I think that phrase in particular is part of the problem. Something about saying it is the trip of a lifetime gives people the feeling that it doesn't really matter what they spend on this one trip, because they will never do anything that reckless again. And, after all, they might as well "go all out" and enjoy themselves. With that in mind, people give themselves license to make stupid decisions with their money. Maybe THAT is why it will be a trip of a lifetime for you guys instead of a yearly or every few years thing.
Sure, traveling in Europe is very different than traveling in the US. It is much more difficult to understand how to get around, where to stay, where to eat etc., but if it were the US, would you just fork over tons of money without doing a little research? Example: shore excursions. I understand the allure of not having to worry about making it back to the boat on time and just feeling like everything is taken care of for you, but how much is that worth? A common cruise excursion which just takes you from the port to Rome and back again runs $79.99 each. Doing exactly that on your own costs 9 euros, which also buys you transportation around Rome for the day, metro and buses included. This is not at all unusual. Every single excursion costs many times more than it does to do it on your own, not just double.
Public transportation seems to be the biggest fear among American travelers, probably because we don't use it often here. I plan on blogging more about that later. There are other crazy examples that we ran into along the way like people who got conned into buying a 150 euro Venetian glass vase that they had never intended to buy, just because someone gave them a "free" boat ride to Murano. Others paid 80 euros for a water taxi to the cruise terminal when it was just around the corner, and walking would have been easier.
Guess what!? The cruise line wants to make money off you. Everyone in Europe wants to make money off you. Just because that is what they want doesn't mean you have to give it to them. You can see Europe's amazing sights, eat the great food, and get around without losing your shirt. I know Rick Steves preaches this stuff, and he is a great resource, but he often doesn't cater to cruisers. So, that is what I would like to do with this website Help everyone cruise Europe smarter and cheaper.