I have a friend planning her first cruise. She was shocked to learn about all the “extras” she’d have to consider. She thought cruising was like an all-inclusive resort – just on the water. But that’s not really the case, with the exception of river cruises and luxury cruise lines.
The first thing to note is that it is possible to take a cruise and not spend a penny more than your cruise fare, taxes and gratuities. However, there are a lot of additional expenses you need to know about that can add up quickly. The good news is that you can purchase some of these add-ons in advance, as a package, to help alleviate the shock of a high shipboard account balance at the end of your cruise.
Cruise fares may seem quite high, but they do include almost everything you need for an awesome vacation. Your accommodations, transportation, food and entertainment are provided at one cost. When you breakdown everything that’s included, a cruise can be a budget friendly way to travel.
The cruise fare includes:
- Stateroom (your floating hotel room)
- Transportation (cruising) from port to port
- Food including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks with service in complementary restaurants including a buffet
- Children’s clubs & activities (usually free for ages 3+ and potty trained)
- Basic beverages (such as water, iced tea, hot tea, filter coffee and some juices at breakfast)
- Entertainment (such as musicians, performers, and comedians)
- Activities (such as lectures, contests, competitions and demonstrations)
- Use of shipboard facilities (such as pools, whirlpools, fitness center, sport decks and more)
- Twice daily stateroom service (morning cleaning and nightly turn-down service)
Port Fees and Taxes
Port fees and taxes are listed separately from your cruise fare when booking but are paid with the cruise fare before departure. This will not be an additional expense during your cruise. They just aren’t included in the base cruise fare.
Gratuities are not included and are charged per person per day. You’ll find these automatic service charges on your shipboard account. Service crews are generally paid a lower wage and they depend on gratuities as part of their income. However, if you aren’t satisfied with the service, you may request a reduction of the gratuities at the guest services desk. The gratuity amount varies by cruise line, but is an average of $12 per day. The gratuity will be higher in suites. That’s an average of $84 per person on a 7-night cruise or $336 for a family of 4. Even if you don’t spend another penny, you want to factor gratuities into your budget.
Common extra expenses:
- Alcoholic beverages (purchase packages online prior to cruising to save $)
- Soda (Disney does have complementary soda stations, however)
- Specialty coffees
- Specialty dining (restaurants with an additional fee per dish or a set price menu) Typically, you can purchase packages online prior to cruising to save money or book on the first day of your cruise for a discount.
- Room service (when not offered free plus a small tip should be given)
- Spa services (look for deals in the Daily Planner)
- Exercise classes
- Port excursions (sometimes deals are available for specific excursions if purchased online prior to cruising)
- Transportation to and from the port(s)
- Photography (Getting your photo taken is free. It’s the prints that will cost you)
- Internet Access (typically, you can purchase in advance to save $)
- Children’s programs for kids under 3 and not potty trained
- After hours child care, when available (usually starts around 10pm)
Despite the optional additional costs associated with cruising, it can be a great bargain to sail on one of the many floating resorts. Countless activities and entertainment is provided free of charge on most cruises. More food than you could (or should) consume during your vacation is available day and night. Plus there is no stress of packing and repacking suitcases as you visit different cities or even countries.
What other advise do you have for new cruisers on onboard expenses?
You may also like: Cruising Do’s & Don’ts – Essential Tips for a Great First Cruise