How Much a Cruise Costs in 2021

Wondering how much you’ll spend to take a cruise? We have specific estimates (using actual figures from the cruise lines!) below.

Two ships in port of Cozumel

Before we get too far, however, you should know that just like buying a car, you can spend as much — or as little — as you want for your vacation.

For instance, are you happy with the lowest-cost interior cabin… or would you rather spend more for a balcony or a suite?

Or are you the sort of person who can only sail during the summer months (when prices are much higher)… or can you sail during the off-season and save hundreds of dollars?

That means tracking down the specific cost of a cruise for each person is hard. But we can give you an idea of what a typical trip will cost and help you get an idea of what you can plan to spend.

We get into all the details of how much a cruise costs — and exactly where you’ll spend money — below. 

Where You’ll Spend Money on a Cruise

Think that the cost of a cruise is simply the fare that you pay to get on the ship? While that makes up the lion’s share of your spending, there’s a lot more that goes into the cost of your vacation.

Cruise Fare
Of course, when most people think of the cost of a cruise, they are thinking mainly of the price of the cruise fare. This fare is what the cruise line charges for you to sail on the ship. Cruise fare includes your cabin, meals, entertainment on the ship, and access to pools, lounges and more.

What it doesn’t include are the extras like drinks, specialty restaurants, shore excursions, gambling and other things bought on board.

What you pay for your fare can vary widely. Factors that go into the price include the type of cabin you choose, length of cruise, when you sail, and even the ship and cruise line you sail.

Short cruises on budget cruise lines can run as little as a few hundred dollars, while long luxury trips can run well into the thousands of dollars per person.

Onboard Spending
Think you’re done spending money after you buy your cruise fare? Think again. Once on the ship there are lots of extras that you will likely want to purchase that add to the cost of your cruise.

Onboard spending is a wide umbrella. It includes everything from money spent gambling in the casino to alcohol, specialty restaurants, cruise line shore excursions, and even the souvenirs you buy in the gift shop.

Jade Casino on Norwegian cruise ship

Just like with the cruise fare, different people will spend different amounts. We’ve personally been on cruises and spent nothing extra on the ship. Other times we’ve spent hundreds.

If you’re frugal, you can get by with spending little. If you want to let loose and have fun, it will add hundreds to your cruise fare. As a rule of thumb, expect to spend between 25-40% of your cruise fare in onboard spending.

If you’ve never sailed on a cruise before, you might be unsure of exactly what gratuities are and how they work.

These days gratuities are automatically charged to your account; everyone pays them. You can choose to prepay them when you buy your cruise, or have them charged to your onboard spending account and pay the balance at the end of your trip.

Rates vary across cruise lines, but are usually around $15 per person, per day. So a couple traveling on a seven-day cruise will pay about $200 in gratuities.

What do the charges go to? They are shared among the staff, with most going to your cabin steward. Waitstaff also receive a significant portion.

Getting to the Ship (Transportation, Parking, Hotel)
Whether you fly, ride, or drive to the port, you will have some more expenses that you have to consider for your budget.

Cruise parking in Galveston

Getting a ride to the port? Don’t forget to factor in the cost of transportation to get to and from the cruise ship.

Driving to the port? If so, know that most ports charge around $20 per day to park (although some hotels and independent parking lots offer discounted rates).

If you fly in for your cruise, then you need to factor in your airfare. We also suggest anyone flying in to arrive the day before you sail and get a hotel room, just to avoid any delays that might cause you to miss your ship.

Spending in Port
Finally, the last part of your budget to consider is what you spend in port. Most of the time, this is actually relatively little as so much time is spent on the ship.

Excursions not booked through the cruise line would be in this section (those booked through the cruise line are onboard spending, mentioned above). Your port spending also includes things you do in port like catching a taxi to a beach, eating lunch at a restaurant, or buying souvenirs.

One Note About Cruising in 2021

Of course the world has changed since the health crisis. Nowhere is that more the case than with cruising. The entire industry was shut down for almost all of 2020 and looks to creep back into service slowly in 2021.

But there are big changes coming to cruise lines. Of course, health and safety measures will be introduced, but there are bigger changes that could impact the cost of a cruise.

During the stop, the major cruise companies took on massive amounts of debt to survive. Now as cruising resumes, expect them to be focused on improving their balance sheets. That could involve higher pricing if the market allows.

As well, several cruise lines sold off a number older, smaller ships. In general, older ships offer lower pricing. Along with the removal of older ships, this also reduces the capacity of cabins available. If demand returns, that could mean higher prices in the future.

Average Total Cost of a Cruise in 2021

So with all these different things to spend money on, how much does it cost to take a cruise?

As we mentioned above, the cost of your specific cruise will vary. Those who want an interior cabin will spend less than those sailing a suite. And people who can sail during the spring or fall will save hundreds versus sailing in the summer.

But we have some estimates below to give you an idea of the cost of taking a cruise.

Cruise Fare ($150-$220 per day)
Obviously it’s impossible to give you a specific cost of your cruise fare. There are so many different factors that go into what you’ll pay, including:

  • Cruise line
  • Specific ship
  • Date of cruise
  • Cabin type
  • Trip length 

Sailings can be less than $100 per person, per day, into several hundreds of dollars each day. That said, we can get a good idea of what you’ll spend. All the major cruise lines are public companies that publish annual figures for their revenue and passenger statistics.

From these public reports, we know that the average cost of cruise fare runs from about $150-220 per person, per day (depending on cruise line). 

For example, in 2019 (the last full year of sailing), Carnival Corporation — which owns several different lines — took in $14.1 billion in ticket revenue, and sailed 93.4 million passenger days. That comes out to $151 per person, per day.

Royal Caribbean Group was slightly higher ($175 per person, per day), and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. came in at the top of our list ($219 per person, per day).

Of course, those figures can be much lower… or much higher… depending on your specifics. For example, sailing an interior cabin is drastically cheaper than sailing in a balcony room. And cruises departing in January or February are less expensive than sailing at the height of summer.

Still, these figures should give you a good idea of the average cost of a cruise based on what others pay.

Liberty of the Seas in Cozumel

Port Fees and Taxes (~$100-$200 per person)

Port fees and taxes aren’t technically part of your cruise fare, but they are included in what you pay before you board. 

So how much will you pay?

The amount varies depending on your specific route as different ports charge different fees. In our experience, for most cruises expect to spend between $100 and $200 per person on these fees and taxes. Some cruises with fewer ports will be less.

Onboard Spending (~$65-$95 per day)
By far the biggest expense of taking a cruise is the fare, but onboard spending can be a considerable chunk of change.

So how much will you spend? We dived into detail about spending on a cruise ship before. Cruise lines also break down how much cruise passengers spend in their financial reports. On average across cruise lines, the amount comes out to between $65-95 per person, per day.

Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Group saw an average around $65-70 per person, per day in 2019. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. saw closer to $95 per person each day.

Keep in mind that this is simply an average across all cruise passengers and major cruise lines. What you spend could be drastically different. For instance, some people spend little or no money on the ship. Others purchase drink packages, gamble in the casino, and generally live it up the entire trip.

In fact, onboard spending is the area where you have the most control over what you’ll spend. 

Gratuities (~$15 per day)
Yes, you can adjust the amount of gratuities if your service is particularly poor. In reality, not many people do. Expect to spend about $15 per person, per day.

Gratuities may be slightly higher or lower depending on the cruise line. As well, suites have higher gratuity rates compared to lower-tier cabins.

Note that this amount doesn’t include gratuities charged for extras like alcoholic beverages on the ship. Those are extra in addition to the automatic gratuities charged to each passenger that go to the waitstaff and room steward.

Getting to the Ship/Parking/Hotel (Varies)
The amount that it will cost you to get to the ship, park, and/or a hotel stay will vary based on your needs.

Some people just get dropped off at the port by a friend or family member. Others have to book a cross-country flight and a hotel stay the night before. 

If you drive to the port, plan to spend at around $20 per day for parking, depending on the port. Hotels in most port cities can be found for between $100-200 per night. Rides to the port using services like a taxi or Uber/Lyft can vary considerably depending on where you are coming from. Still, you don’t want to forget these considerable expenses in cruising.

Spending in Port (~$50 per port)
What you spend in port can vary widely. Remember anything you eat or drink off the ship will come out of pocket and isn’t included in your cruise fare. As well, things like taxi and souvenirs are also extra.

As a rule of thumb, we estimate a budget of about $50 per person, per port of call. For some ports that may be too much. For instance, cruise line islands often have much of what you need already included. Other ports might include a stop at a restaurant, some souvenir shopping, and buying drinks.

Summing Up the Total Cost of a Cruise

So what’s the grand total?

The chart below lays out the costs of taking a cruise, using the estimated amounts mentioned above. We’ve also laid out the estimates for both a shorter cruise (five days) and the traditional seven-day trip.

Cost of taking a cruise

Keep in mind that these are just estimates, per person. A couple would expect to double these prices.

As well, remember that what you spend will vary widely based on any number of factors, including your own budgeting for the trip and how much you let loose on your vacation.

But as you can see, on a per-person basis the cost for a 7-day cruise can run around $2,000 when you factor in everything you’ll spend. Shorter cruises will run around $1,500

Want to learn more about about how to save money on your next trip? See our 32 tips to save money on on a cruise.

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