Prices here are based on two adults, because you’ll want to share the adventure with someone special. Pack your swimsuit and a camera, and use these guidelines to help you budget for an unforgettable trip to Mexico.
Travel to Galveston
Cruises departing from many cities include a stop in Cozumel (an island off the eastern coast of Mexico), but since Galveston, Texas, is the closest American cruise port to the Mexican shore, it makes sense to start there if you don’t happen to live within driving distance of another cruise port. If you live in Texas, you can drive in and park at the cruise port. Otherwise, you’ll want to include a flight to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport in your travel budget.
It’s wise to book a flight that arrives the day before your cruise ship departs. The extra expense of spending a night in a hotel will be worth it to avoid the stress of rushing to the port on the first day of vacation. Flights are often delayed, but the cruise ship won’t wait for you, so leave yourself plenty of time to check in, get on board, and prepare for the journey ahead. While you’re waiting in Galveston, you can take a walk along the beach or check out the downtown neighborhood of historic buildings known as The Strand.
Set this Goal for airfare to Houston, and a hotel in Galveston.
One of the great things about cruising is that most costs are included in the fare, so you can set your budget ahead of time, then relax and truly enjoy your hard-earned vacation. Once you’re on the ship, your meals and snacks, from the breakfast buffet to formal evening dinner, will include a wide selection of delicious and gourmet foods without the hefty bill at the end. You’ll have unlimited access to pools, hot tubs, evening shows, the fitness center, and many other onboard amenities. If you’re bringing kids along (don’t forget to count them as people when adding up your budgeted fare!), childcare and youth activities are usually included, too.
As you shop for great deals on cruises, keep in mind that the lowest prices displayed will be for an interior cabin, which means a small, windowless room in the center of the ship. Choosing one of these is an easy way to save money while cruising, and chances are that you’ll be too busy having fun to spend much time in your cabin, anyway. If you want an ocean view (read: porthole window) or a balcony to enjoy the sea breezes right outside your stateroom, be prepared to pay for it: Add about $80 per person for a room with a view, or up to $200 per person (yes, you’re reading that right) for a balcony.
Like all travel expenses, don’t be surprised to see taxes and fees tacked on to what looks like a low price. A five-day cruise with an interior cabin advertised for $349 per person will come out to $835 for two people after fees and taxes are added in.
Set this Goal for a five-day cruise, and an interior cabin.
Food may be included in your cruise fare, but for the most part, beverages are not. Most cruise lines offer a drink package, which makes it easy to order drinks on board and allows you to partake in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages of your choice, since only basics like water, tea, coffee, and lemonade may be included in your fare. If you don’t want to worry about going overboard (no pun intended!) with your purchases, pre-ordering a drink package keeps the cost set, instead of racking up bills. The catch? On some cruise lines, every adult in the same stateroom must purchase the package, so your trip for two will increase by at least $100 a day for every day you cruise.
If you’re planning to spend a lot of time off the ship at ports, keep in mind that the drink package only applies to beverages purchased on board. And if you’re drinking fewer than six drinks over the course of the average vacation day, the package may not make financial sense. Do some math based on your own drinking habits and your cruise line’s policies to know if you should pay per drink or buy a package.
Shore excursion: beach day in Cozumel
Although they aren’t included in the base price, shore excursions are what make a cruise more than just a long and glamorous boat ride. At every port, you’ll have the option to choose from a variety of trips and activities. Do your research ahead of time to decide how you want to spend your time (and money) on shore, then pre-book your excursions if possible. In Cozumel, the myriad options include snorkeling, scuba diving, sailing, fishing, riding an ATV, golfing, kayaking, and swimming with dolphins. Since you came all this way, look for excursions that include some time on one of Cozumel’s beautiful beaches.
For a truly indulgent beach day, grab a taxi and head straight to Nachi Cocom Beach Club, where, for $55 per person, you’ll have all-inclusive access to a private beach, outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi, swim-up bar, hammocks, lounge chairs, and palapas. The price also includes a four-course lunch and an all-you-can-drink open bar featuring beverages such as the Chunky Monkey, a banana piña colada with Kahlúa. Get there early or make a reservation in advance: Space at this Mexican paradise is limited to 100 guests per day.
Shore excursion: exploring Mayan ruins
On a four-day cruise, you’ll probably only have one day in Cozumel before it’s time to return home. On a five-day or longer cruise, though, the itinerary will include additional stops in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Jamaica, or other Caribbean islands.
If your ship docks in Progreso, Mexico, you can opt for a second beach day, take a historical journey inland to learn about the ancient civilization of the Mayan people, or even find a trip that includes both. For $80 per person, you can spend seven hours on a bus tour to the legendary city of Chichen Itza, or choose a shorter tour of the Yucatan that includes a lunch buffet on the beach. Wear comfortable shoes either way: Touring the ruins involves a lot of walking and climbing!
Cruise lines recommend extending gratuities to the onboard staff in the amount of $13 per day, adding up to $65 per passenger for a five-day cruise. The onboard staff includes everyone from your head chef and evening server to the cabin steward who magically transforms your bath towel into a terrycloth swan. Gratuities may be automatically added to beverage purchases, but be ready to reward great service with a little extra.
Any time you ride in a taxi, bus, or shuttle, whether at the airport or on shore excursions, you may want to have cash on hand for both fare and tips. Carrying a stack of small bills can go a long way in making your travels more comfortable because you’ll be ready to offer gratuities without an awkward scramble. Be prepared, and the only tips you’ll have to worry about are the broiled steak tips you’ll be enjoying at dinner.
Before you say “Adios!” to Mexico, you may want to purchase something in the many shops lining the streets of the port. Whether it’s a sombrero to shield your face from the brilliant sunlight, a bottle of duty-free liquor offered at a discount price, or a T-shirt to prove that you’ve been there, done that, budget a little extra to bring home a little piece of Mexico with you. Just make sure you can fit it in your suitcase or carry it on the flight home!
The cruise ship’s photographers will also be taking pictures of you and your shipmates at several key points, which will be available for purchase. If you want more than a selfie of you and your significant other standing on the pier at Cozumel, you can buy one of these prints and let it remind you of the fun times you experienced cruising to Mexico.
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