What Costs Extra on a Cruise

Think taking a cruise means that it’s all inclusive? Think again. Anyone that’s sailed before can tell you that what you pay for cruise fare is just the start of what you’ll spend on your vacation. In fact, the average passenger spends about 30-40% of their cruise fare on onboard spending, according to cruise line financial statements.

money with a cruise keycard
There’s a lot that’s included with your cruise, but don’t think you won’t spend extra on the ship. We lay out what costs more on your vacation.

In other words, if you paid $1,000 in cruise fare, you can expect to spend in the ballpark of $300-$400 once on the ship.

That’s not to say that everything is an extra charge. Your cruise fare includes your room, most activities and events around the ship, some restaurants, basic non-alcoholic drinks, and more. It is possible to take a cruise and not spend anything extra. However, to get the most out of your trip, then most people will end up spending more.

Here’s an idea of what will cost you on the ship that’s not included on your cruise:

Gratuities (~$16 Per Person, Per Day)

Technically it’s not considered official “onboard spending” but gratuities can be the single largest expense you have once on the ship. Each passenger pays a set rate per person, per day. The amount can vary by cruise line and typically those staying in suites are charged more.

You can expect it to be about $16-$18 per person, per day for most lines, although that amount goes up at regular intervals. So a couple taking a 7-day cruise would spend at least $220 in gratuities over the course of the trip.

Passengers also have the option of pre-paying these amounts before the cruise so as not to have as large a bill at the end of the trip.

Drinks (~$3 Soda, $8 Beer, $12-$14 Cocktail)

Cocktails on a serving tray aboard a cruise.
If you want to have drinks during your cruise, then you’ll have to spend more money.

Thirsty? Drinks flow everywhere on a cruise ship, but the large majority of them will cost extra. Basic drinks like water, iced tea, coffee are free in the ship’s restaurants. Alcoholic drinks are an extra charge, as are sodas.

In general, you can expect to spend about $3 for a soda, $8 for a beer, and around $12-$14 for a cocktail. Drink purchases also have an additional gratuity (often 18%) that’s tacked on in addition to the menu price.

There are also drink packages available that can help you budget. These packages charge a set price each day and then your drinks are included. Simply head to the bar when you’re thirsty. Keep in mind, however, that while these may be convenient, they tend to be hard to get your money’s worth.

Specialty Restaurants (~$20-50 Per Person, Per Meal)

Food is a big deal on a cruise, and let us be clear that you will not go hungry even if you don’t want to spend a dime extra. Every ship will have a number of spots to dine included with your fare like the buffet, main dining room, and areas to grab snacks.

However, beyond that it varies widely between cruise lines with some including lots more free options and restaurants, and others charging extra for almost everything outside the buffet/dining room.

These days, however, if you want the most options then you’ll have to pay extra for some restaurants on the ship. Depending on the type of food, the cost will vary. The ship’s steakhouse can be pricey while the burger joint might be only a few bucks.

Some Activities on the Ship (Varies)

The good news is that the vast majority of things to do on the ship are no charge. But we have noticed that more and more cruise lines are charging for some things. For example, the roller coaster on Carnival comes with a charge, as do the go-karts on Norwegian Cruise Line and the North Star observation pod on Royal Caribbean.

The fees are relatively small, but they can add up if traveling with a family.

Excursions (~$40-$200 Per Person, Per Excursion)

Taking an excursion like this speedboat driving trip in Mexico is separate from the cruise. Prices can easily cost more than $100 per person, depending on what you do.

Your time in port is yours. You can spend it however you want, from just staying on the ship to exploring the port of call. Cruise lines offer shore excursions that you can book on the ship that make it easy to go do something fun. Just know that these tours aren’t included in your cruise and the price can be significant. Spending $100 per person for a day is common.

Of course, you don’t have to book an excursion but if you do, it will cost extra. This also goes for anything you do in port such as eating or drinking. It’s all independent of the cruise line (unless stopping at a cruise line’s private destination) so it won’t be included.

Gambling (Varies)

Unless sailing Disney, then any cruise ship you sail will have a casino for you to try your luck. The gaming is nearly identical to what you’d see on land, with table games, slots, and even a few games such as the crane claw game modified to pick up stacks of cash instead of stuffed animals.

The casino is open whenever the ship is out at sea and it can be buzzing, especially in the evenings. Of course, you’ll need to bring your own money if you want to play… and some people play a lot.

Just like on land, the cruise lines have loyalty programs where you can earn everything from free drinks to wi-fi to comped cruises for your play.

Shopping (Varies)

Watches for sale on a cruise
Modern cruise ships have plenty of shops selling everything from souvenirs to expensive watches.

Book a cruise and shopping may not even be on your radar. Truth is, modern ships have large shopping areas with all sorts of goodies to buy. This can be everything from picking up a candy bar for a late-night snack to cruise line swag to jewelry to duty-free shopping for cigarettes or alcohol.

For many (we’d actually venture most passengers), shopping on the cruise ship won’t be something they do. But if you are one of the people that’s interested, then you can spend a considerable amount of money if you are so inclined. For instance, most ships have stores selling high-end watches and jewelry that can run into the thousands of dollars.

Wi-Fi Access (~$20 Per Day)

Want to keep in touch back home? It used to be that a cruise was one place where you could disconnect, but now wi-fi access is widely available. It’s popular among passengers, but it’s also expensive.

The lines typically sell a couple of levels of access with one plan that’s less expensive and slower and a pricier package that offers faster speeds. With these plans you can stream, text, and browse the web, but they will cost you.

Normal prices are around $20 per day for the fastest connections. There are usually discounts for booking ahead of the cruise, but if you want to stay connected during the length of the cruise, expect to spend $100+ easily.

A Note About All-Inclusive Packages

There is little doubt that the extra charges for things on the ship can add up to a significant extra cost. The cruise lines know that people get annoyed by the extra nickel and diming. That’s why a number of them have introduced packages.

With these offers, such as Princess Plus or Celebrity’s All Included, you pay a little more and get a number of items packaged in with your cruise. For instance, Princess Plus offers gratuities, wi-fi, a drink package, and more.

Yes, with the package offers you do spend more money than you would on the cruise alone. However, if you plan to buy the items in the package anyway, then the package pricing can be a great deal and well worth the extra cost.

One piece of advice: When figuring out if the package is a good deal for you, don’t be tempted by items that are included that you wouldn’t otherwise buy. You’ll want to only factor in those things that you’d otherwise purchase if you were to sail without the package.

Popular: 39 Useful Things to Pack (17 You Wouldn't Think Of)

Read Next: Park & Cruise Hotels for Every Port in America

Popular: 107 Best Cruise Tips, Secrets, Tricks, and Freebies


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here