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Saga research weighs up ‘all-inclusive’ cruising versus ‘pay as you go’

PHOTO: Saga Cruises CRUISE_Saga_Inclusive.jpg
Saga’s research showed the most common add-ons on ocean cruises include drinks (averaging £266) and excursions (averaging £372) per person
New research by Saga, UK specialist in products and services for life after 50, has found that travellers can expect to spend an average of over £1,300 per person in hidden extras on a ‘pay as you go’ ocean cruise, and potentially as much as £3,000 more, while on river cruises it’s an average of £500 on top of the basic price, but with the possibility of that stretching to almost £2,000 more per person.

The research was carried out by The Big Window, Saga’s research arm, in September 2023 with 2,465 respondents, all of whom have travelled on cruises and 35% of whom have travelled on ten or more cruises.

The potential for hidden costs is also considered by customers long before they set sail notes Saga, with nearly half (47%) of respondents saying that hidden fees are a concern when booking.

Spending limits

According to the research, a quarter (23%) of cruise guests will carefully budget and plan for the extra costs, while more than a third (35%) will set a spending limit and try to stay within it, cutting back on elements such as excursions or drinks if they need to.

Saga’s research showed the most common add-ons on ocean cruises are gratuities (averaging £195 per person), excursions (averaging £372), drinks (averaging £266), Wi-Fi (averaging £123), and travel insurance (averaging £366).

That works out at an additional spend of £1,322 per person.

For river cruises it is gratuities (£94 per person), drinks (£131), and insurance (£251) that add up to £476 per person.

Costs for flights, pre- or post-cruise hotel stays, transfers, speciality dining and entertainment can push the potential price up further.

Value for money

Nigel Blanks, CEO of Saga Cruises, said: All-inclusive cruises may appear more expensive at first glance, but they represent real value for money, especially when the additional cost for ‘extras’ such as drinks, excursions, and insurance can stack up to hundreds or thousands of pounds more.

‘Of course, Saga cruises are all-inclusive so you could argue we would say that, but our advice is based on our customers’ experience,’ Blanks added.

‘By having fixed cost means they can relax on-board knowing everything is covered and they’re clear on how much is left over for other trips they may want to take,’ he concluded.

Saga offers a discount of up to 35% on ocean cruises and 25% off river cruises when the programme is launched with the  percentage gradually decreasing as the cabins are sold. The cruise line also offers a price promise, whereby if the price of the cruise ever drops, guests who have paid the higher price will get the value difference.

Mix and match

The findings from Saga’s research also suggests experience plays into how people select their trips with those who cruise regularly opting to mix and match cruise lines and itineraries to maximise their budget and the locations they can visit.

In terms of repaying some of those additional costs, Saga’s research found that 56% are using either their savings or a credit card (28% each) to pay for their holidays and 70% say they’ll spend the coming weeks and months paying it off.








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