Don’t get caught off guard by these things that usually cost extra.
One of the biggest benefits of taking a cruise vacation is the sheer volume of amenities that are included for free. While a lot of the fun and food on a cruise is complimentary, there are some things that you will likely have to pay extra for. Here’s a look at 14 things that are not (usually) included on a cruise.
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Gratuities are usually not factored into those low, low cruise vacation prices you see advertised, and they can add a significant bump to the total cost of the trip. Prepaid gratuities on most non-luxury cruise ships can add upwards of $20 per person per day. This amount covers the servers, bartenders, housekeeping stewards, and more. Many cruisers will often give an additional cash tip to their cabin steward for the twice-daily cleaning, fresh towels, etc.
INSIDER TIPLuxury cruise lines will usually include gratuities in the cruise fare you see advertised.
Aside from coffee, tea, juice, and tap water, drinks are where cruising can get expensive. If you fancy a glass or two of wine with dinner or a few beers by the pool, you will either pay as you go or opt to buy a beverage package. As of April 2022, Royal Caribbean’s Deluxe Beverage Package, for example, ranges from $63 to $89 per person per day. No matter how you handle your bar bill, drinking alcohol, soda, fresh-squeezed juices, or premium teas and coffees will boost the total cost of your cruise vacation significantly.
It costs nothing extra to disembark in gorgeous ports like La Spezia, Italy (one of the gateways to Florence), and Cozumel, Mexico. But, if you want a guided experience with transportation that puts you in the heart of a city, shows off the local culture, educates you about the history, takes you on a snorkeling adventure, or lets you unwind on a catamaran, that’s called an excursion, and it could cost you anywhere from $79 to $199 per person, or more!
Internet access is an extra charge on most cruise ships. Of course, you can choose to fully disconnect during your cruise, but if you want to post photos on Instagram, check email, and work remotely, you will need to buy a Wi-Fi package. Set your connectivity speed expectations low as Wi-Fi on ships at sea is famously not as strong as it is back at home.
INSIDER TIPSome cruise lines will offer tiered internet plans, with less expensive basic plans to access only social media sites and apps.
Many cruisers use their vacations at sea to truly unwind from the day-to-day pressures of life back at home. To accomplish this, some opt for treatments in the ship’s spa. Most cruise ships have a resplendent spa offering an array of treatments, from massages to facials, manicures to hair salon services.
INSIDER TIPThe prices for spa treatments are usually higher than comparable services on land and are not included in the cost of your cruise.
It can be nice to have a professional photo of you and your family to frame and remember your cruise vacation. Many ships have photographers roaming the decks and/or decorative backdrops you can step into for a glamorous photo. While there is no obligation to buy (and it can be fun just to pose all over the ship, especially on formal night), if you wish to take home some photographs, those are not included and will cost you extra.
Most ships have children’s camps separated by age and usually included for free. However, childcare for your tiniest cruisers will likely see a charge added to your account. Infants are cared for by trained crew members, and your precious bundles need more attention, diaper changes, feedings, and TLC than your toddlers and teens. The nominal babysitting fee takes care of all of this, allowing you to relax and enjoy the more adult aspects of your cruise vacation.
Deck chairs are never in short supply on a cruise ship, but if you want to spend a day in a more private outdoor hideaway while at sea, there may be special cabanas available to rent for an extra charge.
Playing bingo is a longtime staple of cruising and a good chance to win hundreds of dollars in cash! But you have to pay to play and be in it to win it, so if you want a few bingo cards and a blotter, that will cost you since bingo is not included in the cruise package.
Special Entertainment and Activities
There’s a plethora of free entertainment and activities onboard cruise ships, from live musical theater to ice skating and Flowrider surf simulators to go-karting. There are, however, other ways to have fun that are not included for free. Things like an hour in an escape room, indoor skydiving, and Royal Caribbean’s North Star experience (to name just a few special activities) will come with surcharges.
The ship’s gym is open for all, for free, as is the onboard running track. Participating in a spin class, group yoga session, Zumba, or other scheduled fitness classes will likely cost you since those group classes are not included in the overall cost.
Eating for free is one of the best reasons to take a cruise vacation over any other type of trip. From the robust buffet serving everything from burgers and fries to chicken tikka and roti to the main dining room and pizza parlor—cruising will always be all-inclusive when it comes to dining. That said, almost every ship will have a selection of specialty restaurants that are not included in the cost of your cruise. These higher-end dining destinations may include a steakhouse, teppanyaki, sushi restaurant, or an upscale seafood joint that will cost you anywhere from $35 to $60 per person to enjoy an extra special meal.
Once a free benefit of cruising, perfect for those late-night hunger pains, ordering room service on most ships will now come complete with a modest fee that’ll be charged to your cabin. A limited room service menu is still complimentary during the day on many ships, but if you just have to have a plate of chicken fingers at midnight, that’ll cost you extra.
Cruise lines will generally operate and offer shuttles to and from the closest airport(s) to the cruise terminal, but this transportation is usually not included. Before opting for the per-person cost of booking a roundtrip journey on the cruise line’s shuttle bus, check the typical cost of a Lyft or Uber to and from the airport. You may save a good amount of money that you can use to buy bingo cards, a drink package, or have dinner in the ship’s steakhouse instead.
I think its a bit disingenuous to present these reasons as being industry wide for those who will take it that way. Some cruise lines provide some of the services in their package cost; true that some are basic versions that one can upgrade to a higher level. Viking is one example, it has become one of my preferred cruise lines as it includes most of the necessary services in the base price so I don't need to keep asking how much more do I need to pay. Not the cheapest but I don't like the feeling of being nickeled and dimed throughout the process.
I forgot to mention that our cruise includes a balcony cabin too. of course the type of cabin makes a difference. If you want to cruise on the cheap get and inside cabin. Ypu will save a lot of money and still get free reign of the ship, all your meals etc.
I must take exception to the comments about 14 more reasons to not cruise. We have been and around 17 cruisesd with two more on the docket and have taken many land vacations starting 38 years ago and when you add it all up cruising is still the best bargain out there. On top of that if you get a TA who can book you with a group rate you save even more. For example our 10 day vacation last January at the Hyatt Regency in Oahu for just the room was close to the same we are paying for our upcoming 10 day cruise out of Iceland in June and this includes all meals of course, housekeeping twice per day, a variety of shows abd entertainment and the group perks we got which include gratuities, a balcony cabin, alcohol package, 250 minutes free wifi, dining at three speciality restaurants, $50.00 off each port excursion and $100.00 OB courtesy of the TA. if you don't want to use the ships tours which are usually high savvy travelers know booking a private tour will save a lot of money.
... for relaxation - cruise maybe it, if you like to relax in a large and dense crowd,
but for sightseeing and exploring, there are other much better options. Unless of course, you are taking a small boat and want to explore small islands.
What I find misleading is a notion - still perpetuated by many advertisments that a cruise is somewhat all-inclusive vacation... it never was one.