moneyrelations :: May.21.2008
Something that might not come across well in my blog is that I have a very high threshold for the spectacular. This means that it takes a lot to impress me
Last week, I found myself sitting at the dining room table of a cruise ship with complete strangers who were trying to one-up each other. The alpha female dinner companions were comparing the sizes of their kitchens back home.
Ironic that these same people complain how they don’t have enough time to plan for meals, cook and do the dishes and yet they boast about the size of their kitchens. Thank goodness for Ma Bell and delivery service because I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about their kitchens (or mine for that matter).
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself so let me rewind and explain a bit. I was on a cruise to Alaska with my family for the last week. It had been planned for awhile so luckily for me, everything was already taken care of by the more anal responsible members of my family. All I had to do was pack and show up with my passport.
We sailed out of Seattle for a 7-day cruise on the Star Princess to Alaska along the inner passage with stops at Ketchikan and Juneau. We sailed through Tracy Arm and made another stop at Skagway before turning around for Victoria and back to Seattle.
To be perfectly honest, I was really blasé at the beginning of the whole trip. Like I said, it takes a lot to impress me. We got plenty of snow and ice this winter in my part of Canada. And if I needed a reminder, I could always open up the fridge for ice.
Okay, so not to be a total party pooper, the glaciers and mountains were kinda majestic.
But since this is a finance blog, let’s talk about money.
For my floating hotel, it was a little less than $100 per night. This included meals, cruise entertainment and tips which they tack onto your stateroom bill anyways. The truth is, I don’t know the complete cost of my trip along with plane tickets, 3 night hotel accommodations in Seattle, transportation, food and admission fees to tourist traps destinations.
Yeah, this is a finance blog but I never promised to be a good one
Since the trip was booked by family members who have a way more dominant DNA gene for being cheap, I knew that I was in good hands. I’m figuring less than $1500 for a 10 day vacation which I don’t consider to be that expensive for where we were and all that we did.
We saved a lot of money by booking our own shore excursion in Alaska. We’d look at excursions that the cruise provided and tried to mimic the itinery. For example, a trip to Mendenhall Glacier and a salmon hatchery in Juneau cost $39 per person through the cruise ship. Finding your own transportation via shuttle would run about $7, and admission to the Mendenhall Glacier was $3.00 and $3.25 for the salmon hatchery. That’s a total of $13.25 vs $39. Another example of saving costs was when we took a train ride in Skagway through the White Pass & Yukon Route. On our own, it was $103 but through the cruise, I think the same thing cost $112 with the only difference being a 10 minute walk to the train station. This all can add up. We also went back to the ship for all meals as well. Heck, why not? We paid for it.
I can’t take credit for all these savings as they do take some preliminary research but it is a way to stretch your dollar if you’re budget conscious. If I had organized the trip myself, I probably wouldn’t have bothered and paid through the nose for not doing the research. That’s only fair for being a dumbass and I expect it. This brings me full circle to the story I began this post about – the traveling mates I met while on board the ship. It’s really interesting to get a glimpse of people’s expectation of money.
I don’t know what it is about cruise ships that bring out lofty ideals in people’s minds. I admit that after hearing about “formal” dining nights, I expected food to be superb. This wasn’t always the case. I mean, the food was okay but it wasn’t top quality and I’m not that much of a connoisseur. I do know presentation and having soup drip on the outside of your bowl is what I consider a no-no for quality dining. And this happened on more than a few occasions with plates as well. But seeing as it was all inclusive meals with the stateroom for less than $100 a night, it was a bargain.
So here I am sitting at the dining room table with others while they bluster about how wonderful the gourmet food has been. And in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, dude, you can’t even pronounce escargots correctly. Just say snails for cripes sake like it says in the description. And it’s not pronounced minesTROAN soup, it’s minestronKNEE. Also, it’s not sockKEY salmon but sockEYE salmon. I get the fact that we want to present our best to the outside world but when you’re so out of your league, stop the ruse of pretending to be the upper crust of society.
My dinner companions also compared the locations of their staterooms – if they had a suite or an outer stateroom with a window and at which level. Mine was at the lowest passenger deck and in dead center of the ship. I get motion sickness quite easily so I was popping dramamine pills daily. A stateroom in the middle of the ship with little turbulence suited me just fine thanks but you can tell that it was looked down upon. Now why would I pay more for discomfort for the sake of appearances when I could see the telltale sign of a motion sickness patch on the back of ears?
And yes, the women really did compare the sizes of their kitchens. I’ve only witnessed this in males before by overcompensating with their cars. I wonder if their bras were padded…
But the biggest kicker was when these “high rollers” objected to being charged with a liqueur they thought were samples. It’s funny to see how people gravitate towards “free”. Since I don’t drink I had declined. And I had a suspicion that it wasn’t free but people were too polite to ask the question and they got caught. Then talks of the waiter misrepresenting and seeing the captain were discussed. I mean come on… After all that talk of staterooms, kitchens and gourmet food they were complaining about a $4.00 drink? So much for appearances.
At the end of the vacation, I bet I had as good a time as they did at the fraction of the price. I can’t claim credit for the savings because I’m not your typical frugal finance blogger. But I also don’t consider it a badge of honor for being stupid. And trying to be something you’re not, especially for strangers is just that.