Passengers onboard Ovation of the Seas are bracing themselves for post-cruise “bill shock” as lines look for extra ways to make profit from shore excursions.

Those on Ovation of the Seas, currently on a cruise around New Zealand, have been contemplating the big difference between on-shore USD excursion costs charged by Royal Caribbean Cruises and passengers finding their way to destinations.    

One passenger pointed out that the only difference between her AU$10 cable car trip at Wellington Botanic Garden and the AU$56 entry to Zealandia Sanctuary she paid, and the AU$260 charged by Royal Caribbean was the tour guide it provided.

“Some are getting caught out when they read the prices…forgetting the quote is in USD,” she said.

View of Wellington from the cable car
The cost of the Wellington cable car is only AU$10.

One couple took a costly Royal Carribean organised wine tour around Napier which gave them a financial hangover.

“2 wineries and a small cheese ‘n’ bickie plate at one of them. AU$300 each!” a fellow passenger wrote of the experience. Tripadvisor lists similar tours for as little as AU$148.

In Dunedin, visitors alight to see its gothic-style urban landscape, grand architecture, and ornate historic buildings mingling with edgy fashion, world-class street art, and the local dining scene.

Public bus or shuttle?

When cruise ships dock in Port Chalmers, about 20-25 minutes from the city centre, lines charge single passengers aged 13 and above US$10 (AU$15) per guest per day for a round trip on a shuttle bus into town. Those aged 4-12 pay US$5 per guest per day with tickets sold via the onboard app or Shore Excursions Desk.

“Outrageous,” one guest told Cruise Passenger. “They say it’s the charge put on by (the) port authority. So what? They should pick it up. Never heard of charges for a shuttle bus from the dock before.

“Expensive for families,” the passenger added.

a gothic style building in Dunedin
Tourists appreciate the architecture of Dunedin, on the South Island of New Zealand but pay the cost of getting there from the port.

But informed tourists can ride from the port town to Dunedin’s CBD, on the Route 14 bus, which costs those with a Bee Card NZ$2 (AU$1.86), or NZ$3 if paying cash.

The public bus route proved so popular, that the operator had to put on more buses last year as passengers were crowding out locals on port days. 

“Several cruise lines charge an exorbitant amount for excursions and things as simple as a bus ride,” says Consumer Advocate Adam Glezer. “I would strongly suggest cruisers do their research and book excursions independently, where possible.”

And forget about clean clothes for grotty kids.

“RC does not have any guest laundries,” the Ovation of the Seas passenger wrote. “So if you’ve got small kids and have to pay to have laundry done. OMG!”

More bill shock onboard

And as for once-free onboard extras, such as WiFi, costs are climbing. Passengers now download an app for free access to browse activities and their onboard calendar, plan shore excursions and dining reservations, and chat with family and friends, plus gain access to their onboard expense account and deck plans.

But if you want to stream your favourite content, browse the internet, post-cruise memories, or access your email, expect to pay anything from US$15.99 ($24) per device per day.

And when it comes to sweet and salty snacks onboard, be prepared for a bitter aftertaste as one passenger showed with a price of Kettle chips going for US$8.99 (AU$13.50) while a single Cherry Ripe bar will set you back US$4.99 (AU$7.50) and a 180g Cadbury Dairy Milk? Well at US$12.99 that’s almost AU$20.

bill shock
A little snack will cost a lot.

Make your way or pay for the privilege?