Answered: Should You Pay Your Cruise in Full or Just Pay a Deposit?

While cruising has the benefit of being affordable, there is no denying that it can still be a considerable amount of money to spend. It’s not unusual for a cruise to run several thousands of dollars when you add up the cruise fare, gratuities, taxes, and fees.

For some people, dropping that sort of cash all at once is no big deal. For others, however, it’s a big purchase that needs to be broken up into more manageable pieces. 

No matter if you’re a big spender or a budgeter, the cruise lines have you covered. They offer a number of ways to pay when buying your cruise. This includes the ability to pay in full, or to pay a deposit and then pay the remaining balance closer to the cruise date. As well, cruise lines often also have installment plans that let you pay your balance at regular intervals:

Cruise lines like Carnival offer the ability to pay in full, pay a deposit, or pay in installments. Image courtesy of

With different ways to pay, what’s best for you and your cruise? Below, we dive into the pros and cons of booking your cruise and electing to pay that balance all at once, or taking a slower approach to paying your fare.

This includes some details on what real passengers like you have to say about their decision.

Paying in Full: Why Some People Prefer It

For some people, they treat the cruise just like buying groceries or tickets to a movie. They find the cruise they want, book the trip and then pay for it all at once. While not everyone has the ability to drop hundreds — or even thousands — all at one time for a vacation, there are some advantages.

When we surveyed readers about whether they prefer to pay in full or over time, about 30% of respondents said they pay in full. When asked why, the most common response was simply that people liked to get the payment out of the way.

Why people said they like to pay in full:

  • “I can manage my spending budget if payment is out of the way.”
  • “Vacation booked and paid. No worries.”
  • “Just like to have it done.”
  • “I don’t like having bills.”
  • “Because then I know it’s paid for and don’t have to worry about it.”

By paying the entire cruise upfront, you don’t have to worry about a looming bill closer to the cruise date. You can rest easy knowing that your vacation is completely paid for. While this can cost you a decent chunk of money at once, a considerable amount of people find it worth the cost.

In addition, there are some cruises where you have to pay in full. If you are sailing close to the date when you purchase the cruise (e.g. 60-90 days out), then you usually have to pay in full and don’t have the option to pay a deposit only.

So if you decide to book a last-minute vacation, then you’ll also be on the hook for the full cruise amount.

Paying With a Deposit/Installments: Preferred By Most People

Preference to pay a cruise in full or installments
Cruzely readers surveyed overwhelmingly said they normally pay in smaller pieces instead of all at once.

Don’t have the cash to pay for your cruise all at once? Or maybe you’d just like to make it easier to budget by paying your cruise off a little at a time instead of just one lump payment? You definitely aren’t alone.

When Cruzely surveyed readers about their preferences, roughly 70% said they prefer to pay a deposit and then pay off the rest of the trip later.

Why people said they like to pay slowly:

  • “Less on deposit if you have to cancel early.”
  • “I pay in installments because there is no interest.”
  • “If I want to cancel before final payment is due, the amount outstanding is much smaller.”
  • “Unless they are giving a discount for paying in full, why give the cruise line your money until you have to?”
  • “We prefer to make installments as this allows us to book without having to dip into savings to pay the full price all at once. It’s just easier for us this way.”

As you can see, the advantages of paying the cruise off in pieces instead of all at once are several.

For some people, they enjoy the flexibility of having less money at stake if they need to cancel. Having paid only a deposit means you don’t have as much as much tied up in refunds if you have to postpone your trip.

As well, another big advantage is that you simply keep control of more of your money for longer. Instead of giving the cruise line thousands of dollars months in advance of your trip, you get to hold onto your money that much longer. Considering there is no penalty for paying off the trip slower, in a strictly financial sense it does makes more sense to delay payment for as long as possible.

Then there is simply the fact that some people can’t afford to pay off the entire cruise in one lump payment. That’s where the feature of some cruise lines to offer monthly payment plans are valuable. Here, you only have to be able to afford a monthly installment instead of full payment.

So Should You Pay in Full or Installments?

If you’re wondering if you should pay the cruise off in full when you book it or wait and pay a deposit and then smaller chunks, it really comes down to personal preference.

According to our survey of readers, about 70% prefer to pay in smaller installments. And truth be told, there are more benefits to putting off payment for as long as possible. It offers more flexibility if you decide to cancel, and you get to keep your money in your pocket until it’s required to be paid. And since you aren’t charged an interest on your balance with the cruise line, there’s no penalty to paying later.

But if you want to pay in full, you aren’t alone. As mentioned, about 30% of people said they preferred to pay in full. To those people, the benefit and peace of mind of having the vacation paid for — instead of looking ahead to more payments — is worth it. If you have the money to spare, then there’s no real harm in paying in full.

So the good news is that no matter which path you choose, there isn’t a wrong answer to the question. It’s likely a little better to pay a deposit and pay the rest later, but the benefit isn’t that much greater. Still, paying in smaller chunks is what most people say they like to do when it comes to buying their cruise.

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