And of course, there are plenty of other places to spend money on a cruise. For example, most ships have an a la carte premium dining restaurant, where you can go and eat, for an additional fee, of course. If the main dining room fare does not seem attractive, you have that option, but it does cost extra. (There are usually other dining options on many boats, including cafes, pizza shops, and the like, which are free).
And of course, most cruise ships offer gambling "casinos" which are mostly slot machines, Keno, and wheel games. The amount of money you can squander on gambling, is of course, unlimited. Which is why it is a good idea to not gamble - at all. If you gamble, the amount of money you spend on a cruise is basically unlimited, and I suspect a lot of people who go on cruises will tell you it was a "$199 cruise" when in fact, they spent thousands of dollars on each trip (and spend the rest of the year paying off the credit card bill). But that is the nature of most people in the US.
NOTE ALSO that there are other "options" you can select and should select before going on board. The website was not very good at these, and we had to call to make requests. For example, it assigned our dining time to 5:45 and we had to call to get the later 8:30 time. We were able to "request" a two-top table, but such requests are only preferences, not reservations. Also, you can request how you want your bed made - as two singles or a large queen-size. I pays to call and make these requests in advance, as your options will be limited once onboard.
Our "stateroom" selection was made for us by their computer. You can select specific staterooms if you are purchasing an upgraded package, such as a balcony room. And savvy cruisers know which rooms are best, in general or on particular boats. Being amidships in a middle deck provides the best ride in rough weather. Ironically, many premium staterooms are up front on the top deck, which can be a rough ride in rough seas. Of course, as newbies, they put us in a lower level near the bow, so we will hope for calm weather.
CHECKING IN in advance is important, and you can download a host of documentation and print it out, including your check-in pass. Waiting until the day of departure can add hours to boarding. And you cannot check-in online within three days of boarding. So do it in advance and get your documentation ready and you will be able to board with fewer hassles.
Whether we find the cruise to be worthwhile - worth the cost involved - remains to be seen. I'll tell you in 12 days, when I get back. Some people love cruises and can't wait to go on the next one. There are hundreds of cruise ships in the world, each capable of carrying thousands of people, and they leave port every 3-10 days or so. So literally millions of people do this every year. There must be some attraction to it.
UPDATE: January 31, 2010
The following additional costs were incurred on the way to the cruise and during the cruise:
1. Parking at Port Canaveral $45
2. Gas - trip down: $44
3. Gas - Trip Back $35.76
4. Breakfast, last day of cruise (Dennys) $21.50 incl tip.
5. Lunch, Jacksonville, $73.85
6. Bar Bill, Boat (and Coco Cay) $213.64
7. Drinks, Atlantis Resort: $34.99
8. Cash Tips (in addition to pre-paid tips): $50
OVERALL TOTAL: $1,525.72
That's a long way from $189, ain't it?
Now, some of you may quibble that some of these expenses, such as transportation to and from the ship shouldn't "count" - but its not like you didn't spend the money, right?
And others might note that there are some savings in meals not eaten at home, etc. while you are gone, and to be sure, that expense should be deducted from the total.
And perhaps others would argue that we could have cut corners and scrimped and gotten away with less. For example, we could have parked at the "park and sail" and saved $7 a day on parking - and been driven 20 minutes to the parking lot. Or we could have tipped less, not drank so much alcohol (or any, for that matter) or not taken shore excursions. True enough, but then again, not doing any of these things sort of diminishes from the fun.
But the point is not to say that it was expensive or cheap, but to understand what the overall costs are, without trying to put a positive or negative spin on it.
Until you can really evaluate costs of things, without thinking emotionally, you can't really understand how much things cost.
So it was about $500 per day per couple, for this three day cruise. Was it fun? Yes. Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I do it again? Perhaps.
I am booking a Georgia Bar CLE cruise in November, which should be interesting. This time, I am opting for a cabin with a balcony, which, while expensive, should be worthwhile. That cruise has a book price of $959 per person, which means it will be about $2000 just for the base price, not counting any shore excursions, drinks, or other extras. How much will the overall cost of that cruise be? Probably more than $5000, I think.