Last week I went on my first-ever cruise along with my girlfriend and her family. Her dad likes to put together whole-family vacations every few years. It was a nice trip to the western Caribbean. And it was good to get away — it was my first real vacation since I started working full-time.
It was not a Mustachian experience, however. I believe MMM alluded to this fact in a post: his was "Educational for one trip, but far too cheesy and commercial so we will not be repeating." A lot of things are included in the price of the rooms (which my girlfriend's dad very generously paid for), like food and the pool and even a library … and I can't think of other gratis amenities.
They are very good at getting money out of you on a cruise. Alcohol costs money, and so does soda (but not iced tea). Myriad shopping opportunities, all duty-free. There were bingo games and a casino. On shore of course there was shopping, and you paid for excursions (like swimming with dolphins and hiking and other activities organized by cruise management).
How did we fare, having been exposed to all these temptations to spend? I'd say pretty well, all things considered. The first caveat is that for Christmas, my girlfriend and I got (a very generous) $1k from her dad, specifically to spend on the cruise, so that we wouldn't worry about money while on vacation. So I didn't get too stressed out about trying to be frugal.
My big purchase was a massive quantity of duty-free alcohol. I was planning on gradually stocking my liquor cabinet over the next few months, as I could justify the expense, and so the benefits are two-fold: being tax and duty-free the overall cost was like 40% less; and since we were given money to spend anyway, the alcohol wouldn't affect my bottom line. Not to mention this way my attempted frugality doesn't look suspicious. If I'm given a big wad of money that I "need" to spend, I'm going to spend it in the least wasteful way possible. All told we spent $250 on liquor and now I won't have to restock for probably two years. I consider that a victory.
I also spent like $7 on little souvenirs, and a combined total of around $50 on drinks. This included rounds for her family too, which I consider a good use of money. She gambled a bit with her family — they like to play blackjack — which makes me nervous every time I watch so I went back to the room after a little while. But she stopped when she was $150 ahead, so I'm not complaining.
All told, and including shopping that she did while on land, we spent less than $700. The extra part of the $1k we agreed will go in the joint fund. I feel pretty good about how the vacation turned out from a fiscal perspective. It was hardly Mustachian, but I feel I made the best of what could have been an excessively spendy situation.