What is included in the price of the cruise

When you are new to cruising, you may wonder what is included in a cruise price.  While this may vary from cruise line to cruise line, we made the list of things that are typically included in the cruise fare.

What is included in the price of the cruise

  • Your stateroom – Your cabin on the ship. Your room is usually cleaned a few times a day by the steward assigned to your room.
  • A voyage from port to port – A cruise ship is a hotel on water. The cost of going from port to port is included.
  • Port fees – While many cruise lines don't show those costs on the front page, they are included in your fare once you begin the buying process. Port fees vary from itinerary to itinerary as each port sets its own prices.  You have to pay port fees for every port the ship is visiting, even if you don't plan on leaving the ship.  Cruise lines will reimburse port fees if the itinerary changes and they cannot come into the port (due to weather or timing).
  • Most food onboard – This includes food in Master Dining Room, Buffet, Café, and few other small food joints depending on the ship.
What is included in the price of the cruise

  • Some beverages
    – This varies by the cruise line. When sailing with Carnival and Royal Caribbean, typically tea, lemonade, non-bottled water, coffee, and milk are included.  Additionally, orange or apple juice is served during breakfast hours.
  • Most entertainment onboard typically includes shows every evening, dance parties, cruise ship games, entertainers around the ship, and comedy shows.
  • Kids Activities (Camps onboard) – Many cruise lines that cater to families (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Disney, MSC, Norwegian, Costa Cruises) offer free activities and camps for kids to attend. This is sort of like a “camp” at sea.  Kids can attend those camps starting at 3 years old.
  • Cruise ship amenities – Access to the pool deck, hot tubs, library (yes, many ships have libraries), basketball court, mini-golf, climbing wall, and gym. Those amenities vary by cruise ships, with newer ships having the most things you can do. Some ships have ziplines, FlowRider, water slides, and other attractions that may be complimentary with your cruise fare.
cruise ship pool

What will cost extra?

  • Gratuity – This is an automatic daily charge for each passenger. It is divided between wait staff and stateroom attendants. Depending on the cruise line, the fee ranges somewhere between $14-19/day.  While you are able to remove this fee by visiting customer service, you shouldn't.  People that work in those positions are usually from developing countries and rely on those gratuities to support their families back home. They work very hard and very long hours to make sure your cruise vacation is amazing.  An additional 18% gratuity is typically charged for drinks that you buy on board and spa services.
  • Internet/Wifi – Internet is rarely included in the cruise cost (unless you are sailing on a luxury cruise line). Depending on a cruise line, the internet will be sold per day/per cruise, or sometimes you will buy a package that will include a certain amount of minutes. If you cannot unplug for a few days, you can save money by purchasing an internet package (regular specials before your cruise).  You can also save by using wifi in the ports of call (many bars and cafés offer free wifi).
  • Cell phone costs – THIS IS IMPORTANT. Don't use your phone to call or browse the internet using the data on the phone. You can use the internet if you have wifi and are connected to the wifi network. Many cruise ships have cellular towers, and your phone provider will charge you A LOT for roaming on the cruise ship.  Also make sure your phone provider offers a plan for international roaming and add that to your package.  Some telephone providers include free international roaming (T-mobile)
  • Pictures – There are so many opportunities to get your photos taken on the cruise ships. It starts right before you board the cruise ship. Cruise ship photographers will be out during many events, at dinner, and at the port as you live for an excursion. While it's free to get your pictures taken, it will cost to get the prints or digital download. If you like to get photos of your vacation, cruise lines usually sell a package during the first few days of the cruise so you can save some money.  Just for reference, a single print can cost between $15-$20 for an 8×10 print. On a personal note, we typically buy 1 picture of us before boarding the cruise ship as a souvenir.
  • Photography Studio – Yes, most cruise ships have a professional photography studio where you can get professional family portraits.
  • Shore excursions – Part of the fun of being on a cruise vacation is visiting multiple ports of call during your voyage. There are always things to do at each port, and cruise ships will offer shore excursions to make it easier for you to explore.  The cruising experience's main attraction is checking out those ports, so I wouldn't suggest that you stay on the ship at the port to save money.  Cruise line tours a typically way more expensive than buying a tour separately (there are times when you will want to purchase excursions from the ship, though).  Typically as soon as you live the cruise ship or port area, many tour operators will have much better offers to explorer the city (or island).  If you are like me, you might want to explore options and book your excursions with independent tour operators while planning a cruise.
  • Soda/Pop and non-alcoholic beverages – There is an extra charge for drinks outside of included beverages mentioned above. Each cruise line has different options, but typically if you cannot live without your daily coke, you should budget around $14/day. Many cruise lines allow you to bring your favorite soda on embarkation day for free (size will depend on the cruise line).
  • Alcoholic beverages – Alcoholic drinks on a cruise line are not cheap. For example, the cost of the drink starts at around $10.  If you plan on drinking a lot, beverage packages do offer some savings. Remember, you have to buy the package for the cruise duration (you cannot buy it for only one or two days). On many cruise lines, when buying beverage packages, you have to buy for every adult in your cabin. The cost of this can add up.  To save, avoid drinking on the ship.  Visiting a bar in a port of call (especially in the Bahamas and the Caribbean) will be a lot cheaper.  The other way to save is bringing allowed alcohol on board during embarkation.  Rules vary by cruise lines by most allow you to bring two bottles of wine per stateroom (and some allow you to bring beer).  Finally, there are few opportunities to get a free alcoholic beverage, for example, when you are attending an Auction.
  • Specialty restaurants – Cruise lines are always thinking of ways to make money.  Newer ships have more and more specialty restaurants onboard. These restaurants will offer unique dining experiences for you at extra cost.  For example, many ships will have Hibachi, steaks, seafood. Keep in mind you already paid for great food that is included at the free options onboard (MDR, Buffets, and Cafés). If you want to experience specialty restaurants, you can visit them during lunch hours or buy dining packages to save on the cost.
  • Spa – You can find a Spa on most of the cruise ships. Typically the cost of the treatment at the Spa is somewhere between $100-300 plus gratuity. You can usually save by getting a massage in the port of call. Additionally, there usually specials for spa services for days in port and on embarkation day.
  • Kids – While on many ships there are many activities for kids, there are also few paid activities that your kids might talk you into letting them attend. For example, arcades are on many ships and will be hard for you to avoid. To save money, you do have the ability to buy arcade credit packages.
  • Shopping – Cruise ships are full with onboard shops and a constant stream of sales and deals. If you don't stay strong, you might end up buying a lot of things.
  • Souveniers – more than likely, you will end up buying souvenirs to bring home from your cruise vacation. You may have better luck purchasing those in the port of call than in the cruise ship's gift shop.
  • Babysitting/Childcare- If your child is young, you may need to pay for child care on the cruise ship if you were planning on going to dinner with your significant other or a travel group. The cost of this can depend on the cruise line and cruise ship. If this is something you want to look into, make sure you check in on the first day of the cruise as many daycare spots fill up quickly, especially on the cruise lines that cater to families.

For more information about budgeting for a cruise, you can check out one of the other articles.

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