For your next vacation, try cruising. But if you’re not careful, you may end up spending more than you had bargained for. The cruise fare you see advertised is not the price you’ll end up paying. The advertised fare, which is usually for the smallest, windowless cabin, doesn’t include mandatory taxes and port fees, gratuities, or highly recommended additional charges, such as cruise insurance. But there are ways to keep costs down.
• The cheapest cabins will be inside—no balcony, no windows. This might sound depressing, but on many ships, public spaces are so vast and appealing that you won’t want to be in your room unless you’re sleeping.
• Plenty of things to do on a cruise ship are free, such as using the fitness centre or catching live performances, from comedies to the musical variety.
• Avoid temptation. If you’re counting pennies, skip the casino, spa, speciality restaurants that charge extra, the gift shop, art auction, fitness classes, lattes in the cafe and cocktails at the bar.
• Do your homework on different cruises. For fun in the sun, cruise to a beach destination or warm island. But to explore a destination in depth, a cruise may not leave you feeling satisfied, and could entail hundreds of extra dollars for ground transportation and tours.
Up and away
Give wings to your vacation with some of these great deals.
• Emirates (www.emirates.com) : The carrier announced special travel packages for all classes in partnership with Atlantis, the flagship resort of the Palm Jumeirah island of Dubai, for fliers from Mumbai. The packages, Super Value Atlantis Packages, combine airfare, accommodation and breakfast. The offer, which starts at Rs66,189 onwards for economy class, includes return airfare from Mumbai to Dubai as well as a three-night stay. You also get a complimentary night stay. First Class packages start from Rs1.10 lakh, while business class starts from over Rs88,000. If you opt for a six-night package, you get two complimentary nights’ stay along with unlimited access to Aquaventure, a water park, and Lost Chambers, a marine habitat exhibit, both at Atlantis.
• Air India (www.airindia.com):The national carrier is offering a Delhi-Hong Kong ticket for Rs17,100.
• GoAir: The carrier has introduced a flat fare of Rs1,700 (including surcharges and taxes) for flights of less than 750km and Rs2,700 for longer flights.
• Indigo: It’s a similar offer, but with even lower fares: Rs1,600 for a distance of up to 750km and Rs2,300 for others.
• SpiceJet: It has started the 21-day advance purchase fares of Rs99 across its network, discounts of up to 50% on select sectors and a flat fare of Rs1,525 on others.
Check out: check in
Accommodation needn’t be a choice between backpacker-budget and break-the-bank. It is possible to find hostels, B&Bs, small hotels and apartments as engaging as a boutique property, at half the price, if you’re willing to forgo room service.
You needn’t compromise on hygiene or privacy either. Many of these establishments are as clean as “proper hotels”. Rooms range from dorms to quins and quads (four- and five-seaters), even doubles and suites. Smaller rooms typically have en-suite baths. Internet and Wi-Fi facilities may be bundled in too.
What you should check on:
• Early or late check-ins and check-outs may not be possible.
·Some places charge your credit card at the start of a stay; others may insist on cash.
• Room preferences are regarded as just that—preferences, not deal-breakers.
• Some prohibit food in rooms. Others are no-smoking or alcohol-free spaces.
Try the Beehive apartments (www.the-beehive.com) in Rome. In Singapore, consider Hangout (www.hangouthotels. com) or One Florence Close (http://oneflorenceclose.com). In Dublin, consider staying on the Trinity College campus (www.tcd.ie/accommodation). In Paris, the Oops! hostel (www.oops-paris. com) is cheap chic, while Alcove & Agapes (www.bed-and-breakfast-in-paris.com) offers old-fashioned hospitality.
Full steam ahead
With air travel so affordable and party venues at every restaurant, many of us seem to have left the railroad behind. Which is a pity, since a railway carriage can be great for night travel or catching up with family and friends.
• Did you know you can get special charters for many of the “toy trains” on hill tracks? At under a lakh (or even as little as Rs50,000 for a round trip for some), the Kalka-Shimla, Darjeeling or Nilgiri lines make a fantastic party venue.
• Why pay for a night flight and a hotel room when you can sleep First Class?
• Can you imagine a six-night/seven-day vacation at three- four-star hotels for less than Rs15,500 per person, including transport and taxes? That’s what Indian Railways’ Bangalore-Kochi-(Kovalam-Thekkady)-Munnar-Kumarakom round trips cost. The 10-day Jaipur-Kerala circuit costs still less. And the ex-Howrah tour of Rajasthan’s most popular fort destinations cost a little more than Rs10,000.
For more, go to www.railtourismindia.com