:::: MENU ::::

Cruise 2016 Update


Remember when I first told you all about my plan to set sail in February 2016 on a cruise with my family in celebration of my Mom’s 60th birthday? Well I’ve got some updates….

Initially, the plan was for this cruise to be a 100% surprise for my Mom. The entire family was in on it and the loose plan was for my stepdad to tell my Mom that he was going to take her on a trip (she would surely assume they were going to San Antonio, as they regularly do), and then drive down to Galveston where the cruise ships dock. The rest of us would surprise her there on the dock. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!!!!!!

Well, the more planning we were doing, the less likely it seemed that this would stay a surprise. There were so many logistics involved (e.g., making sure she had enough time off work, making sure she packed appropriate clothing and swimwear, etc.) AND some of you commenters planted little seeds of doubt in my mind. You mentioned that maybe she’d prefer her dream cruise vacation to Alaska ALONE with my stepdad. And then I had a conversation with my Mom where she mentioned that since she’s gotten older she much prefers the MOUNTAINS over the beach (since when, Mom?!?!) The point is…I started second-guessing myself.

So after a LOT of phone calls with my sister, internal wrestling, and careful thought and consideration we came up with a plan. My sister was having my Mom and Stepdad over on Mother’s Day and made a little craft to present my Mom. First, the card:

Your 59th was pretty crappy.

All we want is for YOU to be happy!

So your 60th is all about you.

And now its your turn to choose.

Then my sister presented her with three envelopes. Inside each envelope was a different vacation: a ship to represent the family cruise, a mountain to represent a mountain-oriented family vacation, and a picture of Alaskan wildlife to represent the Alaska vacation.

My sister explained what each picture meant and what the vacation would entail (we did a lot of research on each of the trips so sister presented all the information of where we would stay, what we could/would do, ports of call for the cruises, etc. etc. etc.). My mom was shocked and surprised and didn’t know what to think. She said she needed some time to think it over and let us know by that same afternoon that her choice was the same one we’d originally made: Family Cruise 2016!!! So it’s on.

Skipping forward….

One of the BIG things about this vacation, to me, is that it be paid with 100% cash. I am very excited and working very hard to make it a complete debt-free vacation.

Another thing is that this gives me a really concrete goal: have all consumer debt paid in full by the time we set sail! I’ll still have student loans to contend with, but it will feel so satisfying to be able to make the trip down to Galveston in a newly paid-off car!!!

And a final update – the cruise is booked! There was a $1,000 deposit, so I wanted to wait until we had that saved up in cash. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that cruises can book up so far in advance. We were originally going to cruise in February 2016 (I thought 9 months in advance was plenty of time to book), but we’ve had to push it back to April 2016 to get the accommodations we wanted (two absolute must-haves were 1. adjoining rooms for sister & I so we could let kids nap in one room and have adults in the other, and 2. A 6:00pm dining time, since the kids are already asleep before the 8:30pm dining time and they need to EAT before bed!) Apparently, those two things go fast so we pushed back the sail date a couple months to make these things happen.

All in all, I’m super excited. I’d wanted this to be a big surprise for my Mom, but I think it’s better this way since she’s now been part of the planning process, has been able to voice her opinion of what matters to her (e.g., she wants an upgraded larger room), and has time to adequately prepare (basically diets all around for every one of us, lol).

So there’s the update.

We’re now officially booked (paying all cash, thankyouverymuch), and I’ve now got extreme motivation to be consumer debt-free by April 2016.

I know some of you were interested in the exact costs associated with this vacation. To give some additional information, we will be sailing on Royal Caribbean cruiseline. Our itinerary is an 8-day/7-night trip to visit 3 different countries (set sail from Galveston, docks in Roatan, Honduras; Belize City, Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico). We are paying for four people (no, kids aren’t free), but are all staying in a single room. We chose an interior room (I’d really wanted an exterior for the extra square footage, but settled on the interior since it was cheaper and we could be adjoining with my sister’s family). The total cost including taxes, port fees, and pre-paid gratuities is $2496. This cost includes all food on the ship (there are options to pay for dining at certain on-board restaurants, but the free options are already delicious, gourmet, and FREE, so we won’t pay extra for food). We will, however, budget additional money to pay for any miscellaneous expenses that come up, including souvenirs, possible excursions (e.g., they charge money to go to the beach at the different ports of call), and any food we eat while visiting the different countries we’ll be visiting. In total I’ve planned to set aside $4,000 for the trip, which should be MORE than enough. I’d rather have extra money set aside and end up being able to make a debt payment with leftover money after-the-fact rather than come up short on cash. So that remains the plan.

I know the whole idea of a cruise while still in a mountain of student loan debt is controversial so I won’t be bringing it back up a lot. But I stand by my thoughts in this post where I described how and why we came to this decision. I’ve also had a couple commenters ask if we plan to do any type of celebration once we pay off all consumer debt. I think the cruise is celebration a-plenty. Yes, it’s technically for my Mom. But it will be fabulous to pay for the cruise all cash and know that – for my family – the trip also marks an important milestone in terms of being committed to NEVER acquiring additional debt in our lives (big exception: we still plan to buy a home at some point!) Sooooo…..consumer-debt free by early 2016! That means we’ve got some serious work to do on our car loan! Better get to it! ; )

What do your 1-year financial goals entail?


  • Reply tami |

    Remember to get the girls’ passports! Not cheap, a little time consuming and only valid for 5 years. Because they are under 16, you’ll need to have both parents put in the application, or get a notarized document (available online) saying that the parent not in attendance approves the application. Put it on the schedule for November/December – that way you’ll have it well in time for April departure. Some places have Saturday hours for the applications.

    • Reply Ashley |

      We only need birth certificates for the girls. Much easier/less hassle (and free!)

      • Reply Adinda |

        Hi Ashley! Long time reader, first time commenter. I will also second the passports for your girls. My reason for this, if you were to get in an emergency type situation and would need to fly out of the countries you are visiting, you wouldn’t be able to without the girls having passports. I know it’s an added expense, but the worry that something could happen has made me purchase a passport before for a younger child due to the idea of flight alone.

        Now I will admit that the last time I purchased a passport for a minor was in 2011 and at the time that is what the passport servicing agent told me so the rules could have changed from then to now. Good luck with planning and have fun!! I love cruising!

        • Reply Ashley |

          Thanks for the comment! You’ve definitely made me think twice about this. Although passports aren’t required, all the adults going have them. I was thinking we’d skip the hassle for the kids and just use their birth certificates, but you’ve made some really good points here. Thanks for bringing this up as something to think about!

          • Adinda |

            =-) Glad I could help! You never know, the rules could be completely different than 4 years ago so it may not be a worry at all. My husband and I have been on 5 cruises over the last 10 years so when we know something that someone might not know, we try to at least tell them what we’ve heard. Still could be totally different but at least you will go in knowing 100% the safety factor behind it! =-D I can’t wait to read your update on your cruise! 😉 And if you have anymore questions about cruising, feel free to ask! I’m an open book!

  • Reply Mysti |

    Don’t forget about passports, Tipping (which my cruise friends says can add up…even with prepay), alcohol. Are u and sis covering the cost of mom and stepdad? Is that part of your number?

    Don’t forget about clothing….most ships have at least one formal night.

    I think $4,000 may end up being low. Excursions, souvenirs, stuff you forgot.

    • Reply Ashley |

      My stepdad is covering the cost for him & my mom. We’re not big drinkers (my sis is actually hoping to be pregnant at the time), so I don’t think that will add too much additional money. The figure I gave included prepaid tips for waitstaff and housekeepers (is that still the correct/PC term?), so only additional tips would be for alcohol or when we dine out at the various ports of call. Excursions can be costly, but we’re going pretty low-cost route (basically just paying for access to beaches), so I don’t think it should be too much more.

  • Reply Christine |

    The beach in Roatan is absolutely beautiful!!!! My husband and I are planning on going back just to Roatan someday because we loved it so much!! We we’re not impressed with Belize, but Cozumel is fun! You’ll have a wonderful time.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I’ve actually been to Belize City and Cozumel before (years and years ago), so Roatan is the only really “new” place for me. Glad to hear its so beautiful! I’m very excited to take in the sights! I only wish they would stamp passports! I don’t have a ton of passport stamps, so I’d love to collect a few more : )

  • Reply S Baxter |

    1. Remember, even Soda isn’t free on a cruise ship. They do have like a “buy all you can drink soda” thing usually though.
    2. Each passenger should be able to bring on I think it is a 12 pack of something to drink (non alcohol), so soda or water. I’m not sure if they count kids in that, but you might be able to bring on 4 12 packs and be good. Each cruiseline is different, so check. It helps. Especially the water part. Bring a small 6pack cooler and your housekeeping will keep it filled with ice for you. You should be able to find more info there on the cruise website.
    3. Cruises have all sorts of “deals” that they tout while you are on board. Beware and be steady in your frugal stances. I went wild my first cruise on watches, perfumes, etc. for gifts. Not to mention gifts at the ports. Excursions are definitely pricey.
    4. You want want to check on the pregnancy thing as some cruises do not want you taking a cruise at certain points in your pregnancy. You also have to check on your vaccinations, etc. Again, that would be on the cruise website.
    5. Even though they say birth certificate for the kids, I would highly recommend a passport and not the birth certificate. I saw some people trying to use them for kids at a couple of my cruises and they were a HASSLE and plus you don’t want to risk loosing or getting birth certificates stolen or lost in another country.
    I’ve only did Carnival cruises out of Galveston, but they have always been great. We take smaller 3,4,5 day sailings and never make it off the boat for less than 1K for just the two of us. I hope you have a great time!!

    • Reply Kara Robinson |

      Ok, last comment. 🙂

      I agree that passports are the safe bet. God forbid something happen and you be stuck in one of the ports, I believe it is much more of a hassle to get out of a country with a birth certificate than a passport. But I could be wrong.

  • Reply Eliza |

    Congratulations – I’m agnostic about taking vacations while in debt – remember that the only person’s who opinion matters is yours.

    As an avid cruiser – a couple of suggestions to consider for the ports of call.

    Belize – My friends and I had a lot of fun cave tubbing. We booked through a private tour group (http://www.cave-tubing.com/) and had a fabulous experience for significantly less than booking through the cruise. Also of note — the tour was about ~10 tubers/guide. We saw some of the cruise booked tour groups that seemed to have a much larger tuber/guide ratio. There is a bit of a hike up to through the forest to get started. I’m overweight and out of shape and was able to do it pretty easily, but if anyone in the group has mobility issues you should talk that through with the tour operator to make sure it’s an appropriate excursion.

    Cozumel – I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Nachi Cocum, an all-inclusive day resort. It has a beautiful beach, palapas (I need shade), pool w/ swim up bar, and hot tub (not particularly hot, more like a heated pool than traditional hot tub). It’s ~$55 per person (kids cheaper, I believe). It does skew towards an older demographic, but I have been there several times when families with children were there and they all seemed to be having a good time. An alternative is Mr. Sanchos which has both an all-inclusive option and a la carte option — I understand that they have more active options like water slide / trampoline and beach volleyball.

    Enjoy your trip — if you are anything like me, the planning is half the fun.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Oh wow, thanks for the info! I’ve heard that it’s often cheaper to find excursions through outside companies (not through the cruise line). I’ll have to look into more options – like you said, planning is half the fun : )

  • Reply kara Robinson |

    Hey there! I absolutely love this! My husband and I have a ton of debt, of which about 3/4 of it is student loans. We got engaged last year, skipped the hoopla of a big wedding, and had a kick butt honeymoon this month. We took two weeks off, saved up and paid for, in cash, a cruise from Hawaii to Vancouver. Everything, and I mean everything, was paid for in cash. We even walked away with about $1300 leftover – which was perfect since we came home to about $800 in fixing our car (we only have one so it is important to make sure it runs well all the time).

    We also just booked our next cruise for next March. I agree, it is pretty controversial having a lot of debt, and still planning stuff. But like Dave Ramsey says, if you have a line item in your budget for vacation, then that’s that. There is no need to feel guilty about something if it is what you (and/or your significant other) have planned. So, we mapped out the next 10 months in our budget, and will also pay for this cruise completely before setting sail. We will also budget all the other expenses like you mention – excursions, souvenirs, spending money, etc.

    I’m definitely saving your website.

    Have a great day!

    • Reply Kara Robinson |

      One more thing. If you have a smartphone, download the app ShipMate. It is like a countdown app to your cruise. You can also keep a packing list, as well as see excursions. Also, if you want to find fun stuff to do, go to http://www.cruisecritic.com, there is where you will find the best reviews for all excursions.

      Our cruise next March is taking the same route, but it’s through Carnival. Already my husband says we have to do cave tubing (can’t remember which of the three stops it is). But it has great reviews on Cruise Critic.

So, what do you think ?