How Much Cruise Passengers Spend Once on the Ship

Wondering how much money you’ll spend on a cruise ship? Chances are that it’s more than you expect. We’ll show you exactly how much the average person spends so that you can budget for your vacation.

While you might think of a cruise as an affordable vacation, there’s no mistaking that cruising is big business. Modern cruise lines can have dozens of ships and all the biggest names — like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian — are owned by companies traded on the major stock exchanges.

Ship in port in Galveston

What does that mean for you? While the cruise lines want to give you a great vacation, they also want to entice you to spend more money. If you think you’re done spending money once you’ve bought your cruise, think again.

We’ll get into how much passengers spend on the ship below. The good news is that what you spend on the ship is completely up to you…

Extra Spending Isn’t Required Onboard

When you board a cruise ship you are tempted at every corner to open up your wallet. Whether it’s drinks… or excursions… or souvenirs… or specialty restaurants… there is no shortage of places for you to spend.

You can get by without spending a dime onboard, however.

The basics of what you need for your vacation are included in your cruise fare. When you pay for your fare, you get your room, as well as food at the ship’s free restaurants and basic beverages like tea and water. Meanwhile, most entertainment on the ship is also free.

It’s when you want to experience the extras that you’ll start to spend more. For instance, if you want a soda with your meal or a cocktail by the pool, those are extra.

Cruise lines are also trending toward more specialty restaurants — eateries that cost extra, but serve different types of food than what’s found in the dining room. As well, those excursions on short are additional costs. And if you want to do shopping on board, then you’ll of course spend more money.

Here’s a list of the things that are normally extra money on the ship…

Extras on a Cruise Ship

  • Alcohol
  • Non-alcoholic drinks (soda, etc.)
  • Casino gambling
  • Shore excursions
  • Shopping
  • Photo sales
  • Internet/wi-fi
  • Spa treatments
  • Specialty restaurants
  • Art sales
  • Laundry services

Bottom line: If you’re a frugal cruiser then yes, you can sail without any additional spending. Most people, however, spend more once on the cruise ship. In some cases, a lot more.

How Much The Average Person Spends on the Ship

So how much do people spend onboard and what sort of budget can you expect?

The good news is that as we mentioned the cruise lines are public companies. That means they report financial statistics each quarter.

The reports also break down how much is spent on cruise fares and how much is spent once on the ship. In other words we can get an idea of what the average person spends.

Specifically, the cruise companies break down their revenue into cruise fares (Ticket Revenue) and “Onboard and Other” revenue. This second category includes everything mentioned above, from alcohol to the spa to Internet service, photo sales, excursions… even art sales.

If you spend it on the ship and it’s not a payment for the cruise itself, then it will fall into this category.

In total, you can expect that 34-42% of what you spend on your cruise fare will be in the form of onboard spending. We looked at the recent annual financial reports for Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian to arrive at this number. Take a look:

Onboard spending on a cruise ship

In other words, if you spend $1,000 per person on your cruise fare, then you can expect to spend between $340-$420 per person once on the ship. Some of the big factors in what you spend will include alcohol (which is expensive on the ship) and gambling.

How Much Is Spent Per Passenger Each Day

While percentages can give you an idea, we wanted to take things one step farther and calculate what the average person spends on each cruise line each day.

For that, we divided the total onboard spending by the total passenger cruise days. That leaves us with a number that represents the average spending each day by each passenger.

Take a look…

Cruise line spending onboard each day

Keep in mind that these are just averages across the entire cruise company, including all of its cruise lines. What you spend will vary based on your individual habits.

If you enjoy having drinks each day or going on excursions at each port, you might spend more. If you enjoy just hanging by the pool and don’t need to go shopping or gambling to have a good time, then you would likely spend less than these averages.

Either way, if you’re a first-time cruiser and not sure what you might spend on the ship, the average of 40% gives you a good ballpark figure for budgeting. And you can see that you might spend more or less depending on which cruise company you sail with.

Want to spend less cash? Be sure to read our 32 tips for saving money on a cruise.

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How Much Cruise Passengers Spend Once on the Ship


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