points section of this blog these assets are loyalty assets that you don’t actually have to pay for but they still have great value. Because they have not cost me any cash when I put the transportation part of my trip into the budget I only figure half of the asset value of an alternative form of transport like flying. So in the U.S. to Australia cruise example I would add another $2000 ($4000 value of the points / 2) to the cost I will pay for a repositioning cruise from the U.S. to Australia.

Most of the repositioning cruises from the Americas to Australia last around 25 days so If I divide my transportation costs of $2000 by 25 days on the cruise I can now justify paying another $80 a day for the cruise. When I take that $80 for transportation costs and add it to my base budget of $100 a day for the two of us, that gives me a new per person budget of $90 a day for a repositioning cruise from the U.S. to Australia. So I could justify the following repositioning cruise if I was going to Australia.

Every one has different budget constraints but hopefully this article will give you an idea of how to figure a cruise budget that will allow you to travel without breaking the bank. A lot of the FASTDEALS that are listed on the site use the combination of repositioning cruises and discount air flights to generate fantastic travel opportunities and heavily discounted rates.

In every travel experience their are hidden costs. I always call my cruise company and get the bottom line on the cruise. There may be costs like tax, port fees, tips added to spas and drinks that will effect your bottom line always ask as many questions as possible about these hidden costs before you get your cruise.

In the spring and in the fall there are hundreds of repositioning cruises between the Americas and Europe.